How often have you experienced envy for something missing in your life?
It could be due to lack of money, limited material possessions, not having healthy relationships or lack of attention from someone important to you.
Maybe you’re jealous of someone who seems to have the things you crave for, a lifestyle you aspire to or even a physique you’ve always longed for, but don’t seem to be able to achieve.
What drives you to experience jealousy and is it something we can control?
Feelings of envy quite often start in early childhood, maybe when a child feels their sibling is getting more praise or attention from a parent. Or it could be when a child has or is given a toy or possession that is wanted by their sibling, but denied it.
Quite often these feelings are criticised as bad behaviour and the situation is left unexplained which can cause anxiety, resentment and confusion for the child. If parents are displaying envious feelings, these emotions can be understood by their children to be acceptable normal behaviour. As a result they may learn to have these negative tendencies as they are growing up and into adulthood.
Negative behaviour from your parents or other bad experiences in childhood can cause low self-esteem and make you feel unloved and unworthy. These emotions also trigger feelings of insecurity which can cause jealousy.
Jealousy is not a rare emotion - many people feel it occasionally. It can tear your relationships apart and raise all sorts of negative emotions - resentment, insecurity, mistrust and low self-esteem, to name a few. It can also be a sign that it's time to change something in your life that will allow you to move on to a more healthy, self-fulfilling, positive phase. Rather than letting jealousy affect your relationships with others, use it as a reason to understand yourself and the fears that cause it.
The emotions of Jealousy
Jealousy is a combination of fear and anger, often fed by the fear of losing someone (or a cherished situation/state of affairs) and anger that someone else is taking control of your involvement with the person or situation that is so important to you. It's a destructive and negative emotion which can make you feel worthless and fearful. Recognition of this powerful emotion is your number one self-defence.
Once you’ve identified your feelings, try to understand why you're feeling jealous. Often jealousy is about reliving an experience of failure from the past that continues to affect your level of trust (or lack of) toward people in the present, even though current conditions may be vastly different. Other motivators for feeling jealous include: a high level of insecurity, vulnerability, anger towards yourself and fear of abandonment.
If you're honest with yourself, you will realise that jealous feelings often occur at the same time you feel threatened, afraid of being abandoned or when you feel you just cannot trust the other person, no matter how little basis your lack of trust has. However, this self-realisation shouldn't be just about finding fault with yourself - being compassionate about your self-assessment is an essential part of staying objective about the green eyed monster. Remember this emotion isn’t a sign of failure or bad character, but probably just the result of previous experiences or learned behaviour when you were growing up.
Face your Feelings now
Learn to question your jealousy every time that it emerges. For example, say to yourself “Is this jealously because I feel afraid or angry? Why am I feeling fear or anger?” When you begin to question what makes you jealous in the moment, you can begin to take positive steps to manage the feelings constructively, without the cloud of negative emotion that typically accompanies jealousy. Questions you can ask yourself are:
• What is making me feel jealous?
• Why am I feeling jealous about this?
• Why do I feel threatened?
• What am I trying to hold on to, should I just let it go?
Change any false beliefs that might be fuelling your jealousy
There are often false, baseless beliefs that underlie reactions of jealousy. If you examine and can understand the belief, you can often eliminate the jealousy. Some common underlying beliefs without basis include “Everyone is out to get me”. If I don’t achieve x, y or z, then I will be a failure”. “If this person leaves me, I must be unworthy and won’t meet someone else”. These are generalisations that could never be applied to every person you know or meet. In fact, these are pre-emptive defences against the possibility of something bad happening to you.
Beliefs are changeable by choice. If you change your belief, you can change the way you feel. Choose to tell yourself a belief that is nurturing and supportive, and you'll feel better. If your default is to think negatively, ask yourself what possible benefit that brings you over thinking positively. Thoughts create emotions and you have the choice to make the thoughts negative or positive. When you begin taking steps to creating a happy and fulfilling life for yourself, you will find the anger and fear easier to manage, removing the fuel which creates jealous emotions.
Be aware that your thoughts can happen so quickly that you may not even realise consciously that you've had a negative thought. Developing greater awareness of your thoughts and what triggers them is a large part of tackling the problem. Every time a negative thought comes into your head, immediately try to banish it and think of a positive one. If you let negative thoughts dwell, you will perpetuate this emotion and more negative thoughts will follow. Try to get into the habit of pushing them out of your mind as soon as they occur and you will be surprised at how much better you feel, you will be happier and other people will react more positively towards you.
Communicate your Feelings
Discuss your feelings of jealousy with the person who is causing them. Sharing your true feelings and talking it through can be a very cathartic and constructive way to start mending the damage. It can also be a way of creating an ally, someone who will feel able to point out when you make unreasonable jealous demands on him or her without expecting comeback. During these discussions, consider the following:
• Avoid passing on blame to the other person. His or her behavior is not the cause of your feelings - you are responsible for your feelings.
• Stick to "I" statements rather than saying "you make me feel…". Instead of saying "You shouldn't have done that", say "I felt terrible when that happened."
• Be aware that how you perceive situations may be completely different to how the other person sees them. Stay as open-minded as possible, even though this will probably mean that you sometimes feel extremely defensive. Try to keep quiet and listen rather than constantly interrupting with justifications
• Above all, be compassionate, both for yourself and for the person you've been offloading your jealousy onto. Recognise the harm your feelings have caused them and you, and work together to find a better way forward. Be passionate about your desire to improve your feelings and try to outgrow jealousy
• In most cases, this won't be a one-off conversation. You may need to agree to talk any time your jealous emotions appear.
