What Jealousy Can Teach You

Jealousy is a basic human emotion, and one that can rear its head even in the best of friendships. And though it's called "the green-eyed monster," jealousy is not always negative, says LeslieBeth Wish, psychologist, clinical social worker and author of Smart Relationships (New Horizon Press).

"It's not necessarily a bad thing to compare yourself to other people," she explains. "You can use it as an opportunity to give yourself a kick in the pants." Here are three common reasons women become jealous of their friends, and what they can do about it:

1. Physical attributes

Is your best friend a head-turning beauty? It's natural to feel a little inadequate next to her, but that doesn't mean you're unattractive. In fact, Wish points out that some people are genetically blessed but don't have the personalities to match their looks, while others aren't conventionally good-looking but are such forces of nature that they attract others easily.

Is there anything about your own appearance you can change? If you want a trim figure, ask yourself why you aren't at your ideal weight. Maybe you need to alter your exercise program or your diet. If you feel you look older than your pal, then consider a new haircut or better makeup. The key is to focus on your own potential and make the most of it, not to obsess about a bone structure or body type that you simply weren't born with.

2. Money

So, she has more money than you. Maybe she has a higher-paying job, or is married to a high earner. Does this mean that you're a financial failure? Not necessarily—the key is to figure out the message your jealousy is sending you.

"Ask, 'What is it that I want that is so important that I would allow myself to feel let down?'" says Wish. If you're upset that your friend gets to stay home with her kids while you work full time, figure out if there is a way to have a reduced schedule. Maybe there isn't, in which case you simply need to accept that you can't do anything about the situation now. But do put into place a plan to be working part-time by a certain point in the future, if it's important to you.

3. Accomplishments

Her kids are achievers. If her child just got into an Ivy League college while yours is struggling academically, you may be resentful. "Use your jealousy as a ringing bell to look at yourself and how you're doing," Wish urges. Should you hire a tutor for your child, or switch him to a different school? Is it simply a matter of removing his computer from his bedroom so he can focus?

Remember that true friends have each other's best interests at heart. Ask your friend for advice on how to improve things in your own life. Don't make snide comments that may poison your relationship, such as, "Well, you can afford that" or "Of course your kid graduated with honors."  Focus on what you are grateful for in your own life and work on changing the things that you can. 

LeslieBeth Wish, EDD, MSS, reviewed this article.




LeslieBeth Wish, psychologist and clinical social worker and author of Smart Relationships (New Horizon Press) and The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie (CreateSpace), www.lovevictory.com.