To begin with we should distinguish between a jealous and an envious person. Even though both relates to the feeling of a missing piece in oneself, jealousy could be used in a positive way in order to push oneself to perform just as the person we are jealous of. That might be a performance at work that we ourselves would love to achieve, or a standard of living. Jealousy is part of us and to a certain extent healthy to create new forces within ourselves. But you might think: why has this topic still a negative connotation to it?
As soon as this feeling can be described as envy, a force that creates a dark and uncomfortable feeling within us when speaking, thinking or hearing about a certain person and their achievements or possessions, it becomes dangerous to our own well-being. Unfortunately, we often do not try to figure out why this feeling exists and what we could possibly do to overcome that feeling. We bury that feeling deep within us so that nobody will ever see it. We are too ashamed of confessing the feelings we have.
Ironically, we often envy people who are close to us, such as our spouse, siblings or friends. But the fact that these people are so close to us and we still cannot fully grant them their success, makes us even more unhappy, as we know it is wrong. The reason why we tend to have those feelings with people we love is because we subconsciously compare us to them as we spend most of our time with them. If we see a celebrity, we might think that they have an awesome car or a nice pool, but deep down, we quickly stop thinking about that as we cannot compare ourselves and our life with them. The human brain, therefore, focuses on people we can compare our situation to, as we could have performed equally if we had done so and so…
As Muslims, however, we know how severe it can be to ignore these feelings. In a famous Hadith (related by Bukhari & Muslim), Muslims are addressed with the following words “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself”. The importance of wishing good for others is even related to the question whether someone is a true believer or not.
But it can be extremely difficult to control that as those feelings often come from a deeper fear of not being enough or low self-esteem. Yet, we have to understand that we ourselves create our thoughts, so the first, and most important step, is that we believe that we can change our thoughts. That it is our responsibility to start working on those negative feelings and thoughts. It definitely helps to make dua and ask Allah (Swt) for help and at the same time try hard ourselves. Here are some tips to help control envy or jealousy:
- Think about how these thoughts make you feel. Is it a nice, encouraging feeling? Or is it more a destructive and destroying one? What will you get from dragging yourself down? Would it not be more productive to direct your thoughts towards the goals you have and take action to achieve them?
- What is the reason behind you being jealous of a friend who has a bigger house or a work colleague having a better position in the company? Is it really about the house and the better position? Or is it more connected to something deeper? Maybe a feeling of not being enough when not earning a lot or owing lots of things? Is your worth really connected to material possessions?
- One of the main keys is gratitude. Wake up every morning and state 3 things you are grateful for. It could be the nice conversation you always have with a special friend, or your spouse that make you laugh or even the thought that you have given another day to become a better person. Focus more on what you already have to get where you want to be, rather than focusing on other people and seeing what you might not have right in this moment of tie. By shifting the focus to what we already have, it motivates us to achieve what we want for the future.
- Avoid destructive comparison to people who have “more”. Try to look at people who have not got as much as you. That will help to become a grateful person. However, you can also look at successful people when it helps motivate you to achieve your goals as long as this does not include negative feelings about your own worth.
Finally, it helps to remember that this process takes time. It is something that sits with a lot of people their entire life so that patience is the key to really make a change. If we do not achieve the goals we set for ourselves straight away, we have to keep trying, because no matter who is successful in life today, they also faced a lot of struggle, but managed to keep pushing forward in order to achieve whatever they wanted to.