Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from suspicion to rage to fear to humiliation. It strikes people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations, and is most typically aroused when a person perceives a threat to a valued relationship from a third party. The threat may be real or imagined.*
*definition sourced from psychologytoday.com
Jealousy is similar to envy, however very different. Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another, jealousy occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person.*
*What Is the Difference Between Envy and Jealousy by psychologytoday.com
I’m interested in this subject, jealousy in particular, because unfortunately I’m one of those people who struggle with it on a higher than average level and, I’m trying to eliminate this emotion from my life… Well, maybe just bring it back to an acceptable extent. Extended level jealousy and envy are unhealthy, they stress me out, give digestive issues and grey hair. They also ruin relationships and mental health. I carry anger and the feeling of being constantly alert that something is wrong or that I’m not enough daily. I can’t go on with my day because I get distracted with thoughts that I make up in my mind and sometimes they get so real, I start to believe my own imagination. If I could only believe in positive thoughts of mine so easily I would be the most successful human on the planet.
Now, I read a lot about jealousy and educate myself as I’m really determined to fight it and bring it down to an acceptable level. It is an emotion and it’s normal to feel but if it takes over my mind and runs my days, this is when it becomes dangerous to my mental health and my close ones. It took me a while to realise that I’m an overly jealous person. I would criticise my friends for trying to control their partners or letting their partners control them. I would then say that I could never be with someone that tells me who I can go out with or what I can wear to certain events. After hearing stories like that I would just shake my head and go to my partner, give him the longest hug, juicy kiss and tell him how much I appreciate him for being the person who he is, simply good and respectful of what I want, need and do.
Then I would go back to what I was doing and all of a sudden I’d catch myself deep in thoughts of doubt and distrust of the certain moves he does or words he says… He doesn’t actually love me, he’s probably bored of me, he’s just waiting for the pandemics to be over and then he’ll find a better person… Duh! He’s already texting this person for sure! All this time he spends staring and smiling at his phone… This is the beginning of the end. I’m just the backup plan. He’s definitely flirting with someone behind my back. It’s over.
Oh shit! Where the hell did this come from?! I literally was just telling him how much I love him for who he is and two seconds later I’m roasting his ass in my mind, bringing myself to the feeling of anger, disappointment and sick jealousy. And then I go home, to bed with the worst mood ever, crying for hours because I actually believe what I was thinking and escalate it all higher and higher. The worst part is that I wake up with puffy eyes the next day. Yes, that’s definitely the worst part.
Now, maybe I’m not telling him what to wear or who he can be friends with, there’s no direct control but I silently distrust him until I can no longer stand my own thoughts and when I tell him what’s going on- because obviously, he notices the change of mood, he looks at me with an open mouth, shocked and disappointed. Why don’t I trust him? Where are those ideas coming from? It makes him upset and the whole thing brings us both down. Luckily he is very understanding and patient, what in fact makes me think that he does, in fact, love me.
Maybe I’m not the worst kind of jealous person since I don’t sneakily check his phone, don’t tell him to stop talking to other women, or to unfollow some people on social media because they liked his every picture or leave sweet comments, I don’t go full-on detective mode with a trench coat, wigs and sunglasses. The type of jealousy I struggle with is mainly harmful to my mental health, to myself. For him too, of course. He has to deal with my moods and crying for no bigger reason, with weird, sometimes hurtful questions and I know it stresses him out and the truth is, if I don’t fight this terrible, powerful emotion it will first ruin him, then our relationship and at the end me. It’s almost like a perfect recipe for emotional suicide.
There are many factors that create jealousy. Could it be trauma from past relationships, childhood or recent events? It has a lot to do with our self-esteem. Jealousy, whether in a relationship, between siblings or friends, is an emotion coming from our desire to possess things we don’t, in fact, own. Let’s say, other people. We might feel like our partner is our possession so he must give all their attention and time to us. We might feel that our sibling is treated better by our parents. Or we might feel envious towards our friends because they’re more successful in life, they’re better looking, have more money and are more popular.
I kind of want to focus on jealousy that appears in romantic relationships as this is my main problem. I don’t really experience envy towards friends and family that are more successful. If anything I like to cheer for them and maybe ask for their guidance to success, to learn from them. Ok, ok… I might get envious of a perfect body I see on IG feed but again, I know those beautiful people work hard to look like that, and I quickly give myself a reality slap, if this is what I want to look like I need to work hard for it rather than strongly wish for it.
Anyway, by reading about jealousy, watching YouTube videos and listening to the podcasts I finally started to recognise myself as an overly jealous person and got bummed about the amount of hypocrisy I was filled with. At first at least, because recognition is the first step to fighting it. Once you know that you’re experiencing toxic jealousy and your partner isn’t an actual prick you can start creating a strategy for the jelly war.
