One thing I’ve learned during my months spent in quarantine is that no matter what’s taken from me and everyone I know, I can still find reasons to be jealous of others. Lately, my eyes have flashed green at friends who seem to have unlimited leisure time, remote jobs that equate to “busywork while watching Disney+,” and privacy. Many of my friends, I’ve learned, are jealous of me because I’m quarantining with other people (my parents), am currently sheltering in a house in the suburbs with a backyard, and I have a job.
We’re all clearly struggling with different components of adjusting to this new, weird, temporary life. So why is it so easy to be jealous of others in quarantine? It’s not as if anyone is truly thriving or—forgive me—living their best life right now.
Part of the underlying issue is that each of us are contending with personal issues that feel unique to our own experience, even though we’re all in this together: Those who are quarantining solo crave companionship. Those quarantining with multiple people crave solitude. Single people miss their ex. People in relationships want nothing more than a three-week vacation from their partner. People who fled to the country miss fire escapes, takeout, and car sounds. People in cities miss quiet moments and additional space of visiting other places.
Each of us is feeling some unmet needs. We’re each feeling losses and looking at other people who have what we want.” —clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD
But though all of these issues are different on the surface, they’re all a manifestation of a basic unmet need. “Each of us is feeling some unmet needs, especially with summer coming on and our party plans getting canceled,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “We’re each feeling losses and looking at other people who have what we want.”
Furthermore, even if every person is having a terrible time, that terrible time is specific in a special snowflake kind of way in that we each have a different tolerance for what we will accept situationally. But no one is without conflict in quarantine, and realizing that truth is essential.
“With parents, for example you might feel more taken care of, but you might be feeling the lack of privacy,” says Dr. Daramus. Or, “you’re busy while it feels like everyone else gets to improve their baking game and post cute dog videos on Instagram, but their cute videos may be hiding serious financial anxiety.”
So just like before quarantine, the grass isn’t always greener, but now we’re lacking the usual tools at our disposal to realize that much. Now we largely rely on each other’s social media highlight reel instead of the full picture of life to gauge how things are going given that we can’t actually see one another. And because of the presence of absence, truly connecting via video calls can be tough. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to a quarantine life sentence of wild jealousy. Rather, if you find yourself feeling especially jealous of others right now, check out the following three strategies to curb the snippy tendency.
1. Be attentive to others and personally forthcoming
“Really talk to people about what’s going on, and really listen to them when they tell you what’s going on with them,” Dr. Daramus says. “Their reality probably isn’t what you imagine.”
2. Introspect about what’s fueling your jealousy
“Honor and validate your own feelings right now,” says Dr. Daramus. “See if any of your current issues—like feeling trapped or rejected or smothered—come from older issues in your life. Don’t minimize your own feelings by criticizing yourself. Once you’ve treated your own stuff with respect, take a look at what’s good about your situation and what resources you might have for solving your problems.”
3. Let yourself be petty when it makes sense
Just letting yourself be petty can help you feel a comforting sense of normalcy. And plus, the fact that your college best friend apparently has an elaborate second home in the Catskills that you never were invited to is kind of BS. “If it’s not eating you up, just go ahead and be a little jealous,” says Dr. Daramus. “You’re allowed to be human.”
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