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Jealousy or envy, whatever you call it, is powerfully detrimental to your well being

Updated on July 21, 2014

How to control jealousy and not let it control you

“Look at me, look at me!!!” shouts the five year old girl as she swings higher than your head on the swing set.

You think about when you were that age and doing good to get four feet off the ground without having a panic attack that you were going to fall out and crack your head open.

Your friend posts pictures of backstage passes to a Lady Gaga concert on her Facebook page along with her picture hugging the dame and playing air guitar with the bassist as she boasts about her rockin' night with the crew. Instead of getting thousands of posts about how wonderful it is that she got to see a singing legend, the comments section is empty and while you know you should tell her how great it is, you stay silent too.

Your ex shows up at a function he knows you will be attending and brings his new girl friend. They hang all over each other. She is gorgeous and a good thirty pounds slimmer than you and younger too with breast cleavage big enough to hide a wallet in.

Logically you know it makes no sense to be jealous of any of the above and if you are like most people you are embarrassed to admit that you feel diminished by other people’s accomplishments, especially the five year old on the swing.

It's just petty to be that concerned over what other people do and feel jealous that you can never do the same things, but yet, you still feel that way, so what's up with that?

You want to take the high road and be glad for others accomplishments, but instead you find yourself feeling a bit hurt and slighted and evaluating yourself and wondering what it is you are doing wrong to not have the kind of life that others have.

It is hard to take the high road when you feel people are purposefully trying to make you look bad and themselves look good though.

Jealousy, like anger stirs up a flood of biochemical reactions in the brain that we have to struggle to suppress and if we only suppress them and fail to deal with why we have them in the first place, they will resurface even stronger the next time we feel like someone is trying to boost themselves up while using us as a springboard.

A 2009 article in Psychology Today actually suggested that jealousy was a survival mechanism and not merely a flaw in character.

Richard Smith, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky states that we feel jealous when we feel that someone is trying to take away something that is rightfully ours. Of course he feels that jealousy is only felt when it involves a love interest, but those of us who have felt jealous, know that we can feel that way over job privileges, siblings, even Christmas gifts and birthday parties.

If your brother gets a remote race car for his birthday and a party at the skating center and you get a new shirt and a cupcake with a candle in it, you will probably not only feel slighted, but have pangs of jealousy toward your brother even though he did not intentionally do anything to hurt you.

You can be jealous of someone who has talents you want, or friends you desire to have yourself. There are numerous stories of women trying to steal other people's babies because they are so jealous that someone else has a child and they cannot have one.

Wars start over jealousy, when one nation seems to have more than any other and does not want to share because they think they deserved what they got and so others with nothing did not deserve to have any better.

People who go "postal" and shoot up schools and work places often do so because they are jealous that others are given more, while they are made to feel unworthy and have had things taken away from them by the very same people who feel justified to make themselves look better while ignoring the needs of any other.

The dictionary defines jealousy as resentment against a rival or a person; particularly one enjoying success and having an advantage over us. The survival instinct tells us that we must level the playing field and shift the advantage back toward ourselves or we will cease to exist and our competition will take over and push us out.

Jealously usually leads to resentment and if not dealt with, anger and attack on the person we feel is taking away something that is rightfully ours. This is when it becomes a problem that we need to control.

So, how does knowing jealousy is a defense mechanism designed to help us survive, give us insight into how to control it?.

First of all you have to determine whether what you are feeling is envy or jealousy as they are not quite the same and need to be dealt with a little differently.

Technically envy is worse than jealousy when it involves feelings of inferiority and wanting to retaliate. Envy is often seen as bitterness and longing to have what someone else has whether you deserve to have it or not.

Jealousy is wanting to keep what you already have and prevent it from being taken away by a rival. If you have ever had a specific talent in a group that no one else has and are highly valued for that talent and then a new person comes in who is even more talented and is now asked to do all those things you did in the past and enjoyed doing, you are going to be hard pressed not to feel jealous.

You may even feel that you are being pushed out of the group and are no longer wanted, which can be devastating to your well being, but there are some steps you can take to counter these feelings of jealousy to varying degrees of success.

1. When you are feeling your self esteem slipping away, write down a list of all the good things about yourself.

If you are kind and gentle, meek and mild mannered, always willing to help someone in need, these are the best characteristics to focus on.

Try to avoid superficial things, like, I’m pretty and smart, and thin and have lots of friends. These things tend to fit in that envy category and instead of helping you overcome your jealousy, it will only make it worse.

2. Remind yourself of what is really important to you. Do you really want to be rich and famous and talented, or are you okay with being generous, always there when your friends need you, willing to try your hand at anything even though it might not look as good or turn out as well as someone with more talent.

