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Image / Editorial

Hit Me Up: When Jealousy Gets In The Way Of Friendship But You Don’t Want It To

by Rhona Mcauliffe
24th Jan 2018

Jealousy and friendship don’t mix. When your friend’s seemingly perfect life makes you act like someone you hardly recognise, it’s time to take serious stock… and remedial action.

Dear Rhona,

My best friend is incredibly successful.  She’s built a booming business from nothing and also employs her husband.  They have an amazing life – regular holidays to tropical destinations and lots of mini-breaks and fancy events in between.  They have three kids and a very full life.  I love her but I’m finding it difficult to be excited about her constant stream of ‘good news’ when nothing much happens in my life.  There’s nothing wrong with my life, I’m with a long-term partner, have two great boys in their early teens and we have a roof over our head.  I don’t love my job but really, who does? By all regular standards, I’m privileged and usually I feel it.  But when I meet up with my friend I always feel like I’m failing in some way, maybe like I’m not good enough and not giving my boys the incredible experiences her kids have.  It’s eating me up and I hate myself for it because I’m actually a pretty decent human.  How can I still be a good friend and not be affected by all the other stuff?

Lost my Zen, Dublin.

I think I can safely say that we’ve all been here at some point in our lives and it sucks!  I remember being overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and envy in my early teens when thousands of Spanish students hit our seaside town.   I was totally pube-ing out, an alien in a pale body that sprouted new bits every day and they were all caramel limbs, great hair and boundless confidence.  If I had different skin, a smaller nose and brown eyes, I thought, I would literally get off with myself at the tennis club disco.  Little did I know that coloured contacts, the first fake tan prototypes and cosmetic overhauls were just around the corner.  Not to mention the ‘check your privilege’ campaign.  

But by comparing myself to others – which I did for quite a few years after that – I only ever saw my flaws, most of which were unchangeable (again, pre-shows like The Swan and Silence of The Lambs).  This is a pretty standard rite of passage for teens, even the extremely, very good-looking Spanish ones I imagine but highlights the toxicity of pitting yourself against your peers.  You will only ever devalue and limit yourself in their shadow.  Or, as Mark Twain said: “Comparison is the death of joy.”

Your friend, meanwhile, sounds like a raging powerhouse; she’s built a highly successful business from scratch, supports her family financially and manages to treat them to regular exotic breaks.  To get there, I imagine she’s worked night and day for many years and is never not contactable, even when she’s lolling on that yacht in Barbados.  She has also, I guess, had to take huge financial risks at various points throughout her career to keep pushing the business forward.  None of which is for the fainthearted, with small and medium sized business owners among the most stressed across all professions.  A major stress contributor here is the need to always be ‘on.’  Beyond that, she also works with her husband – which isn’t always ideal – and may spend less time with her kids than she wants.

Other than witnessing the obvious benefits of her success, you really won’t ever be able to sneak in behind the scenes and know what she’s dealing with day to day.  Everyone is fielding their own issues.

Can money buy happiness?  Is she happier than you because she has more money? No, not necessarily.  Planning and controlling what we do earn is key to happiness; spending it on life experiences and investing it in time with our family and friends is the route to long-term contentedness, experts say, as experiences cannot be compared but material goods can.  

You do, however, hint at the prospect that you may not be entirely happy with your lot.  Not ‘loving’ your job is reason enough to look for a new one.  This may seem idealistic – especially if you’ve had negative work situations in the past – but when roughly a third of our time is spent at work, it’s important to find a comfortable groove.  Your less than ideal work situ may also be the root cause of your resentment as your self-made friend has unusually high levels of job gratification.

A City & Guilds job survey conducted a few years ago in the UK found that the highest level of job satisfaction was experienced by florists and gardeners (87%) and that the lowest satisfaction was logged by technology workers (48% and bankers (44%). It might be time to think about where you feature on the job contentment scale and whether or not it’s time to pursue new opportunities.  Working towards your dream job by retraining or simply expanding your skill base will boost your confidence and open new doors.

It will also take you from ‘nothing much is happening in my life’ to proactively pursuing new challenges. This doesn’t mean that you will earn more necessarily, – your new pursuit may even be voluntary work, for example – but it will enhance your quality of life and guarantee that you continue to evolve.  In terms of motivation, having resilient friends with a great work ethic in your life can also help you achieve these ‘goals.’  You have cheered your friend on throughout her career highs and she will no doubt do the same for you now.

Try to focus on and be grateful for what you do have and think about where you want to be in five or ten years time.   How are you going to get there?  Make a plan and work towards it.  Taking control of your own circumstances will mean you’re less likely to half kill yourself trying to gawk over the fence at your neighbour.  And by neighbour I mean your trailblazing friend.  Try to be happy for her.  Our fortunes ebb and flow but our friendships, if tended properly, will always be there.

Rhona McAuliffe may not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart.  If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it. Write to Rhona at [email protected]


Photo credit Joseph Pearson, Unsplash