Today, I’m going to share what is possibly my all-time favorite quote for overcoming jealousy.

This quote for overcoming jealousy is so simple, and so powerful.

Transcript below

Zachary Stockill: So, today’s quote is from one of my heroes. You’ve probably heard me talk about him on this channel before. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, author of Meditations, one of the best books for overcoming retroactive jealousy.

And the quote for overcoming jealousy that I wanted to highlight, which I just love, is this: “The universe is change; life is opinion.”

Let’s break this down briefly and I’ll share some thoughts about how it’s relevant or useful for retroactive jealousy sufferers.

“The universe is change.”

Some people find this thought or this idea disorienting, threatening, unsettling. There’s nothing that is totally unchanging, and you can expand this to anything in your life.

For example, ourselves. We will grow old and die. We are never going to be the exact same way we are today ever again, literally. ‘

Your partner is not the same person they were a year, a month, 10 minutes ago. We are in constant motion. This is one of the reasons why I love the analogy of looking at people like a whirlpool. So we can look at a whirlpool and say, “There’s some there, there.” In other words, we can see some shape, some location. We can point at that and say, “There’s a whirlpool, and that’s a specific whirlpool.”

However, the nature of the whirlpool is constantly changing. There’s this constant flow of water in and out, and thus the whirlpool doesn’t really have any fundamental essence. We can’t point at that whirlpool and say, “That thing never changes.” That’s always going to be the same whirlpool because it literally changes every second, every moment.

Human beings have a similar nature.

This is one of the reasons I think this quote for overcoming jealousy is valuable for retroactive jealousy sufferers.

When you realize that the person my partner was before with someone else, I’m dating a different person today. That person is completely different. The person who took part in whichever activities I’m having a problem with, that’s a different person. All I really have is my partner in the moment in which they’re currently with me.

Similarly, whichever impressions that someone else have or I think they may have had on my partner are completely illusory. These are changing constantly. You can apply this idea about the universe being changed to literally everything.

I often say that people imagine memories to represent a high-definition video tape. When in reality, memories are kind of like psychedelic impressionist paintings, which haven’t dried yet. We’re still running wet ink. Our memories are not as static or fixed as we imagined they are. No one’s memories are as static or fixed as we imagined they are. The universe is change, and that’s all we know for sure.

Life is opinion.

What does this mean? It means that even though we have precious little to grasp in life and say, “This is static, this is fixed. I can hold on to this,” one of the precious pillars of life, one of the only precious, fundamental, basic truths of life that everyone has access to at all times is that we are free to tell ourselves whichever story about life we want.

We have the ability to choose our perspectives, to choose our thoughts, or at the very least how to respond to and to disregard thoughts that aren’t serving us, and to tell ourselves new thoughts. We have this power, life is opinion to a considerable extent.

To give you an example, if you’re currently watching this and struggling with retroactive jealousy, you’re probably telling yourself a very particular story about your partner’s past or about the significance or not of your partner’s past. And if you don’t like that story, start experimenting with telling yourself a new one.

I realize this can be easier said than done, but what’s the alternative? The story that you’re telling yourself about your partner’s past right now is not fundamentally true because as we’ve already covered, there is extremely little that we can grasp in this world that we can call fundamentally static, fundamentally unchanging, fundamentally true.

So tell yourself a new story.

Come up with alternative thoughts. Don’t delude yourself. That’s not what I’m talking about here and I wouldn’t encourage someone to delude themselves, but start telling yourself a new story. Because the story that you can tell yourself, if you’re brave enough to do it, can probably serve you much better than the story you’re currently telling yourself.

One example, instead of telling myself, “Oh God, my partner did this in the past and I can’t believe she slept with this guy,” or whatever it is. I can tell myself, “I’m glad she had that experience with that guy because that guy taught her that I’m a better match for her.” I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a better story to tell myself. “

“The universe is change; life is opinion.”

One more reminder that my brand new audio series, Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations, is available right now.

You can find all the details about that if you click here.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.