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The A to Z of Emotions – J is for Jealousy

The green eyed monster…….When we think of jealousy it can evoke all sorts of emotions.  Most of us have experienced jealousy in some form or other, whether it’s being jealous of someone or someone being jealous of ourselves and both can have negative impacts.  At some point in our lives most of us have thought ‘I want what he/she/they have’ or ‘why is it this person has this and I don’t’.  It can be about physical possessions, friendships, money, lifestyle, employment or status to name just a few.  We compare ourselves with others and it feeds our insecurities.  Jealousy can eat away at us if we let it, it can damage relationships with others, and impact the way we behave.

I realised that I was feeling jealousy towards people at a young age when I saw what I thought of as ‘the popular group’ at my school.  They were wearing the latest clothes, looking good in them, hanging around after school and at the weekends together, having the confidence to talk to anybody and say witty and funny things.  I felt I was the dumpy teenager, wearing unfashionable clothes with a frumpy haircut and that I was boring.  I yearned to be in the popular group, live their exciting lives, hang out at the local Saturday town hall disco and be able to join in with the jokes.  But I couldn’t and didn’t and looking back now, I realise that because I let my jealousy get the better of me, I pushed myself the other way, lived up to my self declared frumpy and boring image that I’d unconsciously cultivated.  I pretended I didn’t like the popular group, that they were shallow and pathetic, because if I kept admitting the truth, it would hurt too much.  This is a simple example of one of my first conscious experiences of jealousy and now, in adulthood, I realise that there are always going to be people who have more, do more and just ‘are’ more.  Most importantly I realised that jealousy doesn’t serve me, and I had to reframe any jealous feelings and turn the negative feelings into positive ones.

But here’s where I became unstuck – it was other people’s jealousy towards me that I didn’t deal with very well.  Here’s an example, a few years ago I went on holiday, and when I came back and was asked if I enjoyed it, I said that I’d had a great time.  Most people said ‘glad you had a good time’, whereas one person said in a nasty tone ‘well it’s alright for some, swanning off on holiday’ and I could see the jealousy in them turn into hatred towards me and my lifestyle.  This really hurt me and made me feel bad.  In the past when I looked back on that incident and in particular, when I recalled that holiday, I thought of how that person made me feel – guilty, selfish that I’d been on holiday and enjoyed myself and resentful that they had made me feel bad.  However, by looking at the bigger picture I realised that this person was probably hurting themselves and maybe was unable to live the life they wanted to.  By understanding that this was their way of dealing with things and it was their process, not mine, I was able to let go of these negative feelings that I’d had when jealousy had been directed at me.  So the next time you feel someone has behaved in a way towards you that you didn’t expect, ask yourself if it could be due to jealousy for any reason and if so, remind yourself that it’s their process and it’s how they’re coping with their feelings.  It may be a difficult habit to get into, but keep thinking of the bigger picture and that there may be things going on for someone else that you’re not aware of.

So how can we deal with jealousy in a more positive way?  Here are a few ways which have helped me.  Firstly, don’t compare yourself with others – everyone is different and individual, you’re unique (and that’s a good thing!).  You may feel jealous of someone who has a nice new car, but do you know the ins and outs of their life and would you swap your life with theirs?  Their life on the surface may seem great, but they may not show you that they are lonely, suffer from intermittent depression or cope with an illness which you can’t see.

Recognise and reframe your jealousy – whether it involves possessions or something less tangible, catch it before it gets the better of you and reframe your thoughts.  Sticking with the example of being jealous of someone with a shiny new car, you could reframe this by saying ‘a new car isn’t within my reach, but I have other things in my life which I really enjoy such as going for a long walk which makes me feel good afterwards’ or ‘I may not have a new car, but I’m grateful for the people and possessions that I do have in my life’.

If you find that seeing people’s posts on social media can evoke jealousy in you, cut down your usage.  Don’t taunt yourself with other people’s pictures, or if it’s an option, select who you can and can’t see on your newsfeed.

Challenge yourself – if you’re jealous of a friend who now looks fabulous in their skinny jeans because they’ve been working out, and you want to look good in your jeans, but your excuse is ‘I haven’t had time to do any exercise’, pick this excuse apart – can you fit in a 30 min workout 3 times a week?  Stop making excuses for your insecurities and kick that green eyed monster into the rubbish bin!

Next month – K is for Kind.  You may be kind to others, but when were you last kind to yourself?  Self care is important and I’ll be sharing how kindness can enrich our lives.

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