Playing with Fire: Transforming Jealousy into Motivation

Where do you draw the line between inspiration & influence and jealousy & comparison? How do you find the balance between looking to others for motivation without comparing their highlight reel & achievements to your low moments & failures? What about when someone does something or has something you want to do or have? Is it OK to feel a spark of jealousy? And if it is, how do we manage to keep that spark from igniting into a wildfire and consuming us whole? 

Comparison and jealousy can show up in many different places and in many different ways. As children we may have experienced toy envy… As adults, some of us may experience a similar kind of toy envy in the form of houses, cars, jobs, whatever… And then there’s the dark vortex of social media scrolling, and the person in the front row of your yoga class that’s floating effortlessly into handstand, and sometimes it’s the friend that seems to always have their shit together, or your buddy that’s constantly in the spot and catching the best waves of the day… And although I can’t speak for everyone, I have a feeling that we’ve all experienced these emotions, or a variation of them, at one time or another, whether we were actually aware of them or not. And here’s the thing, we must first acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with feeling these feelings, in fact, it’s just a part of being human.

So the question then becomes: How do we gracefully acknowledge these emotions without allowing those sparks of jealousy to turn into a raging self-destructive fire?? Well, I don’t really know for sure, but what I’ve come to strongly believe is that when we allow ourselves to hold on to this judgement, or comparison, or feeling of jealousy for too long, and when we allow ourselves to create a “fear-based story” around that judgment or comparison or feeling of jealousy, it’s just like dumping a bucket of lighter fluid onto the fire. 

We think because they’ve done it, there’s no room for us to do it. Because they have it, there’s none left for us to have.

And as beautiful and as creative and as powerful as our minds can be, they can also be extremely twisted. And if we’re not mindful, and we let that fire burn out of control, well, those “fear-based stories” can transform into deep-seated limiting beliefs.

Now, maybe this all sounds a little dramatic, but I invite you to bring some awareness to your thoughts over the next couple of days or weeks, especially when someone achieves something that you want, or when you notice jealousy or comparison arise. For reference, and to be completely vulnerable, here are a few of mine that I’ve experienced:

  • I’ve always been a little bit slower at learning advanced yoga postures compared to many of my friends and colleagues. I notice myself, at times, feeling jealous of their ability to quickly learn challenging postures and often compare my practice, abilities, and timeline to theirs. Sometimes I even find myself thinking that I shouldn’t be teaching yoga if I can’t get into certain postures, or that I’m less “spiritually advanced” because of my limitations in my asana practice. 

  • When it comes to surfing, some girls are a bit more fearless in the ocean while I have always been a bit more calculated. Sometimes there are women with less experience than me that are charging harder than me, and when that happens, I notice some jealousy, comparison, and lots of self doubt. I have honestly said to Brian one time, “I should just sell all of my boards and give up, I suck.” I notice I create a story in my head that I am somehow less of a surfer, and a coward, and that I’m not ever going to be good enough so I should give up completely.

  • Then, there is life. I guess you could say I have taken the “road less traveled” since I decided to forego the typical American “post-University” path and create a simple life for myself here in Puerto Rico. It’s a great life, and one I never want to leave, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t compare myself to other people my age who are achieving greatness in their careers and making a lot more money than I do. If I’m not mindful, that sneaky bastard of self-doubt will surely creep back into my head, and I begin to feel like I’m a bum, and maybe like I’ve failed at life.

  • By the way, I laughed out loud at myself as I wrote all of that because I know it’s total bullshit. Maybe you experienced similar, maybe it was totally different, but, either way, it’s good to bring some clarity to our experiences and thoughts, as well as the stories that our minds like to create.

We must acknowledge these sparks of jealousy when they show up, instead of trying to sweep them under the rug. Can we notice when they arise?? The physical sensations they produce?? The thoughts that pop into your head?? 


Can you notice when your mind wants to wrap a story around the sensations?? And if or when that story shows up, can you remind yourself that it’s just that - a story - and it’s not actually true?? 

We are all unique, each one of us with our own sacred timeline, and I’m slowly learning that perspective is everything when it comes to feelings of jealousy, moments of comparison, and self-inflicted stories based on the fear of not being good enough. In today’s world, it’s hard not to be exposed to other people’s lives, and finding perspective is an acquired ability (that is totally achievable and, in my mind, absolutely essential) that will greatly help to prevent those sparks from combusting into an all-consuming wildfire of self-doubt. 

When you begin to question your own worth, let that be a sign that you’ve taken inspiration and influence a little too far. When you feel yourself beginning to feel the heat of jealousy, maybe take a moment to step back from the flames. Why are you jealous?? Are you comparing yourself to their highlight reel?? Is what they did maybe something you want to achieve?? 

If so, recognize that. Acknowledge it. Own it. They achieved something you want to do. They have something that you really want. And that’s awesome, good for them. And you?? Well, you can either toss that lighter fluid on the fire and likely get burned, or you can use that spark of jealousy to light a proverbial “fire under your ass” which inspires you and motivates you to continue doing the work that you must do in order to achieve your goals.

So, where do we draw the line between inspiration & influence and jealousy & comparison? How do we find the balance between looking to others for motivation without comparing their highlight reel & achievements to our low moments & failures? Well my friends, I truly believe it all comes down to mindfulness and widening the scope of our perspective.

When it’s all said and done, it’s always up to us. Saying that we are never going to judge, compare, or feel a hint of jealousy ever again is kind of like saying we’re never going to have a sip of water ever again. It’s completely ridiculous and out of the question because, remember?? We are only human. And those emotions and experiences are simply a part of the journey of life. They’ll sneak up on you when you’re least expecting, and just when you think you’ve risen above all jealousy and comparison and judgmental thoughts, the Universe will likely test that height, and the emotions will probably return.

But the comfort here lies in the choice. Individually we hold the power to decide which fire we fuel. So what will it be?? The raging wildfire of self-doubt? Or the impassioned flame of motivation? The choice is only ever yours.

Article photo by Annie Senechal of MondayNomads from the GLOW Adventure Yoga Retreat in Bali, October 2017.