I'm fourteen-years-old and I am having an issue I hope you can help with. I'm happy most of the time, I like my group of friends, and I'm excited that we're going to be starting high school this fall.
The problem is - I can't help being envious of my younger sister, because she is prettier than me. I love her, but I can't help feeling jealous towards her sometimes, even though I know it's stupid and I feel angry with myself for this. I just don't know how to stop feeling this way.
Dear Jealous Sister,
First off, the fact that you're mature enough to understand that it is inappropriate to feel this way, and the fact that you are seeking help to deal with these feelings, are signs that you are a very together young lady - and so, you're already ahead of the game.
Recognize your positive qualities The Torah tells us to "Love your fellow as yourself." The implication here is that you love yourself first, and then you love your fellow as you love yourself. This teaches us a vitally important lesson. We must love ourselves—have proper self-esteem and self-appreciation—in order to properly love another. Before you can look at your sister without jealousy, you need to look at yourself more honestly. Recognize your positive qualities: your strengths; your physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual attributes. Sure, it's nice to be pretty - but there are a lot of things that are way more important: to be caring, mature, sensitive, compassion, intelligent, loyal. By asking your question you have already demonstrated that you possess these vitally important qualities.
You should also know- as the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You and your sister, like any two human beings, each have your own unique—and uniquely attractive—face. Still, that isn't the main quality that either of you has.
Back to the topic of loving ourselves and our fellows: why should we love ourselves?
Our rabbis have equated the commandment "Love your fellow as yourself" to the Tenth Commandment - "You shall not covet." What exactly is the connection between these two? On the surface, we can say that if we truly love someone we will be happy for them, and we will not be jealous of what they have.
But the connection goes much deeper. Why, in fact, is it wrong to be envious of someone's looks, talents, abilities, possessions, anything?
To understand the answer to that, we first need to understand - truly and deeply know - that G‑d created each and every one of us for a unique purpose in this world. This is the root and the reason for our self-love. If G‑d created us, then we are important. And if you could fulfill my mission in life, then one of us is unnecessary – but nothing that G‑d creates is unnecessary.
Nothing that G‑d creates is unnecessarySince each person has his own, individual, one-of-a-kind mission in life, it stands to reason that each person is sent down here with the unique combination of talents and capabilities that he or she needs to fulfill that mission. If you have artistic ability and I don't, that means that artistic ability is somehow necessary for you in order to do accomplish what you need to on this earth; for me, artistic ability is totally extraneous - sort of like a tail, or an extra ear. There are two sides to the coin- valuing my own uniqueness means both loving me with all my qualities, and loving the fact that those around me possess the qualities they possess.
"You shall not covet" is another way of saying "love yourself, because G‑d has created you in such a way that you are perfect for your job." Once we learn this lesson, the Torah further tells us "Love your neighbor as yourself." Now that you understand your own uniqueness, and that you are vital in G‑d's infinite plan for the world - understand that your fellow is also vital in the grand scheme of things, and is also endowed with the exact measure of physical, intellectual, and emotional attributes that he requires for his job.
I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this any further.