Jealousy: How to Rise Above Your Weakest Self
This one’s for Fran! Hope this helps and thanks for writing me! :)
If you prefer to listen, here's the Podcast version of this post:
Jealousy, or a perception of your insecurities come to life. How does it sneak into your mind? Your darkest thoughts in your most fearful voice begin scratching at your feelings, dragging you down and causing you to act as your lowest self. You assume you are less than and life is against you somehow. You're either not enough, or something else outside of you is not enough. What is this emotional state? Your lowest form of self, the self that is motivated by fear and hate, put in a threatened defensive position. Think of it as You minus your awareness of what is good and loving in this world. This low emotional self is also called your irrational self.
Hopefully, I will offer you a few tools to help you navigate out of this state and back to your highest self: grounded, making decisions from a balanced and sane mindset. There are three parts: The what. They why. The how: the tools.
Disclaimer: Just to be clear, in this blog I am not talking about the kind of jealousy that results from a unique understanding of achievement. This kind of jealousy is competitive but it is external. It has nothing to do with your feelings about yourself – it’s tied to something or someone you truly appreciate. When you feel very impressed by someone to the point that you wish you did what they have already done, a simple shift in your label for this feeling is all that it takes to relieve it. You might assume this is a negative but I believe 100% that it is a positive: you are capable of appreciating a work because you possess like ability. Therefore, think of this as something to celebrate in yourself: your competitive passion is more like a compliment to that other person. What you feel shows where your heart lies - it’s your appreciation and identification of merit. I personally have this all the time and I love it, because I know it is a good sign. When I see a film I am impressed by, I say ‘I am so jealous’ – but it is because I am happily identifying a member of my tribe - a like-minded creator. It is a good feeling as it is rare, and it means I “get” something about them. I can appreciate this individual and what went into their work.
Part 1: What
In this blog, the jealousy I am focusing on is the kind that makes you feel personally insulted or attacked by someone else and their actions. That could mean you feel slighted, unrecognized, unloved, or unlovable.
Most of jealousy acts as a hallucination. It does not show you reality, it shows you insecure self-loathing reality: in that world, no one likes you and all the fears you have about yourself are true. For many of us it is clear that we are in an emotionally charged, irrational state – however, we cannot stop ourselves from wanting to “solve” for the perceived insult. “Is it true?! If so, how true? I need to know!” Nothing will quench the irrational need to compute “why” we have been betrayed: we go into loops of solving, calculating, tallying, replaying. And jealousy has a very potent ability to madden us for that reason: it’s all consuming, it belittles us, and we are aware it’s inside of us and us alone. A self-inflicted pain with the power to torture and haunt our every moment.
You will never arrive at your truth through jealousy - you can only do that from a calm, objective vantage point - so this is all about stepping back from the emotion so you can regain your sound thinking. The power behind jealousy is also the key to undoing it: it does not live in reality – it lives in our reaction to reality. So we can indeed help ourselves when we struggle in the triggered moments.
Most importantly: Jealousy comes from inside you. Not outside you. Therefore, to move out of it, you must treat it that way. Do not seek the solutions outside of you – this is about you helping you out of your own head space.
Part 2: The Why
Why do you have those feelings in the first place? Well, you can blame your brain! I know that’s a no-duh, but the short of it is jealousy is the direct result of your fears and insecurities. What happens is when your fears and insecurities are activated, your brain creates a false sense of reality based on the perceived threat. Your brain triggers your body to feel stressed and you begin hunting for proof of your fear or insecurity. And when you get into a stress-mode, you grow defensive and bite-y. Suddenly you lose your ability to listen and reflect: instead you are looking to jump to a conclusion. So let’s say someone got a promotion and you didn’t. In reality this is a normal objective situation that has nothing to do with you. When you feel jealous, the objective situation becomes a reflection of you. Your upset brain and body will manically solve for, “What does this say about me?” Jealousy is an emotion you feel in relationship to others – however, it is always stemming from You on You. Therefore, as you work on it, you are going to always focus on that piece in every equation. “What is this coming from, inside me?”
This is not about someone else or any detail of what they may or may not have. This is about your feelings about yourself. Without the emotion, the situation is the situation. You are the one who perceives it as related to you and interprets it as good or bad. The good news is, that’s where your power lies – that’s the factor you’re going to affect. In that moment, you’re going to learn to step back and remember that you don’t have to feel affected in such a way. I know that’s what you strive to do in the moment, and that’s why you’re reading this in the first place, so without further ado – here are some tools to hopefully assist you in that process.
