Expert Q&A: Dealing With Jealousy
Q: How do I stop feeling jealous for others?
A: It's no fun feeling jealous. And it's not good for your mental and physical health either. It erodes your sense of self-worth and keeps you in an angry state of mind—and, by now, most of us know that negative emotions can diminish the effectiveness our immune systems.
Technically speaking, jealousy is resentment toward a person. Envy is covetousness for things such as big homes or fame. But, truly, there's no point in quibbling since both experiences are unpleasant-and embarrassing. Very few of us would reveal to the world that we begrudge another person or harbor low self-esteem.
After all, the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins warn us about the dangers of longing for what others have materially. Envy was regarded as a Capital Vice because it could lead to other sins such as pride, greed, and anger. It was especially destructive as it blinded a person from seeing Beauty and remaining in a state of Grace.
These concepts might seem out-dated, but think about it: Sustaining envy or jealousy can trap you in the cruelty of wishing ill of others. The church, poets, and medieval philosophy did have a cure, however, and it is Love-of yourself and others.
So that is the good news about these feelings Envy actually has an upside. We often respect people who spark our sour grapes attitude. This admiration can lead us to examine ourselves and seek ways to improve and act more lovingly to ourselves and other people. It's a "kick in the pants" that motivates and coaxes the best from us, and makes us adopt an attitude of "your gain is my gain."
Here are some steps for turning your jealousy into good will and proactive steps.
1. Forgive yourself for having negative feelings. Remind yourself that you are human. We are natural comparison-makers. We often learn, in fact, by observing others and measuring ourselves against more accomplished people.
2. Write in a journal what other people have that you want. Is it money? Fame? Education? Happy relationship? Good looks?
3. Explain how you would feel better about yourself if you had these things. Think carefully. How would these things improve your sense of self-worth? Are some more important than others?
4. Learn about how the people who spark your jealousy and envy accomplished their goals, and be inspired by them. Read biographies or interviews. What can you gain from the lives of others? Usually, successful people have overcome something, had help along the way or learned a vital lesson in life such as appreciation, gratitude, patience or perspective. What steps did they take to achieve their goal or regain their life's path?
5. Celebrate and assess what you have overcome. It's often not how far you've gone in life but what you have overcome. Think about your obstacles and your personal triumphs over them.
6. Get realistic. Now think about which goals and achievements are possible for you. It's great to have dreams—but the sky is not the limit. We all have limitations. Be aware of your obstacles—emotionally, physically or intellectually. For example, I was very interested in becoming an astrophysicist, but no amount of tutoring would ever have improved my math skills sufficiently. Ask yourself: What is getting in the way? Are these things fixable?
7. Outline a plan and your first steps toward change. Stop dreaming, stop resenting. Take action. A quick and effective way to boost your self-esteem and promote a loving attitude to others is to take charge. When we feel negatively about ourselves and our situations, we also tend to feel helpless. Helplessness is one of the cornerstones of depression and anger. The best medicine is to act with a plan. We can feel almost instantly better once we know we have a remedy. If you have trouble getting going, seek counseling and the support of others.
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, ED.D., MSS is a noted psychologist and lic. clinical social worker, specializing in relationships. For her book about women and love, she welcomes women to take her 17-20 minute online research survey at www.lovevictory.com.
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