The Easy Cure for Jealousy


When I made the choice to start digging myself out of debt, my lifestyle changed drastically. I was no longer able to go out for dinner and drinks with friends. I couldn’t go enjoy fun workout classes. I had to spend hours meticulously planning cheap meals so I wouldn’t go over my budget. My wardrobe consisted of only the most essential items. I didn’t even have a TV, let alone cable. Living this way was difficult, but what made it really unpleasant was the jealousy that arose every time I saw my friends out and having fun when I was relegated to spending my money on bills — groceries, utilities, mortgage, credit card debt, and medical fees.

One day, my friend and I were dress shopping for a wedding we were both attending in a few weeks. She tried on dresses, looked at jewelry, all the while talking about the pre-wedding festivities that I wasn’t going to because of budget constraints. I planned to wear the same dress I had worn for the last three weddings. I even stressed over buying a wedding gift.

I wanted to say “screw the budget” and get something new, even though I couldn’t afford it. I wanted to change my RSVP for the bachelorette party to yes, lounge around a pool all weekend, eating out and drinking champagne and not worrying about how much it was going to cost. I was so jealous of my friend, because that was exactly what she was about to do.

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When I was living on a tight budget, there was always something to be jealous about. I spent my days working at the mall, where I was surrounded by people shopping all day long as I brown-bagged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because I didn’t want to shell out $5 for a hot pretzel from the food court. It became harder and harder for me to be happy for others, because my knee-jerk reaction was to be jealous instead.

Shortly before the wedding, I went on a women’s spiritual retreat with my grandmother (which she had graciously paid for me to attend). During one of our workshops, we were instructed to make a list of things we were grateful for. The list was supposed to be 10 items, but before our workshop ended, I came up with 50. I continued working on it throughout the day, and the list grew into the hundreds. I realized I had so much to be grateful for, even when it didn’t feel that way.

When I returned home, I bought a journal and committed to writing down three things I was thankful for each day. The things didn’t have to be grandiose, like the air we breathe or the love of my family or the gift of existence. I could be grateful for a particularly beautiful flower growing in the middle of the sidewalk, or a kind exchange with a stranger. Knowing that I pledged to write down my gratitude each day heightened my awareness as I moved through the world. Instead of focusing on all the things I didn’t have, I looked out for things to be grateful for.

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I attended my friend’s wedding, and instead of feeling insecure that my gift wasn’t good enough, or being upset that I couldn’t afford to buy a fancy new dress, I was blown away with gratitude for the opportunity to witness my friends’ love. I was grateful for the amazing weather, the gorgeous details, the delicious food, good conversation and dancing.

My gratitude journal is a practice I still keep today, and it continues to keep my jealousy at bay. There will always be someone with more than me. There will always be things I can’t afford to do. But my life will also always be filled with beautiful things to be grateful for, as long as I remember to look for them.

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Gemma Hartley is a freelance journalist, speaker, writing coach and the author of "Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward." Her work has appeared in multiple outlets including Marie Claire, The Washington Post, Women's Health, Glamour and many others. She is currently at work on her second book.