I want to be clear about when someone is using jealousy to keep you vulnerable and broken. When something doesn’t feel right – like for example, someone is doing something that makes you not quite trust them, know that it’s coming from a valid place and you should listen to that feeling. If you have told a person how their behavior hurts you and they are doing it anyway, know that yes, they should care that it hurts you. They should not want to do anything that hurts you if they care about you and are worthy of you. If you’re feeling powerless in a situation like this, all you have to do is inform them of your hurt feelings and then step back to watch how they approach that problem. If they change to accommodate your needs, that is a loving person. If they do it anyway, you should decide whether or not to remove yourself from the relationship. This is your power: how you give access to yourself to others. You set the bar for how others should treat you. When it comes to romantic relationships, this is much easier to remedy when in a courtship stage and it’s extremely important to confront.
No matter your situation, know that it’s not about you. If a person is being untrue to you, it’s a result of insecurity: seeking validation from others and wanting to feel powerful. If you are in a relationship and someone is doing things to intentionally make you feel uncomfortable or unloved – that is an important issue for you to look at. You should not tolerate bad behavior and if someone is not treating you the way you deserve to be treated, then you’ve got to work on addressing why you a) chose that person in the first place, and b) continue to tolerate it. The real problem lies in your self-protective habits: to find love, you need a better filter that will not let in the gunk. A person who loves you should never want to hurt you. Your happiness should come first. If you’re expecting them to do something unfair, like not see their whole family, that’s another story – but if you’re asking something within reason, yes - your feelings should be a priority.
Why would someone want you to feel hurt and jealous? They are extremely insecure, self-loathing, and because of that – they crave having power and feeling wanted. Sick, yes. Should you feel bad for them? No. You should protect yourself from people who are incapable of coveting your soul. What’s your greatest tool in this situation? Be good and loving to yourself and don’t accommodate their sickness. Set your bar for how you want to be loved and don’t lower yourself to their terms. This likely means removing their access to you. You create the terms for how you need to be treated.
Part 3: The Tools
1. Trace the Baby Roots
You’re going to create a graph so grab your journal! This is a tool for everyone.
Draw a circle and label it, “Me.” Now, think back to the last time you got jealous. What was the situation? Describe it in one or two sentences. Let’s say you were visiting family and your mom gave your sibling a fancy gift, which made you jealous. Whatever it is, write your description below this circle.
Next, draw a smaller circle above the one you labeled “Me.” Label that one, “Baby Me.” Now, I want you to think about that same experience. Reduce how you felt down to the most primitive terms. How did it feel? What was the emotion? For example, “I felt invisible.”
There are three common areas of jealousy and they all stem from childhood: competing for love (threat to happiness and comfort), not good enough (low self-worth), envy for acclaim (not getting enough love). What is the emotion you felt in the adult experience of jealousy? Try to deduce the foundational emotion, because it’s old – not current. It’s an unmet need from your childhood.
Whenever jealousy comes up, it’s because you have a trigger point. There’s a feeling in you that is tapped into and it’s likely tied to an unmet need from childhood. If you can’t think of which one it might be, write down several. For example, if it’s attention you feel you’re not getting, maybe you had a parent who treated a sibling or partner better than you. As new things come up, you can add other baby-you’s to the page as well. The connections are pretty basic so give it some thought and draw the clearest line from adult-you to baby-you.
• Once you’ve marinated on it a bit, you’re going to draw a line between “Me” and “Baby Me” – whichever old emotion best resembles the actual feeling of the moment you’ve lived recently. That’s where your pain lives – not in the moment you live in, now.
Your power lies in understanding yourself so you can step back from the emotion, so in the moment of feeling jealous, stop and FIRST go to your personal graph. Once you see where the feeling is coming from, it loses a bit of its power. You are not a victim to the pain when you can separate it from the hands of this other person. You are in charge of how you feel, regardless of the situation. Sometimes it’s just hard to remember that.
Jealousy has the ability to put intense strain on any situation or relationship – romantically, professionally and with friends. So to protect your relationships, think of yourself like a “Jeckle and Hyde” and use your cape to shield others from your jealousy. Run away! Hide in the shadows! That is, until the emotion has passed. Work on passing this feeling solo because if you unleash it, there’s a breaking point you’ll hit with your relationships. Love and friendship can only sustain so much wear before the push-pull loses its elastic for good. This is not about them – it’s about you, so be loving and protect your relationships from the issues you know you’re still working on. It’s not their weight to bear, and you don’t want those you love to endure any unnecessary suffering.
