An interesting thing happens when we get out act together, drop our victim stories, start taking responsibility for our lives and getting what we want in life: Other people's response to us change significantly. The majority of people treat powerful, self-confident men with respect; but there will always be people who respond with hostility because they are jealous of our success.
The only real downside to letting go of our insecurities and learning to live life on our own terms is that other people's insecurities can start getting triggered by us.
This happened to me today at music college when another male student walked up to a lighthearted group conversation I was having and suddenly said "Graham, you need to stop being such a cunt."
That didn't feel good to me: I immediately felt deflated. When I thought about it later, I felt angry; but when I interpreted what he said in the context of possible jealousy towards me, I could see that his comment was really about him rather than me.
I've been kicking goals at college this year, writing catchy songs that express my historically-repressed anger. The teachers love me because I participate well in class, I'm coachable, work hard and put what they teach me into practise. I take as many extra classes as I can and also do a lot of study outside class of famous musicians to model what they did to become successful. Other students want to collaborate with me because I'm fun to work with and create projects that are inspiring.
I'm playing a big game aimed at launching careers by playing at Australia's largest music festival Splendour In The Grass next year; I just haven't told the organisers yet.
Tomorrow I'll be in the recording studio mixing my first single: a catchy, angry, danceable punk song that is going to go viral. My next project is making a music video for it. I'm not just turning up to class to pass the course; I'm using class time and the associated assignments to write, play, record and promote my new hit songs.
My detractor, on the other hand, spent most of last semester playing victim and complaining about everything under the sun. He regularly moans to everyone in class about his difficult life circumstances outside college. I have no doubt that his life circumstances really are difficult, but it's the way he boasts about it that irritates me. He's so busy playing victim that he hasn't had time to set inspiring goals or make the progress that I have.
I don't enjoy being around people who play victim because it is triggering for me. It leaves me feeling angry and reminds me of all the time I spent in victim mode suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; something I'm very keen to move on from.
As a further step to overcoming my old fear of conflict, I initiated a sit-down man-to-man discussion with him last week to clear the air over some resentment I had towards him about his behaviour at college last term. We practised some healthy boundary setting and at the time everything between us seemed resolved. But the reality is that I can't fully resolve someone else's jealousy towards me and I don't want to play a small game in life just because other people might get upset. That would just be a frustrating repeat of my early life in a family whose golden unwritten rule was "Whatever you do, don't upset Mum!"
While I generally enjoy being empathic and don't get any joy out of seeing people's feelings hurt unnecessarily, I sometimes need to remind myself that we are not ultimately responsible for other people's feelings; especially any jealousy they may have towards us.
The best I can do is take responsibility for my own emotions and my own life, and allow other people to do the same whenever they're ready.
The challenge in dealing with other people's jealousy is that many people don't express it cleanly. Instead it often comes out as unwarranted criticism; accusations of discrimination, entitlement, narcissism or other alleged character defects; passive-aggressive behaviour; or misguided protests about supposed societal biases.
Most people fail to take full responsibility for the results they create in their own lives, and it's easier to criticise successful people than it is to take responsibility for our own failures. I have been there myself many times and understand the false appeal of playing victim as an adult. It's a largely unconscious strategy that develops because we thought it would get us what we wanted from mum and dad when we were a child; but it just doesn't work as an adult.
Once we recognise the underlying emotion behind another person's behaviour as jealousy, we can choose how to respond. As a life coach and trauma therapist, I know that what I teach my paying clients is valuable. Healthy boundaries are important to me and at music college I'm there to study music not to life-coach or therapise my classmates. I don't coach people for free anyway and I realise that until someone asks me for my advice, they unlikely to either appreciate or follow it. So in this case I chose to deal with my classmates jealousy by ignoring it and leaving him to it while I went back to music theory class and wrote this article to channel my anger into something creative.
The childish way to deal with our own jealousy is to unconsciously project it onto other people and criticise their behaviour instead of examining our own.
The healthy, mature adult way to deal with our jealousy is to use it to identify what is really important to us, motivate us to learn what we need to do to, and take action towards our goals. Often that means learning strategies from the very people we feel jealous of who already have what we want and know how to get it; which can be a bitter pill to swallow.