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Jealousy and how to deal with it
by TeenHelp June 23rd 2021, 04:47 PM

Jealousy and how to deal with it
By Holly (Celyn)

We often think of certain emotions, such as happiness, as being socially acceptable and other emotions, such as jealousy, as being socially unacceptable. We may then feel ashamed for feeling jealous and feel that we have to hide this emotion. We may not know how to handle jealousy and end up unintentionally worsening the situation for ourselves and others. But like all other emotions, jealousy is an emotional state- not necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’-and in fact, if we reflect on our jealousy, it can help us to discover things that we may not have been very aware of in ourselves. This, in turn, can help us to not only handle jealousy, but potentially use it to our advantage as well.

What is jealousy?

Jealousy is a very common and natural feeling to experience.

We might feel jealous when we see others succeeding in areas that we might also want to be successful in but struggle with, for example, trying hard in school, applying for jobs, trying to find friends or a relationship, or trying to start a family. Alternatively, jealousy can happen when others have things that we do not. For example, if you’ve been abused or neglected by your parents, you may feel jealous of others who have loving relationships with their parents. This is understandable as you should have had parents who loved and supported you, and that having experienced the opposite, it’s natural that you’d struggle when you see others with positive relationships that you didn’t get to have. You can also feel jealous when you worry about ‘losing’ something or someone, for example, feeling jealous when you see your boyfriend/girlfriend with an attractive person and worrying about ‘losing’ your partner to them or being in a friendship group with a newcomer who you worry will ‘replace’ you.

While you may experience some positive emotions too, such as being happy that others have done well in school, got a job or have loving relationships, it can still be painful when you experience jealousy. There isn’t a right or wrong way to feel when it comes to jealousy- what matters is how you choose to act on your jealousy.

Recognising jealousy

When we are jealous, we might notice certain thoughts and even physical sensations. We might think more negatively about the person we are jealous of and we might find ourselves wanting to act out such as using insults, or by sabotaging what the other person has that we are jealous over. We might be scared that we are going to lose something or someone to someone who we fear as being ‘better’ than us. Or we might be sad that we can’t have something that we really want. Physically, if we feel angry out of jealousy, we might notice feeling hotter than normal, clenching our fists or teeth as well as a general tension in our bodies. If you are feeling insecure and anxious, causing you to feel jealous, you may also struggle with your appetite and feel like you have ‘butterflies in your stomach’. If we feel sad with envy, we may feel a heaviness in our chest and a general low mood when faced with reminders of what it is that we cannot have.

Unhealthy ways of dealing with jealousy

It can be very easy, when feeling jealous, to react to it in a negative way. We might try to prevent the other person from having what we don’t have (or are scared of losing). We might try to take things off the other person. We might try to sabotage things for the other person. We could resort to stealing. We could copy or cheat hoping to get the same results. We might lash out and hurt the person, and we can even become abusive and controlling (even if we don’t recognise it as that). We might put the other person down and tell ourselves that we aren’t jealous, even if it’s being pointed out to us. In doing so, we can end up rupturing friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships, job opportunities and more. The other person may find it difficult to remain in contact with you, whether or not they realise that you are jealous, but more so if you start behaving abusively. We may risk losing the very people and things that we are scared of losing.

However, we have no right to try to control someone else because we are jealous, whether that’s preventing someone from being friends with someone else or trying to stop them from taking up a job, moving away etc. You might think that in preventing your girlfriend/boyfriend/friend from being friends with someone else that it will keep them away from others and instead stay with you. But it can have the opposite affect and drive them away from you as they may not like feeling as if they cannot have friends without your permission (which is controlling).

While we may feel justified in these reactions, what we have to understand is that jealousy is often not about the other person. It is usually about us. There is usually something inside of us that feels scared and vulnerable or feel that what we have isn’t good enough in comparison to what someone else has. If you recognise yourself as dealing with jealousy in unhealthy ways, read on to find out how you can learn to handle jealousy in healthier ways.

Healthy ways of dealing with jealousy

The first step that you can take is to accept that you are jealous. We might not want to admit it because being jealous can be regarded as ‘childish’ but it’s not the emotion that is negative, but more the actions that we can take when dealing with jealousy. Accepting jealousy isn’t easy. It’s not enough to just say that you are jealous or to try to believe that you are jealous after having others say that you are. Jealousy can require some soul-searching.

You can try asking yourself how you feel about a certain person or situation…what emotions, or physical sensations does it bring up for you? Then you can question yourself on why do you feel this way? At this point, it’s important to pay attention to your thoughts. Does someone have something that you don’t but desperately want? Are you afraid of losing that person or job to someone else? Do you feel that you should have the same or better than that person? Do you want to react in a negative way e.g. insults, put downs, sabotage?

When you have reflected on why you feel jealous, you can then move on to choosing how you are going to manage your jealousy.

