Help! I’m jealous of my friends

WORDS BY Sienna Barton

How to tame the green-eyed monster.

One of my best friends recently got out of a long-term relationship and the first guy she messaged for a casual fuck ended up becoming her long term boyfriend. I know what you’re thinking, big rebound energy, right? Wrong! They’ve been together now for five months, with no signs of slowing down.

I recounted this story to one of my single friends as we sat down for cheap dumplings in Melbourne’s CBD. Over xiao long bao, she said “God, doesn’t that just kill you a little bit?”. I said that it didn’t, even though it did just a little bit. 

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The real blow, however, came when the same friend – the one with the lovely boyfriend who materialised out of thin air – told me she’d landed a highly competitive and (let’s be honest) lucrative art fellowship. It’s horribly embarrassing for me to admit this, but my knee-jerk reaction was “What about me?”. 

The little insecure voice in my head thought that maybe I was more qualified or more deserving, but in the plain light of day, I can see that none of those things are true: I was simply jealous. The rational, not-psycho part of my brain understands that my friend worked incredibly hard to get to this stage in her career and genuinely wishes her nothing but the best.

The truth is, I absolutely love her and I am so proud to see her thriving. So why did that feeling of jealousy gnaw at my insides? I went to therapy that week feeling sheepish. I turned to my psychologist and asked her how I might manage competing feelings of complete adoration and self-destructive jealousy. She said, “Sienna, it’s actually normal to feel jealous. It’s more about how you let it manifest.”

I nodded appreciatively at being labelled a good jealous person who could acknowledge their feelings of jealousy without, say, sabotaging the person with all the perceived success. Okay, my psychologist didn’t say those specific words but she did impart a few nuggets of wisdom.

Acknowledge (to yourself) how you’re feeling

My psychologist loves the analogy of trying to hold a beach ball underwater. Basically, the beach ball can substitute any feeling you’re trying to suppress, and the harder you push it down, the harder it smacks you in the face as it rebounds to the surface.

Of course, depending on the type of relationship you have with your friend, you might want to keep those thoughts to yourself. I decided to tell my friend and she replied with “Queen, you are so talented”. Or maybe it was “You’re a psycho bitch” (said lovingly)? Either way, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, even if they’re unpleasant.

Give yourself a reality check

Before you start the pity party, consider your own successes and revel in the great things that you’ve achieved. Yes, I am a 29-year-old university student who shares a bedroom wall with her grandparents, but I also feel completely satisfied and fulfilled in my creative and professional work.

Not to brag, but I’m going places (I think), and I’m sure you are too! Yes, my friend is dating a very kind and normal young man who I regularly refer to as “divine”, but she also dated a manipulative arsehole for years before meeting him. 

Jealousy is ‘normal’

As we navigate this capitalist hellscape that we’re all trying to survive, where we’ve been conditioned to compete with each other for money and praise, I think it’s absolutely inevitable that we’re going to be jealous of each other. There’s also a huge chance that when you’re consumed by the successes of others, you’re completely ignoring your own – meaning, that someone you love is probably equally jealous of YOU. Be kind to yourself, you’re doing great!

Don’t let it affect your friendship

My psychologist didn’t say this but I feel like it was implied. I say this in the kindest way, but I think that if your jealousy has gotten to the point where it affects the way you treat your friend, that’s a bit of a ‘you problem’. You might need a bit of outside support in dealing with those feelings, and that’s okay! As my psychologist does say to me quite regularly, “We can’t control the actions or feelings of others, we can only control how we feel”. 

Let your friend’s success inspire you

There’s something very invigorating about surrounding yourself with successful people. Yes, at times, it will make you collapse into a puddle of tears on your 29th birthday after drinking the better part of two bottles of Prosecco (which definitely did not happen to me last Friday).

But, for the most part, having driven people around you can be very energising. Watching the people you love succeed at things can show you what’s possible, and if you’re lucky enough, those friends might even help get you there.

For more on how to deal with friendship jealousy, try this.

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