If you are in a relationship, and jealous of that hilarious (and hot! Why does s/he have to be so hot!?) person your partner is talking to…
or if you are single, but feel jealous of those incredibly confident, gorgeous, and put-together people around you…
or if you feel like you’re going crazy with jealousy over someone your ex is dating…
or if you’re starting to think nasty thoughts about that rockstar at work who everyone just loves!…
First of all, that is totally, completely, absolutely normal.
Whether or not they show it outwardly, just about everyone feels jealous at one time or another.
But I know…it sucks.
Jealousy is one of those high-status emotions that tries to take over the wheel, driving us (sometime literally) into some of our least flattering behavior.
This is an emotion that can push your internal panic button hard. Being pretty uncomfortable, it’s also one of the emotions we try most desperately to squash.
Unfortunately, squashing it just makes it mad…and feisty.
As with all things, you have a choice. When the green-eyed monster rears its head and starts spewing messages of you’re-not-enough, he’d-better-explain-himself, now-I’ll-never-have-a-shot-and-what-even-made-me-think-I-had-a-shot-in-the-first-place, and other relationship/dating/life peril, it’s time to step back and consider your options.
You can breathe through the jealousy and let it pass, or you can investigate it and get to the source—but what you don’t want to do is let it simmer to the point where it comes out in the form of choices and behavior that only hurt you, your relationship, your partner, or your career…and make your sticky situation a whole lot stickier.
The good news? Like all of the more unpleasant emotions, jealousy can be an incredible diagnostic tool, shining the light exactly where we have the greatest potential to grow.
Here are three questions you can ask yourself to get to the bottom of the green-eyed monster’s kicking, screaming, and cackling—along with action steps to use in each case.
(A word of warning: the questions that follow can kick up some pretty powerful stuff! It may take real courage to ask these questions and accept what you discover.)
1. What qualities does the other person have that I admire, but don’t feel I possess?
Often, if someone bugs us to the point where we’re turning green, it’s because they have a quality we wish we had, or because they act in ways we don’t allow ourselves to act.
You may discover that what’s really going on has very little to do with the other person or people, and everything to do with your own insecurity or sense of constriction.
When you ask this question with real curiosity, it’s possible that you’ll identify some qualities that you want to cultivate in yourself.
There’s a fine line here: it’s great to develop positive qualities, but beware trying to make yourself into someone you’re not, or thinking you have to change in order to make yourself worthy of love. You are worthy just as you are.
The idea is not to replace your own authentic personality, but to take some action that you actually want to take by working on the only person on this planet you can control: yourself.
Here’s an example: if you are an intense over-thinker and cautious actor, and you feel jealous of someone who seems perpetually lighthearted and impulsive, you might realize that you’re actually envious of that carefree, uninhibited spirit. You may choose to experiment with embracing a more carefree attitude and approach, just to see how it feels and what you get out of it.
I have worked with people who are AMAZED to discover that the people they’re wildly jealous of are boldly displaying characteristics that they secretly (or unknowingly) want to express themselves. When they cultivate those characteristics, the green-eyed monster often packs up and leaves town.
2. What about my relationship is making me insecure? Or, what about me is making me insecure about my relationship?
The occasional moment of jealousy is normal. But if you’re feeling intense jealousy on a regular basis, it’s a sign that your relationship’s foundation of trust is shaky, or that some other element of your relationship is out of whack.
By asking these questions, and really giving yourself permission to look courageously at the honest answers, you may discover that there are deeper issues in your relationship that need some attention. Exploring those answers, people often discover that the fundamental issue has nothing at all to do with the person who triggered the jealousy.
Of course, if your intuition is telling you that you really do have something to be jealous about, take steps to find out if you’re right.
Otherwise, put the object of your jealousy aside and do some digging to find out what’s making you feel vulnerable to jealousy. Then work to address that, independently or with your partner.
3. What do I need that I’m not getting?
Jealousy could be a sign that you’re not getting enough of something, such as affection, attention, validation, or warmth.
If that’s the case, it’s often helpful to use a both-and approach: decide whether you want to communicate your feelings with your partner, friend, etc., AND look for ways you can give yourself those things, and/or get them from other sources.
For example, if you are jealous of a sibling or another friend in your friend circle, it could be a sign that you’re not feeling acknowledged or valued. Once you figure out what you’re missing, work on how you can validate and affirm yourself, while also considering talking about your concerns with your parents, friend group, or whoever the other party is.
If you’re jealous of other people your partner talks to, maybe this question will make you realize you’re feeling a lack of affection or not getting enough quality time with your partner. When you’ve done some figuring-out, consider asking your partner for what you need, while also finding other positive ways to get more affection, attention, and validation in your life.
Even though jealousy can feel really unpleasant, it contains some gold nuggets of information that can catapult you forward in your personal development and your relationships.
So the next time the green-eyed monster comes to town, say, “Thank you for sharing,” put it to bed, and get down to business.
What does your jealousy reveal in you? Tell us in the comments below. (Your comment could help someone else feel less alone!)
And you never know who in your network is wrestling with the green-eyed monster right now—so share this article using the links below!
2 thoughts on “Embracing the Green-Eyed Monster: How to Use Jealousy as a Diagnostic Tool”
I really enjoyed this article! I tend to be a fairly jealous person myself and am very interested in figuring out what my jealous feelings say about myself. I recently read another article on this topic that had some really valuable information about the causes of jealousy http://www.psychalive.org/2011/09/are-you-the-cause-of-your-jealousy/, I highly recommend it.
I’m so glad you found this helpful, Emma, and I’ll be curious what you’re able to discover when using these questions. Thanks for the link, as well–a really interesting description of the inner critic/self-protector.