Tool 2: Welcome to “You on You”
This is a visualization exercise for the moments when you can’t seem to you’re yourself out of the seedy, fearful and insulting voice of your insecurities. The super critical voice that has the power to drive you mad.
Picture you’re on a talk show – a cheesy one, with two hosts in couch chairs. The real you is seated next to a crazed, troll version of you – this is the voice of your fear. Give the troll-you a name. One that reminds you to not listen to it. Mine is Lady Golem, which I invite you to use as well! When it comes to this emotion – you’ve got to give this voice in yourself a label that rings true to its manipulation skill set. Lady Golem will never speak the truth. The voice is irrational and filled only with fear and self-hate. Whatever it is, name it based on the voice you hear in your head when you’re saying mean things to yourself.
Okay, got it? Great! Now, in the moments when you go into over-thinking, over-solving-for-everything-terrible-mode and your brain won’t stop, this is the visual I want you to conjure. The troll is the one talking – and the real you? Just sitting there. Because the troll won’t let you in edgewise! It’s just chattering away, non-stop. So in those moments, you have to basically walk off the stage altogether.
Why? Here’s a mantra for you to memorize: Regardless of your interpretation, it’s not all about you.
The best weapon against jealousy is understanding that it is coming from a void in you and it does not persist outside of you and therefore you hold all the power when it comes to changing it. It’s always a blunt emotion: fear of pain, fear of not being enough, neediness over something outside of you not giving you enough.
As you defeat your own jealousy, you will be teaching yourself to be less ego-driven. I don’t mean ego-driven like you’re thinking too highly of yourself – I mean driven by the voice of your ego: the brain you accidentally identify as You.
When it comes to others and how they feel about you, take yourself out of the equation. That might sound counter-intuitive but it’s actually plain old objective. Because, when you step back, you see how silly it is to think that things in the world are motivated purely by you – or targeted in any way at you. Even if they are, you don’t have to lie down in the path of destruction. That’s on you to stand up and walk away. So in the moment of any perceived jealous wound, step back and take You out of it.
How? If someone wins something, assume they somehow deserved it and be happy for them. If a person is flirting and they shouldn’t be, they shouldn’t be. You get to choose how you will react to information – and you don’t have to become a victim to any of them, ever. Most importantly, you don’t have to take it personally – no matter what it is, it has nothing to do with you. People are entitled to their own opinions and they’re also entitled to make their own messes. YOU don’t have to hang out while they do so. That’s where your power lies.
TOOL 3: Take Back the Keys to Your Heart
This is a tool named to remind you of a cheesy metal song so you can use it in moments of heartbreaking jealousy. When you allow someone to make you feel jealous, you literally give them control over your emotions. It’s like handing them the keys to your heart and mind. You allow THEIR actions to dictate how YOU feel about YOU, which is totally dis-empowering and also totally unfair to you! It’s just not logical. Would you allow someone else to pick out your clothes and tell you what to say? No! So why would you give someone say over how you feel? Even when it feels like you’re powerless, you are always in control your own life and the decisions you make with it REGARDLESS of what anyone else does. So if you don’t like how someone else is behaving, listen to that. Make a decision based on that fact.
Sometimes we don’t want something to be true so instead we make ourselves into victims of bad behavior.
That’s a sign of low self-esteem so if you’re doing that right now, take a hard look at that fact. Something in you needs to change before you get really hurt. When it comes to cheating, you’re health is at risk! YOU hold the keys to YOUR body and you get to decide your ACTIONS. How you decide to act in relationship to others is where your power lies.
You are truly empowered and you just forget that in the moment you feel jealous. It’s not about WHAT THEY DO. It’s about HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT THEY DO and WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT.
Take back the keys of your body and actions. The victimization you feel is coming from you – not them. Not wanting to accept the truth is blinding you to your freedom. You are the one who decides your value regardless of what anyone else says. There will be many times in your life that people are wrong about you and say mean things to you and try to keep you down. Be your own best friend and never abandon yourself. There will be days when you are all you’ve got. Make that relationship strong and build upon it.
Tool 4: Get off the Shitty Ride!
This is a tool targeted toward those who get competitive jealousy and also romantic jealousy. It’s a rough emotion to get stuck in because it allows your imagination to beat you with a baseball bat. So in those moments of overwhelming mental torture, use this visualization tool.
