I’m 28 years old, and after I graduated from college, my first job experience didn’t work out as well as I wanted it to and I got depressed. My older sister encouraged me to become a certified teacher, so I did, and I’ve now been teaching for five years and am even more miserable than I was before. I’m underpaid and I can’t enjoy anything in life without worrying about money. Whenever I try to find better opportunities, it feels like all doors are closed. I’ll be 30 in two years, but I can’t afford to move out of my parents’ home even though my environment is very toxic. I keep trying to do things in order to better my situation, but nothing works. I’m not even lucky when it comes to relationships.
I keep comparing myself to my friend, “Julia,” and feeling jealous of how lucky she is. She didn’t get a college degree but she still landed an amazing job, she gets paid triple my salary, and even though she has had tons of one-night-stands and was never serious about being in a relationship, she keeps attracting men who want to marry her and every man at her job or outside that she meets gets obsessed with her even though she doesn’t dress well or take care of herself in general. When I see how hard I try and nothing seems to work out, I can’t help but feel devastated. I’m worrying a lot about the future, and I’m scared it’ll get even worse. How can I deal with this? Am I doing something wrong? — Jealous of Julia
Your two paragraphs above are about two different things and, though it may feel like it, they aren’t really related. Julia’s success or luck or what you perceive to be those things isn’t related to your perceived lack of luck or success. Whether Julia does well in life and love has no real bearing on how well YOU do. Her success isn’t even related to your mental health. This is good news, because for as little as you think you have control of, your thoughts and feelings about Julia ARE things you have some control over, and cultivating positive thoughts and feelings will foster positive mental health, just as cultivating negative thoughts has the opposite result.
I can tell that you’ve been cultivating negative thoughts because your letter above is full of negative statements and almost nothing positive. You are miserable, your first job didn’t work out, your teaching job has left you underpaid and constantly worried about money, all doors are closed to new opportunities, you can’t move out of your parents’ home which is toxic, nothing works to better your situation, and you aren’t even lucky in love. Even Julia’s life is a negative to/for you as you frame anything positive as unfair, like she doesn’t deserve the good things that have come her way. It’s all just “luck” that maybe she isn’t even entitled to because she doesn’t have a college degree and she’s had “tons of one-night-stands.” You are just dripping in judgment and negativity; no wonder you feel you’re in a toxic environment. It is one of your own making, because your thoughts are attracting the negativity.
So, what to do about this? Start cultivating positivity to attract more of it into your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things every day that you’re grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to misery. Get fresh air and exercise, foster hobbies, make new friends (and make sure you show up for the ones you have to strengthen those bonds), and try to do something every day or every week that helps better someone else’s day. Basically, change the way you approach what you call “opportunities.” Instead of thinking of opportunities as a pathway to more success, think of opportunities as path ways to deeper connections with others and more joy and personal reward for yourself. This small change in the way you think has immense potential to change your life.
One more thought you can change? Instead of thinking that Julia doesn’t deserve her success and you are jealous of her luck, think to yourself “I am happy for Julia’s success and open myself to finding my own path to success. I am just as deserving of love and financial rewards.” Practice this as a daily affirmation that you say out loud to yourself each morning. Maybe it feels weird, but what do you have to lose? You’ve tried things the other way – being endlessly negative – and that hasn’t worked out well for you. Give positivity a chance for a bit, even if you have to fake it. As the saying goes: “Fake it til you make it.”