How to Save Yourself from Self-Destructive Thoughts and Manage Jealousy
A couple Tuesdays ago I had one of those wallow-in-my-own-self-created-misery kind of days.
You see I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately. Since quitting my job back in March I’ve been temping and working freelance. It’s equal parts terrifying (no benefits, no stability… eek!) and exciting (more freedom, flexibility and time to travel… yay!).
Some days I wake up wondering why I never opted for my current lifestyle before it was thrown on me, while other days I wake up wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life?
When I woke up that Tuesday it honestly seemed like it would be the former kind of day, but a steady stream of self-destructive thoughts turned it into the latter.
The person who started it all: Lena Dunham.
I should start by saying that Lena Dunham and I aren’t friends of any sorts. We’ve never crossed paths in life. I only know who she is because when I heard a 25 year old was writing a series that would portray the crazy confusing life of a twenty something woman I was naturally very excited. I imagined it to be a less glamorous but more awesome Sex and the City. Girls, her show on HBO, would be one grounded in reality for those of us out here fighting to reach our goals.
It would speak my language. I just knew it.
But it didn’t. Beyond the fact that there wasn’t a single character I could relate to –even when briefly excusing the lack of melanin issue - I just didn’t enjoy it.
And as quickly as I got excited about the show’s premiere, I lost interest. And over the last few months I pretty much forgot about it. She is clearly doing her thing, has fans and a following that will be supporting the show for a second season.
This news, however, didn’t shake me. I was happy for her and respected her success.
My official hater status started when I read this the headline of this NY Times blog: Lena Dunham to sign $3.5M book deal. Before I even clicked the link and read the article I started experiencing acute signs of what Nicole (of Nicole is Better) calls “the raging jealousies.”
The article sent my mind, which was supposed to be focusing on my to-do list, into a spiral of unconstructive thoughts. I was slowly gaining speed down this slippery slope of self-destructive thoughts when two of my close friends stepped in with epic pep talks to save the day. I think you might find the following strategies they shared with me helpful if you are ever in a similar situation:
Construct a raging jealousies list
My homegirl LC from Colored Girl Confidential was the first to save the day, first sending me the Raging Jealousies blog post as required re-reading for our convo. It was just what I needed. I love Nicole’s personal method of managing her raging jealousies: write a list of who flares this feeling up inside of you and articulate exactly why.
I wrote out the handful of people who I most often find myself playing the comparison game with, and then I wrote down why I’m jealous of each one of them. That’s the key, I think, to look at the “why” instead of the “what.” Knowing what you’re jealous of is helpful, but knowing why you want it – what it would mean to you to achieve something similar – is infinitely more useful. My Raging Jealousies List helped to show me where my otherwise out-of-the-blue feelings were coming from and, most importantly, it allowed me to see which jealousies were the result of real things I wanted to pursue and which jealousies were just based on my needy little ego. After making the list, I was able to go back through it and cross off a bunch of stuff that I realized I don’t actually want (or at least, don’t want right now), and fuck, that was absurdly freeing.
At the end of it, I was left with 6 different jealousies that actually resonated with me (as opposed to the, ahem, TWENTY EIGHT that I started with), and now I actually feel like I can get to work on moving those 6 things from my jealousies list to my “shit that’s just a normal part of my life” list.
Remember that you’re probably on other people’s raging jealousies list
If you’re out here working hard to pursue your dreams, taking risks and making progress (no matter how big or small said progress feels to you), you’re likely inspiring more people that you realize.
During our convo LC directed me towards the comments where Nicole’s readers shared the many reasons why she’s on their lists, and then LC proceeded to list the reasons I'd be on hers. It totally shifts your perspective when others remind you of the reasons why they admire you.
Stay in your lane
This one is mostly grounded faith and was courtesy of Latishia, a friend who consistently inspires me by her purposeful living. Despite the fact that all I could think of was that Lena Dunham had companies that are struggling to remain profitable and relevant in a dying industry bid an outrageous amount for a book of essays that may or may not be great from someone who is my age (sense my raging jealousy at all?), she harshly reminded me that’s not my lane.
The fact is I’m not Lena Dunham, and I never will be. I can only and will only ever be me. Furthermore, her success has no direct bearing on my own or vice versa, making it imperative that I remember that within my lane things are happening the way they are supposed to be happening. That the more I let her successes distract me, the harder it will be to stay in my lane.
Now I can't help but be grateful that I wasn’t driving a car in this hypothetical lane… because I definitely would’ve driven straight into a tree that Tuesday.
Photo Source: Björn Bechstein