One of the dark sides of our womanhood is the way that we allow jealousy to run rampant under the surface of our "sisterhood." Even in spiritual circles, where we supposedly celebrate "relationship," this aspect of our togetherness can get pushed further and further into the cellars of our awareness. There, it starts to fester and grow like a weed -- just as much as grown women as when we were in high school (if not more so).
Let's take a step back for a moment, and see if we can uncover some tools to see our jealousy so we can turn it into something more helpful.
The Enneagram is one of my favorite tools of self-discovery. Based on the works of George Gurdjieff and modernized by Oscar Ichazo, it splits the personality into 9 possible types, with each type having a dominant "wing". Like astrology and Myers-Briggs, it is a wonderful way to see yourself from the outside-in, so you can get a better understanding of what's going from the inside-out.
As an Enneagram 4 with a 3 wing (our dark side is the "compare & despair" syndrome), as well as a Venus in Scorpio (helloooo jealousy!), I know a lot about jealousy!
Rather than let it consume me, I've found a way to use it as a portal to my feminine power. So when jealousy towards another woman arises -- whether it be for her success, her cute new baby, her uninhibited flirtation with my man or anything or everything in between -- it's a particularly potent time to heal certain facets of my own, inner relationship with the Feminine.
Women who identify as spiritual people tend to have a very hard time admitting to themselves that they are jealous, especially of another woman's success, beauty or power. When jealousy arises, it tends to "go underground," and every single woman has experienced that result.
We succumb to the "mean girl syndrome." We backstab, backtalk, or become queens of catty competition. Let's own it, sisters: we are very competitive with one another! And this takes on a unique flavor and expression for us as women, one that is hard to talk about. Men, programmed biologically and culturally to be more overtly aggressive around jealousy, often thrive and bond through competition with each other. Women, well, not so much.
"Women do compete, and they can compete quite fiercely with one another," said Tracy Vaillancourt, author and a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada. "The form it typically takes is indirect aggression, because it has a low cost: The person [making the attack] doesn't get injured. Oftentimes, the person's motives aren't detected, and yet it still inflicts harm against the person they're aggressing against."
If you're reading this, it's most likely because you feel very deeply and strongly about healing your relationship with the Feminine, and healing the role of the Feminine in the world at large. Yet, let's be honest here: jealousy is one of the biggest pieces. We can lie to each other and say "I don't get jealous", or we can shed light on this collective shadow.
It's time that we fess up.
You might not overtly act on jealousy, but it almost certainly exists within you nonetheless. It's part of our reptilian brains that fires when, at a deep level, we feel our survival is being threatened. She's gonna steal my man. She's gonna be more popular than me. She's gonna, she's gonna, she's gonna. The root fear beneath all of this is--if she gets him/her/it/that, then there's not enough for me. I'll get left behind, lost from the pack. I simply won't survive.
This fear is neither good nor bad. It just is. It's a part of being a woman. Or being human, for that matter.
Where jealousy does get bad, however, is when we let this competition create a rift in our sisterhood.
It's a problem if you stop talking to a colleague without having a conversation about "why". Or give a woman the "up-and-down" when she walks into a room--and then don't complement her (or say anything at all). It's when you smirk instead of smile, because a smirk betrays smugness and a smile vulnerability. When you won't look into her eyes,
It's when you want to hurt, shun, or freeze her out. It's when you want to bring her down a notch for being too.... What? Beautiful, smart, strong, adored, or anything that you think you're not.
We need to grow up this part of ourselves, and fess up. Jealousy is never about her. It's always about us. Jealousy, like everything else that we feel or experience, is 100% our own responsibility.
Here's are steps for working with your jealousy of another woman:
1. Locate it in your body. When you first feel the jealousy, unhook the sensation from a story about "why" you're jealous. Find the feeling in your body. Where is it exactly? What does it feel like? What is it's temperature, texture, and color?
2. Contact the sensation directly. Once you've located it, feel the sensation fully. Meet it directly. What is it like to step right inside the nucleus of the sensation, and to let the feeling be as big as it needs and wants to be?
3. Find your unbridled praise for this woman, and the unique flavor of the feminine that she lives and expresses. Later on, within the next twenty-four hours, reflect on what exactly about that other women you are jealous of. Appreciate her for being your mirror, for holding the medicine of where you are holding back or longing for growth and expression. Do not continue onto the last step until you have fully found your praise for her. She represents a part of your own relationship with the Feminine that needs healing.
4. Try her on in a low-risk scenario. In the shower, in your kitchen, or somewhere when the stakes aren't high: Breathe her flavor into your heart and your belly. Move as she moves. Talk as she talks. Express as she expresses. Later, if you feel emotionally triggered, keep trying her on, even though you will feel awkward, uncertain, and maybe even a little bit embarrassed. This is a sign that your nervous system is growing. Keep going.
5. Praise her directly. Instead of backstabbing, if she's doing something that totally rocks and that gets your panties all in a bunch about it, appreciate her. Publicly. Send her an email. Text her. Post on her Facebook wall. And only praise, no praise-cloaked-as-criticism, one of a woman's favorite passive-aggressive attacks. ("Great job! I thought most of the presentation was fantastic!") Cheer her on. Let her know that what she's doing is totally awesome.
6. Live in integrity. Don't flirt with her man. Don't woo her clients. Don't brush her off. Respect her. Celebrate her. Love her and the life that she has cultivated. Use her as an inspiration and a springboard into taking ownership for creating the live you most long for.
When we can practice with our jealousy in this way, the "mean girl" shadow side of sisterhood becomes an exhilarating doorway into personal growth and relational healing.
Let it turn you on supporting other women in giving their greatness. We're on the same team, sisters. Let's do this. Together.
Follow Sara Avant Stover on Twitter: www.twitter.com/saraavantstover