In my case, there’s a lot of low self-esteem involved. Lack of confidence, constant feeling of not being enough, maybe even being convinced that I don’t deserve to be loved. It’s hard to tell where did this come from but I know those are the factors. When I think about the lack of confidence, it is possibly driven by the fact that I don’t have a degree and it must mean that I’m not intelligent, duh! Maybe even stupid. Having a hard job that pays little money is another proof of stupidity. No passion makes me look like a lazy bum and ignorant. Then I keep failing myself by not finishing what I started, so automatically I think that others must look at me as a failure too. Everyone in my life would enjoy my company just for a little while, until they get bored and then just dump me, start to ignore and basically replace me for a better, more interesting model. So the mixture of the negative thoughts about myself and events from the past create a lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
Why would he love such a loser? I’m sure his ex is more fun, smarter and prettier and it’s just the matter of time he dumps my ass to get back together with his true love. Or there are many other women that are more successful and lovable than I am. Here comes the comparison. It’s all very sad because I talk to myself like that all the time and honestly if that was my friend I was talking to I would never say such a hurtful shit to them. Why do I punish myself with these thoughts?
So I know what is my problem-jealousy. Where does it come from? Lack of confidence, low self-esteem, comparing myself to the others. Now it’s time to recognise the triggers. When do I mostly feel like losing my shit, and bombard myself with negative thoughts fueled by jealousy? When I have too much time and nothing to do.
There’s a pattern. When I don’t get a message all day I start to feel anxious and think that he’s no longer interested, don’t want to talk to me, no longer cares. He doesn’t want to know how is my day! How dare he?! Well, he did say that he’s not a “text” type of a person, or maybe he’s busy at work, his phone’s dead or simply he needs a day for himself. But nope, my mind goes straight to extremes…
I go to bed, overthink it a hundred times creating tales in my mind what makes me cry and go all the way to the conclusion that for sure he wants to break up with me. I would normally cry myself to sleep and the next day, with little energy and bad mood I would still dig deeper and deeper. Because it’s my day off I have plenty of time to create this drama TV show in my mind and of course now I can’t do anything else because I have more important stuff to think about. How can I do something productive when my relationship is in jeopardy?! Oh, he’s messaging me now. Well, well, well… Look who’s remembered that they have a girlfriend… I will let him wait now. Where was I? Oh yes, I’m not enough, I should let him live his life without me, find a better person than me, which for sure won’t be difficult… I’ll just carry on crying.
In the meantime, whilst I’m on the edge of a breakdown he is: attending video meetings at work, then nap on the sofa, then back to work. Walk with a friend, dinner, message my baby (me), then some Fortnite time and at the end do some writing and filming for YouTube channel. All exhausted goes to bed looks at his phone thinking “oh she hasn’t replied, she must be busy” and fells asleep in 5 seconds… ZzzZzZ
Well, in my defence if I was writing Telenovela I would definitely win an award for best drama of the year. Thank you.
And the point of the story is when you find yourself getting into this vicious circle of negative thoughts, find a way to counterattack them. If you find yourself getting upset because someone isn’t texting you- text them first. If they don’t reply right away find a distraction so you don’t (over)think about them not replying. Find a reasonable and true excuse for them in your mind and start reading a book, or go for a walk. If that doesn’t help, maybe communicate your feelings to your partner and ask them to pay more attention to your texts as you’re in the middle of the battle with your insecurities and it would massively help your sanity. I find that simple messages like “Good morning baby”, “Thinking of you”, “Hope you have a lovely day” helps a lot. I don’t care if he schedules them and the messages are automatically sent by a robot but it bloody helps to go through the day without starting Telenovela in my head. So when you stop one trigger early enough, it might prevent from the creation of a whole chain of triggers.
The amazing thing about humans is that we have brains, elastic brains. No, no that you can stretch them like a rubber band. It’s called neuroplasticity. Our brains are adaptable, which means we’re creatures of habit and by training our brains, by “stretching” our neurons here and there we are able to change the way we think, act and react.
What I’m trying to say is that our war with jealousy, as any war really, is going to be made of multiple battles (call it new habits). The battles we will win in order to victory the war. You can pick your own battles, according to the state of your wounds. I like to think I’m prepared for mines and by prepared I mean the list of battles (habits I need to create)… Yes, I do love my lists. Don’t hate.
Battle No 1
Acknowledge that I might be an overly jealous person, understand that it’s a normal emotion however if it dominates my mind and stops me from being productive or creates any sort of damage to me and my partner’s sanity. I recognise it and do something about it.
Battle No 2
Own my thoughts. I accept that there are positive and negative ones. By choosing which ones I want to focus on I own them. Control my thoughts-not other people or situations which I have no power over.
Battle No 3
I challenge negative thoughts in order to recognise triggers. For example, if I believe that all I have to offer my partner are my physical attributes, then anyone he or she comes into contact with who appears to be more attractive may be perceived as a threat and may trigger jealous feelings.*
*How to Keep Jealousy From Sabotaging Your Relationship, psychologytoday.com
Battle No 4
I overcome insecurities and low self-esteem by daily affirmations that help me to build my confidence and to believe that I’m worthy of love and respect and that I am enough.
Battle No 5
I bring mindfulness into my life by introducing myself to meditation and daily gratitude.
Battle No 6
I look after my body by fixing my sleeping pattern, eating healthier and exercising, perhaps yoga or daily YouTube 5 minutes workouts. That brings me confidence + likely better sleep = ready to run the world, Jo.
As you can see there are many different elements to assembly in order to get rid of this destructive jealousy. This is a long war but for a good cause. I will take as long as I need to win this war. I can only win it.
Let me know of your thoughts and ways how you deal with jealousy.
Always yours, Selfish Jo.