Updated: Oct 14, 2020
I had a recent conversation with a friend who said a very bold statement.
"Jealous people are pathetic."
That one hit hard. I can often be a jealous person, does that make me pathetic?
Naturally, I had to dig in deeper to that statement to find out why my friend believed something like that.
Turns out, other people had been jealous of my friend her whole life. She had experienced bullying and hate because of the jealousy aimed at her. So naturally, she had strong, negative feelings toward jealous people.
The worst part for my friend was that people were jealous of things she couldn't control. Her appearance, her talents, her intelligence, are just a few examples. Things she naturally had and didn't brag about. In fact, quite the opposite. She felt so affected by jealously that she would intentionally hide aspects of her life just to avoid the backlash of other people.
I wanted to do two things during this conversation:
1) I wanted to help settle her soul and address her feelings.
2) I wanted her to see the point of view of people who experience jealousy.
According to Psychology Today, jealousy is often described in the terms of romantic relationships and involves a third party, such as, a partner forbidding the other to speak to someone. Whereas, envy is typically between two parties, such as, someone wanting what you have. (In this post, I will be using the term "jealous" interchangeably with "envious").
Someone can be jealous for a variety of reasons, but "research has identified many root causes of extreme jealousy, including low self-esteem, high neuroticism, and feeling possessive of others, particularly romantic partners. Fear of abandonment is also a key motivator" (psychologytoday.com).
While jealousy can be an extremely negative emotion to deal with, evolutionary psychologists suggest not to suppress feelings of jealousy but to view them a a sign that something is wrong within a relationship or within ourselves (psychologytoday.com).
Following my friend's statement, I reminded her that the jealous people were jealous, not because of her, but because of themselves. Now, that's a pretty bold statement.
She didn't flaunt or brag about her positive attributes, she just lived her life, she wasn't intentionally trying to hurt them. They were dealing with something internally and it manifested into jealousy and hate towards her.
I also reminded her to live her life. To not let the haters stop her from being herself.
Then, I thought about myself and my jealousy.
And I used a personal example to help my friend have more empathy toward someone who is jealous. While it can be difficult for her to be empathetic as she was a victim of bullying, the point is for her to see that jealous people are not pathetic, we are just dealing with our internal battles.
I explained that I am jealous of her too. Jealous that she can eat anything and not gain weight, while I am the opposite. It's not her fault that she has that ability, and it's not her fault that I don't.
I reminded her, that it isn't about her, it's about my low self-esteem.
Now, lets say you are like me and you are a jealous person.
Okay, great! You've now recognized your jealousy. *applause* That is such a huge task in itself because we often ignore the problems within us.
So, what do we do about our jealousy?
First, we need to recognize the why behind our jealousy.
When I see my partner talking to another woman, as simple as our waitress at dinner, I get jealous because I have been cheated on. My fear of infidelity is fueling that jealousy in me. Does that change if my significant other will cheat? No, whether I get jealous or not will not change how my partner behaves. My partner can cheat regardless of how I feel because that is just the reality of it.
Does that mean my partner is guaranteed to cheat? Hell no. My partner and I have a loving and respectful relationship. But, the reality is, no matter how jealous I get, it will not change how the other person behaves, so why get jealous? Why let that negativity feed into my relationship and question my trust.
Now, I'm not saying that if you have serious reasons to believe your partner is cheating not to act on those, I'm speaking only from the point of view of having a trusting relationship, but still being jealous.
How about the example of my friend's weight vs mine? Does being jealous of her genetics change mine? Not at all. All it will do is continue to push myself into a deeper lack of self-love and self-esteem.
The reality is, unless the jealousy is coming from red flags, it will not change your life.
Can it lead to change? Yes, but only if we take it upon ourselves to work on the why's behind our jealousy. Only by acknowledging and processing our jealousy can we be free from it.
So the next time you feel jealous, don't feel pathetic, don't get angry at the other person, and don't hate on yourself.
Take the jealousy as a sign to start doing some internal work!
I've attached an awesome worksheet I created that you can use to discover the why's behind your jealousy.
photo credit: pixistock