Whenever you get into a constant replay-mode or your brain can’t let go of wanting to “solve” for someone else’s thoughts, try to picture yourself on the worst ride ever at a carnival: it’s going too fast, in tiny circles, and it’s making you feel sick and disoriented. Do you want to ride this shitty ride? No! Because it’s not getting you anything but unhappiness! So in this moment, stop and step back from the loops. Become aware that you are on the spinny ride in the first place, and choose to get your mind off of it. How? Deliberate redirection of focus and distraction. Spinning is a sign you are in a non-objective state of mind. In other words, stop the obsession. As my therapist used to say, “Put it away for now.” That bun ain’t baked! When it comes to trying to make sense of the actions of others and they are especially painful, know that you are absolutely enough as you are. You are perfect and worth loving and you should not have to change anything about yourself to be loved and treated well, in return. Assume it’s not about you and there is likely no solution to your problem. Step back and relieve yourself from the self-inflicted craziness.
When it comes to those who think they are “solving” something related to their future - contrary to how it might feel, you are not being productive. You are putting yourself through a whole lot of unnecessary reliving of emotional baggage, while not solving. When something is clear, you can only know. Your answer will not take thinking. It will be truth. So if you’re overthinking something, your answer isn’t there. Move on for now. Let yourself take a break and come back to the conflict once you’ve had time to marinate for a while. This is one of my favorite mantras, and it’s perfect for situations like this.
Mantra: Stay out of other people’s heads.
That’s where shit gets weird and out of perspective. Stay in your brain. You may THINK you’re divining a truth or an answer but you’re not. Whatever the situation, take the You out of it. Who cares what’s in someone else’s head?! That’s their business and not yours to worry about.
Jealousy is painful but it’s also a sign you are sensitive and rich with emotion – and that’s a good thing. You want to feel your feelings and not block them – and these sensitivities in you point to your ability to feel love and happiness. So if you are finding yourself self-protecting and fearing the worst because you’ve had some bad experiences, work to continue to be brave. Continue to put yourself out there and continue to get back up again. Do not allow your pain baggage to prevent you from loving and showing your truth to the world. Because your heart is the most valuable gift you have to give and it will bring you the greatest gifts if you continue to stay vulnerable. Let it be a comfort to you that much of life is unknown and out of your control. Take the pressure of yourself to make everything a comment on you and instead, just live. Once you embrace powerlessness, you can go all in! Make peace with the fact that you cannot control others and don’t try to.
Jealousy at its core comes from a belief that you are not enough. That you are lacking. And that is a very powerful and uncomfortable feeling. Work on telling yourself with your actions that yes, you are enough. Because you deserve love exactly as you are. From you. You deserve to be proud of yourself at this very moment, right now. If you want to self-improve and you want to be better, love yourself for wanting that. Do not allow anyone – including yourself, to say mean or hurtful things to you: that you should be like someone else or you would be better if you had something someone else had. Screw that – you are YOU – that’s WAAAY better than being someone else. You might be working on being able to see that better, but it’s true. You should treasure yourself and covet yourself. Because here’s what happens as you go: the more you are kind and loving and TOLERANT to yourself, the better YOU begin to feel. The more valued you begin to feel as a human being. That’s right. Value in you starts with how YOU treat you.
Before I end this, I want you to do a visualization practice with me. Ready? Awesome.
Close your eyes. (Well, read this and then close your eyes.) Picture yourself right now. Picture yourself trying to help yourself to improve. Now feel appreciation for yourself. Picture yourself in a moment you’ve felt jealous, recently. Now - have empathy for yourself. Picture yourself suffering and being put through painful feelings and struggling to change that – and now feel love for yourself. Feel extreme PRIDE in yourself. Spend one moment focusing on sending love to yourself. Visualize it surrounding your body.
As you move forward and practice these tools, be very patient and gentle with yourself. Don’t get upset if you do feel jealous – take a step back and analyze how you can HELP yourself find relief. That’s what this is all about. Empowering yourself in those moments and changing how you react to things. The more you can help and soothe yourself in the face of jealousy, the better you’ll feel about yourself. And here’s the secret key to all of it: When you love yourself and value yourself – you don’t get jealous. Ever. It’s the best feeling in the world! You are now walking down the path toward what you want – keep a’ goin’ and I send you my love. Don’t forget to smile!!!