Let’s talk about jealousy, shall we?
That kind of jealousy that burns through you while you are just walking along through your life, doing your best, and minding your own business, and then in waltzes some goddess, maybe you know her, maybe you don’t, and she’s doing that thing that you want so much in your heart of hearts, and doing it with some otherworldly kind of power and grace.
The kind of jealousy that rips out your guts and leaves you feeling like shit, especially since you know you should be gracious and be happy for her and all that.
As crazy as it seems, there IS a way to have another woman’s brilliance light you up rather than dim you down. There IS a way to use jealousy to affirm your own greatness rather than confirm you are a hopeless mess.
I’m right here in it with you.
Just to share one example out of ten thousand, I have a friend who is one of my favorite, favorite writers, and I mean EVER.
Her writing is lush but not frilly, it’s grounded and full of presence, is at once raw and refined, and is so truthful that I alternate between laughing and crying when I read her books — or even her freakin’ three-line emails. Reading her words, I feel I am in the presence of seraphim.
While I most certainly am inspired and deeply moved by her, of course I also feel bumbling and slow, suddenly sure that my own writing is at the 3rd grade book report level.
Jealousy is fiery. Jealousy isn’t a single emotion; it’s more of a mix. What makes up the Molotov cocktail of jealousy is intensely personal and varies from person to person. For some it could be a mash-up of insecurity, envy, and excitement, while for another it could be feeling left out, aroused, and enraged.
To make it less personal and more universal, I break down jealousy into two components:
1. A belief that you can’t have it.
2. Feeling lit up (or turned on) by it.
I’ll bet that mostly when you see another woman who has something you dearly want for yourself, you do some version of “compare and despair.”
You shrink. You slink away. You crumple like a paper bag and blow away on the winds of self-doubt. Or you puff up with grandiosity and assert your superiority.
However it goes, you become engulfed by the tortuous belief that you can’t have it.
And yet, underneath all that is a feeling of longing, of desire, a passionate surge of yearning. That thing she has or does or is, you want it, and your want is bright and hot.
However it goes, you also feel lit up (and turned on) by it.
In its raw state, your jealousy of another woman pokes an enormous hole in your vitality, and out leaks your life-force and self-worth.
In my experience, jealousy doesn’t really go away.
You’d think that the more conscious and evolved you become, the more hours you log on your yoga mat or in self-development workshops or in women’s circles, you would have blown past this jealousy thing by now.
Conversely, however, I think if you are lucky, you will have ten thousand MORE reasons to be jealous, right in your face and all up in your business, day in and day out.
Meaning, you WANT to surround yourself with women who are doing life and love and work and friendship and parenting and writing in ways you dearly want for yourself. You WANT a small tribe’s worth of goddesses, all waltzing through your life, doing that thing that you want so much in your heart of hearts, and doing it with some otherworldly kind of power and grace.
And so then, you would do good to learn how to alchemize jealousy, to stick it in your crucible in its raw and caustic state and melt it down into some kind of zesty propellant.
Here’s how I do it — and this is straight out of a section, “Getting Lit Off Another Woman’s Brilliance,” in my new book, Feminine Genius: The Provocative Path to Waking Up and Turning On the Wisdom of Being a Woman, which you can check out here.
You might just choose to start big and bold.
If you are within earshot of her, or can reach her by email, text, or an old-fashioned letter, stick your neck out and tell her what you appreciate about her. Go on, let it out.
You could walk over to her (or write to her) and say some version of, “I couldn’t help but notice how sweet you were with your kid a moment ago. It inspires me to be more patient with my own little one — and myself.”
Or, “I just couldn’t NOT say something. You are rocking that blazer. Something about your bright presence really made my day. Thanks.”
Or, “You are quite possibly the best writer I’ve ever read, and the way you lay each word bare to the bone and marry truth with humor, motivates me to keep going, to keep finding the same wellspring within my own writing.”
I know, I know. You think that actually coming out and telling her what you admire about her will automatically have her cackle haughtily, spit on your cowering form, and then turn on her heel, leaving you miserable in her beautiful dust.
I can’t promise that won’t happen. But I doubt it. Here’s what I think will happen.
You will notice her beauty, her vitality, her sweet way with her toddler, her gorgeous writing, her depth of presence, her humor, her confidence, the way she flirted with the elderly gentleman and made his day.
And then you might think some version of “She’s so great, and I suck,” or “She’s got it, and I can’t have it,” — that familiar pain of a hole being punched in your psyche, your energy leaking out of you, puddling on the sidewalk.
But, then you will pause.
You will hear my voice in your head, reminding you to ask yourself, “How can I get lit off of her brilliance?”
And then you might be overcome by a fit of finesse and think, “Thank goodness that gift of hers is in the world. Goodness knows we could all use some more beauty, truth, grace, and grit.”
You might go on to remind yourself that the universe is a hall of mirrors, and that you wouldn’t even be able to see that awe-inspiring thing in her, if it wasn’t reflecting what is becoming possible for you. Otherwise, it wouldn’t even catch your attention, and it definitely wouldn’t set you ablaze with jealousy.
At about this time, you might notice the belief that you can’t have it is transforming into, “I too can have that, or something like it. I wouldn’t even be jealous if it wasn’t bubbling up in me. Jealousy is a road flare letting me know that I am next.”
Yes, my friend, you will burn, because jealousy is fiery.
But the good news is that the flames won’t be directed at you anymore, incinerating your self-confidence as they used to do. Instead, they will light you up like a candle, warm your insides, and shine out your eyes, luminous.
Feeling lit up by her will fuel you rather than convince you that you are a failure. You will burn brighter because of her, rather than run off to dim your light.
There is room for more than one lit-up, powerful, successful woman in the world. In fact, we have never been more in dire need of a world full of lit-up, powerful, successful women.
And this, my friend, is how we all rise, together.
Now your turn. Come share with us someone you are jealous of (no names needed) and, for a bonus, in what way you can see that “you’re next.”
To the burn,
PS: When you get your copy of my new book here, you will also get a bonus gift of your very own Book Club Kit. In addition to guiding questions for lively conversations, you’ll also get my best-practices for creating a women’s group where everyone feels safe, inspired, and expressed — fertile ground to practice getting lit off other women’s brilliance!
Photo by Jan Stürmann of Albino Crow Photography