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What Causes Jealousy and How We Can Handle It

What Causes Jealousy and How We Can Handle It

The green-eyed monster can rear its head in many forms. While it’s synonymous with romantic relationships, jealousy can come in many forms: sibling rivalry, other people’s success compared to our own, or even within friendships.

Whatever area it pops up in, jealousy is an emotion that can be hard to handle and can leave us with a sense of inadequacy, lack of worthiness, and anger. These negative emotions can eat us up unnecessarily, and while a lot of jealousy can be for a good reason, most of the time it’s something that we need to control and comes from incorrect assumptions and perceptions about ourselves and others’ intentions.

Jealousy Comes from Your Unmet Childhood Needs

Jealousy is defined as a strong negative emotion stemmed from insecurity, fear, concern and anxiety over a potential loss of something of great personal value. Sound familiar?

Why is it some of us are more easily prone to assuming the worst and quick to jump to conclusions while others don’t seem affected at all?

The answer could lie in our early years and the relationship we had with our parents or caregivers. As humans we are quite contradictory – while we praise being an individual and the idea of self-reliance, we are also highly social creatures who thrive on acceptance.

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The attachment theory [1] explains how the quality of our early attachment experiences highly influence the way we operate with our adult relationships. If our affection needs are unmet while in childhood by those we have close bonds with, this leads to a sense of insecurity and jealousy with those people we go on to form relationships with.

It’s this insecurity that breeds a strong sense of possession and a fear that we are not good enough. It’s this mislead expectation of others, formed at a young age, that leads to a jealous tendency. This fear of losing someone or their affection, results in hostility towards a rival despite this largely being an incorrect belief or perception.

But Is Jealousy Really That Bad?

Jealousy has been around since the dawn of time. It was Shakespeare who coined the term ‘green-eyed monster’ which conjures up a person who is not typically understanding of a situation, often angry and destructive to themselves and others. But is this always the case?

When you’re on the other end of jealously, albeit a mild case of it, it can elicit feelings of flattery. When a partner expresses slight jealousy because you talked a little too much about your bond with a work colleague, it can feel almost comforting and we often associate it with a feeling that they care.

Animals such as chimps and bluebirds [2] also exhibit the behaviour of jealousy leading us to think it could be more of an advantage in our evolution than we think. It could effectively be a wake up call; a way to indicate to us that we need to regain affection – affection necessary for building our social bonds.

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Jealous Thoughts Can’t Be Removed, But You Can Express Them Properly

So if jealousy is potentially an unavoidable trait, then keeping it under control is the key to harmonious relationships. Depending on our early attachment experiences, many of us will have varying degrees within us so how can we effectively curb any damaging jealous behaviour?

The key lies in the way we build and work on our connections with the people we are in relationships with and working on understanding and dealing with the insecurities that lie beneath our jealousy.

This doesn’t mean eradicating them altogether – after all, it’s hard to undo a lifetime of beliefs and attachment issues. Instead, it’s important to work on managing the negative emotions surrounding jealousy such as fear, unworthiness and anxiety. Research suggests expressing these feelings in the right way is a much better way of managing jealousy and envy than trying to get rid of it altogether.

Effective Strategies to Handle Jealousy

Speak Up

If you’re feeling anger, insecurity and jealousy, the best way is to express this to the other person. Keeping it inside will cause it to fester and will manifest in a potentially toxic way. Remember to keep calm and keep in mind that how you view things may not be the whole story.

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Manage Your Stress

Stress and anxiety can be a big factor in feelings of jealousy so make sure you counteract this with stress management strategies. Exercise, meditation, eating well and anything that supports your mental and physical well-being will help towards all forms of negative emotion.

Ask For Reassurance

Don’t do this in a needy way. Just be honest about the situation and accept what the other person has to say. If they are understanding, they’ll do what they can to make you feel a bit more secure but make sure you don’t overdo it. Accept their answer and don’t focus on the issue. Cultivate a feeling of openness that will encourage a sense of relief and trust between you.

Ask Yourself ‘Is This Relationship Really For Me?’

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If you constantly need reassurance from another person then it might be a red flag that this isn’t a healthy relationship for either of you. There are sometimes reasons why you feel jealousy and if you’ve tried your best to overcome them but are still experiencing envious feelings there could be a good reason. Don’t dismiss your gut feeling but make sure this is done with a clear and healthy mind.

Get to the Root of Jealousy – Insecurity

If jealousy is an underlying manifestation for insecurity, making yourself feel more secure from within is the number one way to combat it.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that your self-esteem takes a dive when you start comparing yourself to your ‘rivals’ and most of the time it is only self-created rivalry. Realise that your negative perceptions are largely untrue.

Question your negative thoughts. Always be conscious of your negative thought patterns. Whenever they arise ask yourself why this is and try to replace them with better feeling thoughts.

Remind yourself that you deserve affection. You are worthy no matter what and understanding this will go towards centring yourself more fully. Self-love and knowing you are enough as you are, will slowly shift your thinking to that of stability in your emotions and will allow you to realise you deserve affection and love.

So don’t beat yourself up for feeling jealousy. It happens to all of us and learning from the destructive nature of jealousy can be a steep learning curve. Remember to start from within and focus on yourself and your worth. Slowly over time you will build up a mindset that will lessen the green-eyed monster within you and help you create more harmonious relationships.

Reference

[1] Developmental Psychology: The Origins of Attachment Theory
[2] LONDNR Magazine: The Science of Jealousy

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

Reference

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