This week in Thirtyish: Kate Carraway offers advice on how to kill your inner Morrissey and not hate it when your friends become successful.
Most of the time, I feel okay about my life. Lately, though, I’ve been experiencing fits of jealous rage because the people around me seem to have a lot of professional success and don’t work nearly as hard as I do. I feel like a grade-A jerk—these are supposed to be my friends!—but I can’t let it go. How do I get over it?—Regina
The worst part—of the many and exclusively bad parts—of close-up jealousy is how it prevents you from doing your friend-job. Consider what standup comic Marc Maron said on his WTF podcast about his friend Louis C.K., who was that week’s guest. “I love you, but sometimes my resentment gets in the way,” he told C.K. “I do a joke now—I say, ‘I don’t know when my friend’s success is going to seem like anything but an attack on me.’” There’s a lot of similarly quippy shit to say about other people’s accomplishments, but you already know that it’s about you, not them.
Gabrielle Bernstein is the author of Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, which I obviously bought, and is, according to the New York Times, a “new role model.” “People compare and judge all day long; it’s what we’re taught to believe,” she says. “But jealousy and comparison are two of the biggest things we could do to block ourselves from our authentic truth and power.” (Oh yeah: Bernstein is totally myth-y and magic-y.)
Bernstein says to “call yourself out” on your jealousy, which should begin with the assumptions you’ve made. In its immaturity, your ego is suggesting that what you think is true—your friends don’t work hard like you work hard—actually is. Yet you can’t know what kind of purpose, hours, and strategy they’re putting in, so either get some scoop about their work life or else let it go. And instead of searching for some comforting symmetry, reassess how you feel about your own work. “So many of us are unwilling to brag about our successes,” Bernstein says.
Understand that being jealous only puts you further away from what you want by diverting energy from your own stuff towards someone else’s. It also confuses what the problem is; as Bernstein says, “What we generally want is not for them not to have it, but to feel that we are worthy of it, too.”
Bernstein says being jealous is being in “your fear-based mind, but you can take yourself out of it by being of service to someone else.” During that WTF episode, Louis C.K. said to Maron, “What’s really happening is you’re letting me down as a friend by being jealous. So think about the other person…. I could have used a friend.”
I love my girlfriend, but she is always yelling at me for looking at other women. Now I feel like any glance could be misinterpreted. This seems unfair.—Jake
Just looking is unavoidable, human, and fine. When a compelling vision moves in our peripheral, we look at it. It’s not necessarily bad: It depends on a subtle matrix of hows and whens. But looking in such a way that anyone else could notice it—your girl-object or your girlfriend—is too much, and that’s when looking becomes leering, and leering is gross.
Men will posit that obvious looking is a compliment, but men don’t have a sense of what being looked at—consumed, actually—feels like for women, whose Ts or As just happen to sexually animate a dude. Too often, it’s perceived as a double standard (my ex: “I’d love it if chicks stared at me!”), when what’s really going on here is an enduring, boring, and sometimes terrifying power differential between men and women.
Globe and Mail columnist Ian Brown recently wrote about looking at women (because, you know, spring!) and included the line, “She turned right, and she was gone. We owed each other nothing.” Except you do owe something to someone who is sized up every single day—and that is however much respect it takes to play it cool.
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