3. How badly do you need the attention of others to feel good about yourself? This is a big one for me. I don’t like getting praise, but I love it when people appreciate the things I do for them and say a simple, “Thank you, that was nice.”

If people stop acknowledging me and take me for granted or worse yet abuse me and take what they can get without ever showing gratitude, then I tend to get upset with them, but instead of being rude and wanting to strike out at them, I remind myself to use their behaviors to remind me not to do the same thing to others and indeed, to go out of my way to thank someone for a kindness they have done and let them know how much I appreciate them and everything they do.

This way you turn a potential retaliation desire into a desire to do unto others as you would like done unto you, rather than do unto others what was actually done to you and caused you distress.

This not only builds self esteem, but boosts the esteem of others. The big thing is to say thank you genuinely and not just to make yourself look like the boss thanking his or her loyal followers who dutifully serve their wonderful leader.

4. Recognize why you feel so upset. Technically the person that steals your thunder and takes away the thing that is so special to you is a thief and deserves to be punished or at least prevented from doing more harm. This is where that survival instinct kicks in.

In times like this, just ask yourself, “Did I really want to be in the spotlight or was I happier in the background?” and “Am I so desperate that I need someone to praise me to feel good about myself or can I look at everything I have accomplished in life and be happy that I had the opportunity and ability to do those things, even if no one else really noticed but me?”

Sure, the majority of us would like to have money and lots of friends, and a nice new home, well behaved children and the physical health to do anything we desire, but just because we don't have those things and someone else keeps flaunting those things in our faces, does not mean we would be happier if we were the flaunters and they were us!

Chances are they have lower self esteem than we do and they need all those things to make them feel good about who they are.

If you can get that kind of thinking into your head and feel sorry for people who try to make you look small, rather than envy them and want to retaliate, you can begin to overcome jealousy and take power over your own emotions.

If someone close to you really cuts you deep and does nothing but brag on how wonderful they are and how great their life is compared to others, feel free to gently remind them that it is great that they have all these nice things, but that some people do not and this is not because they did not work hard enough or desire to have nice things and just sat around being lazy and making unwise choices. Encourage them to be sensitive toward others and share their talents rather than brag about them.

If someone has a $100,000 Mercedes, rather than brag about how fast and dependably built it is, why not offer to take the woman down the street to the grocery store rather than speed past her as she waits in the rain at the bus stop? This would be more impressive to most people and would definitely set a better example than being prideful.

If you have not had a vacation in five years, you drive a beat up old car and can barely pay the rent each month and your friend comes back from the nail salon and tells you she has just booked a cruise to the Bahamas and she’s taking her new man, a wealthy doctor with his own yacht with her and too bad you don’t have any money and can’t do anything fun, rather than get jealous or envious or pray for a hurricane to blow her and lover boy out of the ocean, focus on something good in your life or even volunteer to help someone less fortunate than you.

That way instead of feeling left behind, you can feel lifted up and truly blessed to have the wonderful life you have.

When you feel jealous, look for the good in yourself and the things that really matter to you. Acknowledge that it hurts to see other people get the attention and recognition you want, and hurts even more when people purposefully push you away in order to take everything good for themselves and deny you a shot at it, but understand this is their character flaw and not yours. Try to have sympathy for their insecurities rather than being insecure yourself and wanting to strike back at them.

Perhaps the best way not to feel jealous is to not be prideful or boastful yourself. If you are humble and thankful you will rarely give people a reason to be jealous of you and will rarely be jealous of someone else.

It is only when we start to feel like no one likes us and no one cares and that we are not as good as other people that the jealousy really starts to take an ugly turn and drag us down a path we really know we shouldn't go.

If people are not praising you enough for your liking, then start praising them more. If you feel like they are trying to out compete you, stop competing with them. Let them compete against themselves. That way they can be their own burden and not yours.

If someone is trying to run faster and further than you, drop back and offer to help a slower runner along with words of encouragement. If you are the slowest runner, enjoy the scenery and know that you are inspiring a passerby to get out and run as they think, "well, if that fat old lady/man can run, why can't I?"

Find the humor in all things. If you can laugh at yourself and focus on your own improvements, then you won't feel so competitive or left behind.

If someone is trying to steal your spouse, ask your spouse how they feel about the person and if they seem attracted to all the attention, ask them would they prefer to go be with that person over you. If they say no, then tell them that they need to set boundaries with that person and that you will gladly give them all the attention they want and more. Chances are that is all it takes to break the other person's hold over your significant other.

You have the power to prevent jealousy from making you a bad person and retaliating and acting the same way the person you are jealous of is acting, but it does take some work to get to that point and having the support of friends and family who love you for who you are makes it a lot easier to get there!


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      Frank 4 years ago

      Very helpful tip to try to overcoming these jealousy and envy.

      God bless us all.