Remember – jealousy is about you, not the other person
Bear in mind at all times that feelings of jealousy are about you, not about the other person. Any sense that things are out of control means that you need to transfer the intensity of what you're feeling into something constructive rather than continuing to over-analyse the relationship (or situation). For example, get involved in an activity maybe a sport or some other exercise, a hobby or participate in volunteer work. Do something that takes you out of yourself and causes you to focus beyond the relationship or situation and gives you an outlet for your emotions that is healthy and not be ruminating and raising suspicions.
Learn from your Jealousy
Negative emotions can have a role in shaping our lives, for teaching each of us how to be a better person and for struggling to overcome them. They have a place and not just one that controls you and causes unwelcome behavior. Some of the things jealousy might teach you include:
1. Dealing with new Relationships
You are frightened when a relationship is new and still has some way to go before it feels secure. This is a commonplace feeling in young relationships for many people, and both possessiveness as well as a sense of vulnerability at getting close to someone, can drive feelings of jealousy (testing our power can become a very harmful pastime)
2. Trusting your partner
You feel your partner has a roving eye. In romantic relationships, both men and women continue to ‘check out’ other men and women. It's biologically driven and it's natural. However, in the majority of cases, it does not mean that the person wants to leave the relationship he or she is in with you or that they think someone else looks or is better than you. It is, for most people, about appreciating the human form and not about a roaming eye. This misunderstanding has long created unnecessary jealousy as long as relationships have existed. It can help to accept that it's okay for a person in a committed relationship to look, provided they don’t touch! The fact that they feel able to look at other people when they are with you may demonstrate how open and honest they are and feel they don’t have anything to hide.
3. People envy
Other people may have material possessions, relationships or a lifestyle that you don’t have but would like. It’s a very natural reaction to feel envious of these people, even if they are close to you. You also have the additional problem of hiding these negative emotions from them. These feelings can create a resentment that will in time affect your relationships and how feel about that person. To justify your jealousy, you may try to convince yourself that this person is unworthy, not a good person or undeserving of such riches. Remember they have not created your feelings of jealousy towards them, you have. That it’s our life circumstances that determine how much we have or don’t have, however unfair or unjust it sometimes appears to be. Try to view this situation in a positive way, admire their achievements as something to aspire to, however difficult that may feel. Acknowledge that we are all the same and capable of attracting personal riches into our lives, however big or small.
4. Ability Insecurity
You're afraid someone else will take your job, salary, role, position, etc. In this case, it's probable that you're afraid of financial insecurity (survival instinct) or you feel that you're an impostor in your role, the latter an all-too-commonly held false belief in many high-achieving people in the workforce. Remember that you wouldn't have been given the role or position unless other people felt you were capable and had earned it (don't be your own worst enemy), or be scared of being ‘found out’ that you feel you might not be ‘up to the job’. Try living up to that trust in you rather than seeing demons hovering in every corner. Remember that only you know how you are truly feeling. You may lack confidence, but that fact may not be apparent to anyone else. We all have the ability to ‘mask our feelings’ sometimes without even realising it.
5. Confidence in your Beliefs
You listen to people who say mean or exaggerated things and let this direct your emotions. Take a stand! Be true to yourself and those you love. All too common, many people are easily convinced by local gossip because it sounds so compelling and seems like it must be true. The reality is that it’s rarely right and it’s always far better not to listen to people who chatter away with idle gossip, making things up as they go. Believe in facts, not fiction! If something doesn’t feel or sound right, it usually isn’t - trust your instincts.
6. Facing up to Facts
You feel uncomfortable looking within yourself and working through difficult emotions. You ignore the problem rather than do the hard work of facing your emotions and dealing with them internally. Jealousy is painful but by facing it, you can repair much internal damage, make your relationships stronger and more enduring and ultimately feel better about yourself.
Trust begins at home - with yourself! If you learn to trust and believe in yourself, you can radiate this trust onto others. Begin by making a list of all your good points. Put this list up somewhere you can see it often, to remind you that you're already fully equipped with good qualities, great talent and personable skills. Only compare yourself to yourself - not to others, try to focus on your own achievements and pursuits without worrying what other people are doing or thinking.
Remind yourself daily, maybe through a journal, affirmations or other effective way, that you have what it takes to be successful and emotionally fulfilled in life. Practicing healthy thinking must be a daily, recurring action - it involves continual practice. In time, the healthier thinking processes will take over the destructive ones and help you to become a whole person, resilient, capable and not prone to jealous thoughts.
• Work on relevant aspects of your self-esteem if you feel it's lacking. When you have more confidence in yourself and your relationships, you'll be less likely to feel jealous.
• Use your jealousy to be a better person, to face up to past demons and anxieties that may still be haunting you. Work through old negative emotions and eliminate them from your current thinking.
• Read some self-help books on jealousy and you'll feel you're getting to grips on how to manage and eventually banish this negative emotion.
The Way Forward
Talk to a counsellor. Or have a psychic reading with The Circle for insight and advice that will help lead you to a positive, more personally fulfilling future.
PUBLISHED: 01 Juli 2014