Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m Jealous of My Perfect Co-Worker and Her Attractive Boyfriend”

I’m looking for advice for some ugly behavior of mine that is yet again rearing its head. It’s the classic comparison syndrome that especially is prevalent with social media. This time it’s related to my co-worker. I’m jealous of her. I think she’s prettier, taller (well, that’s a fact), fitter, smarter, and better at the job than I am. Oh, and of course she’s really nice. Sometimes I find myself saying passive-aggressive snide remarks to her accidentally, that I don’t really mean. Usually I am friendly/professional though.

She started dating someone a month before I did, and we’ve been chit-chatting about that over the course of our relationships since we kind of have that in common now. She and her boyfriend have been on a short trip together, they have been to a friend’s wedding together, and they are spending the holidays together. I’m not jealous about those things because I don’t think my boyfriend and I are there yet. But I found and creeped her boyfriend’s Instagram and there are a few couple photos of them. Of course, they look beautiful together. All I could think was that he is better looking and has a cooler life than my boyfriend — my kind, affectionate, goofy, generous, sexy, smart boyfriend. What the eff is wrong with me?

I know people project a certain image on social media and I can’t get hung up on it. Also, I’m about a 5, looks-wise, so I can’t expect a super attractive boyfriend, and even if I did, I’d be insecure about that too. However, I’m aware I compare myself to others constantly, aside from my coworker.

Do you have any advice on this? I’m obviously (?) not going to creep his Instagram anymore. — Not Measuring Up

(Self-) Awareness is half the battle. The other half is doing something about it. What are you actually doing? You don’t mention anything that you’re doing to actively deal with your jealousy and the way you compare yourself to others (especially via social media). Therapy, of course, is an obvious option, but there are plenty more steps you can take to cultivate more self-confidence and decrease your urge to compare:

1. Cultivate gratitude for all you have by keeping a gratitude journal and by actually saying “thank you” to people who not only do things for you, but also to those who inspire you to be better.

2. To that end, how does your co-worker inspire you? You say she’s nice and she does her job well. How is she nice? What is she doing well at her job that you could also do? What can you learn from her?

3. Get off social media.

4. All of it.

5. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc., etc.

6. It’s one thing to know intellectually that the lives that people project on social media don’t always reflect reality (or at least not 100% of reality), but if you’re looking at people’s feeds and constantly comparing their highlight reel to your total reality, you’re gonna make yourself nuts. Clearly.

7. Focus and build on your strengths. What are you good at? What can you do to get even better? Practice, classes, investment of time and energy and maybe money? When you focus on what you do well and put your energy into becoming better at that thing, that’s less energy you are expending on comparing yourself to someone else. You are trading negative energy for positive and finding a productive use of your time and energy.

8. Do good. When you do good, not only do you help make someone else’s life better, but also you tend to feel better about yourself, too. So, volunteer, organize a donation drive, help a friend in need, do small and/or anonymous acts of kindness like paying for coffee for the person behind you in line or delivering cookies to your local firehouse on a random afternoon.

9. Also, therapy is still a pretty good idea, even if you’re doing all these other things and succeeding at them, too.

10. And, seriously, say no to social media if it makes you feel like you don’t measure up.

I have been seeing a man for six years. He has an ex-fiancée who walked away from him many years ago. Six years ago she came back and they started a relationship from where they left off. It did not work and they decided to remain just friends. He contacts her three or four times a week, and their conversations are always at least an hour in length. He tells me he loves me and wants me in his life, but she is a friend and he will not give up his friend.

Yesterday I got a floral table centerpiece from him for Christmas, and then I found out that she also received a floral table centerpiece for Christmas. I was heartbroken and now wonder if he really loves me or if he has just been using me. She has lyme disease and is almost totally blind, and he says he feels sorry for her. I love this man, but I do not want her in my life or in our life. Where do I go from here, and is there any hope for us to have a life together without her? — Not the Centerpiece?

You have made it clear that you don’t want this woman in your boyfriend’s life. He’s made it clear he’s not discarding a friend. I’m confused by your timeline of events — you’ve been seeing this guy for six years, and you say six years ago he started seeing his ex again, it didn’t work out, and they decided to remain friends. Either he started seeing you both at the same time, or there was very little time between you, but regardless: it’s been six years of this and you know it’s not going to change. Time to MOA; you two are not a match.


Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​

5 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Northern Star December 22, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Yeesh, LW 2. This has been going on for SIX YEARS? You should have left him a long time ago.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster December 22, 2017, 1:28 pm

    LW1: My boyfriend actually struggles with the comparison thing with social media. I think a lot of people do, but there’s kind of a scale, and he is on the ‘more jealous’ end of that scale. He has been off social media for about 3 months now. And I have to say it’s done a world of good for his outlook. Honestly, he is more upbeat and happy with himself and it’s definitely because he’s not caught in that cycle anymore. I also did a mini break from social media due to politics, and have slowly been getting back into it, but I am still super selective about it. A good social media purge is quite the palate cleanser. I can’t recommend it enough!

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  • avatar

    Sarah December 22, 2017, 5:40 pm

    Do not believe social media. You’re right about the fact that people try to make their lives look amazing.

    I know a lady whose husband cheated on her. Both are smart, have very lucrative careers, and have beautiful kids. Their lives seem perfect on the surface. You would never know from her social media profile that her husband cheated on her, that she threatened his mistress and broke into her house, and that she did some jail time.

    But I get it. I try to tell myself that things aren’t necessarily as good as they seem and that we may not know what people struggle with behind closed doors.

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  • avatar

    Tabathos December 22, 2017, 6:42 pm

    LW 2: I think that your boyfriend feels sorry for her ex-girlfriend becoming almost blind, and that’s why he had chosen to be a part of her life. But I don’t think it is appropriate to have that kind of close relationship with an ex, considering that he has a girlfriend. You say that you don’t want her in your boyfriend’s life, and he wants the woman to be in his life. I think that if you want your relationship to have a chance, you need to accept her being around your boyfriend. If you can’t deal with it, MOA.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 December 23, 2017, 12:47 pm

    LW1 – You’re what I affectionately call a “Vegeta”, after a cartoon character whose one goal in life was to be the best. I grew up as a Vegeta. My tiger parents compared me relentlessly to first their friends’ kids, and when I surpassed them, the local winners of this and that, and then the state champions, and finally the national champions.

    The bar kept moving further out of reach. It was impossible to be happy. There was always someone better, and I couldn’t compete. It was the equivalent of going to your state’s third-ranked gymnast and saying “What’s wrong with you that you didn’t make the Olympic team?” I felt inadequate and ashamed.

    The thing is, this is exactly what you’re doing to yourself! You’re comparing yourself to the prettiest, nicest, most skilled coworker. By definition there’s only one. You’re setting yourself up for failure by picking a bar most people can’t reach. Are there other nice, competent people in your department? Should they all feel bad about themselves?

    I agree 100% with what Wendy said, and I’d like to add that something personally helpful to me was taking up a hobby that was fun, but that I was hopelessly, objectively mediocre at. There was never any pressure to compete. It was liberating, and it also taught me a lesson. If my friend could climb the hardest route, that didn’t stop me from climbing it too. And if I climbed something harder than him, it didn’t mean I was all done and didn’t have goals anymore. I got to learn techniques from him without competing with him. 🙂

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