Managing jealousy

Jealousy doesn’t have to be something we are ashamed of feeling. We can be friends with our jealousy and use it to learn about ourselves. For example:
  • If you find yourself feeling jealous of what others have, you may want to try making it a goal for yourself to achieve something similar for yourself. So if you are jealous of someone who gets good grades, you can set a goal to improve your grades. You can then break this down into steps, such as spending more time studying, asking for help when you need it, learning study techniques that work for you etc.
  • If you realise that you spend a lot of time observing others, whether that’s in person or online, try to spend less time comparing yourself. When we compare ourselves to others we will naturally find many things that someone else has that we don’t have, or feel that others are doing ‘better’ than us. This is especially true for social media where people usually only show their ‘best’ versions of themselves. Comparing ourselves doesn’t work as there are a variety of factors that can influence the way our lives to turn out and we are all too different to be compared.
  • Instead, of looking outward, you might want to look inward. What qualities do you have that are unique to you? What do you have that others might not have? It can be difficult to answer these questions, especially when we feel jealous, but it can help to practice gratitude on a regular basis. Think about the things that you are grateful for in your life, no matter how big or small. You might realise that those you feel jealous of might not have the things that you feel grateful for!
  • Jealousy can also happen when we have low self-esteem. We might worry that we aren’t good enough, or that we are ugly, stupid, not talented enough etc. This can lead to comparisons with others. Instead, try challenging those thoughts. What do you feel you are good at? What makes you feel proud? Or what do you enjoy doing? Focusing on the positives in our lives can help to boost how we see ourselves, and might help in lessening jealousy, especially if we are comparing ourselves to others. When we feel secure and happy in ourselves, we’ll have less reason to look outside and compare!
  • Similarly, if we spend time worrying about how others perceive us and then feeling jealous, we may try to copy or compete with others. We may exaggerate, lie or try to change ourselves to cope with feeling jealous and insecure. Instead, aim to be yourself. If you try to change yourself out of jealousy, you may find that people may like you for the person you are trying to be, rather than the person you are. This can lead to problems further down the line as the other person may feel lied to and you may find yourself feeling more insecure when you are unable to keep up the facade, as opposed to just being yourself.
  • You could also try to get to know the person that you are jealous of. You may come to realise that the person has their own flaws, challenges and isn’t perfect. You may realise that you no longer feel jealous as it’s no longer something you want for yourself.
  • Alternatively, you can also find similarities. When we feel jealous, we may develop an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ frame of mind, whereby you can begin to feel jealous and act negatively towards those that trigger your jealousy. Instead, perhaps try to make friends with them or find similarities between you. For example, one friend might have more money than you, but you discover you both enjoy playing the same game. Doing this will help you to keep perspective that the other person is as human as you.
  • Likewise, if you are jealous of a friend, for example, they might go on holiday or somewhere nice, perhaps you can talk to your friend about feeling jealous and try to resolve these feelings by aiming to do something nice together.
  • It can also help to talk to others outside of the person/situation that we are jealous of. Sometimes it can be difficult to know why we feel jealous and while we can try to accept our jealousy and find ways of managing jealousy, sometimes we might need an outside perspective. Talking to others, such as a trusted family member, close friend or a counsellor, can help us to make sense of our feelings and let us know when we are being jealous or not.

Unfortunately, there will be times in our lives where jealousy is further complicated by the person triggering our jealousy. Some people may brag or show off their achievements or lifestyles and it can be very difficult to manage the jealousy that might come along with that. However, it’s important to realise that those who brag may be doing so because they might feel insecure and unnoticed and want to stop these feelings by bragging so that others can praise them. If you are close to someone who likes to brag, you can let them know that you like them as a person, regardless of these things.

However, on some occasions, people who brag might want to deliberately try to make others feel jealous in the hopes that the jealous person may lash out, so that they can appear to be the better person or the victim and in doing so, make you look bad being ‘jealous’. In these situations, it may be best to not react to such a person and instead, try to distance yourself from them. You could also try to talk to the person and let them know that you feel jealous, however, it is their responsibility to recognise that their behaviour may be causing harm to others. You can’t force them to recognise this and if they are unable to recognise the effects they have on others, it might be best to create some distance. It is also best that you talk to someone you trust to get their perspective on whether you are feeling jealous (something that you can manage yourself) or whether the other person is intentionally creating jealous feelings within you and others (something that you have less control over but can be resolved with some distance).

What if you brag?

If you find yourself bragging to others a lot, ask yourself why. There is no harm in being proud of your achievements even if others might not have achieved the same as you. But if you are doing it a lot or doing it deliberately to see how others react, it’s important that you realise that this behaviour may be harming you and others. Instead, think about why you might be behaving like this- are you afraid that if you don’t prove yourself or gain positive attention from others that you will feel ignored, forgotten or not ‘special’ enough? If so, remind yourself that you don’t need to prove to others that you are worthy. If you are feeling insecure, remind yourself of all your good qualities and ask friends for reassurance as well. If others aren’t recognising your worth and you feel you have to put on an act, consider trying to be yourself more and finding others who like you for who you are. You could also benefit from speaking to a counsellor who can help you figure out why you are engaging in bragging and how you can recover from this and engage in healthier behaviours instead.
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