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How to Understand and Overcome Jealousy

Jealousy is a misunderstood and harshly judged emotion. Who likes to admit to jealousy? And when was the last relationship you heard about that relished their husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend being jealous? Jealousy can destroy relationships and eat away at us from the inside out. However, at one time or another, most people feel its sting.

Young woman jealous of a couple showing affectionBefore we delve into the emotion of jealousy, let’s look at the dictionary’s definition

Definition of Jealousy

- jealous: resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself.

- mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

- vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.

Although by definition, jealousy is viewed negatively, positive aspects of growth can arise from effectively dealing with the thoughts and feelings associated with envy. When a person has envious feelings, it is a sign that the person may lack confidence in that area and the feeling mirrors areas for growth.

So what causes jealousy? This emotion stems from unmet needs and the fear we can’t have what we desire. Insecurity within us regarding our adequacy, desirability, and worthiness as a person, a partner, an employee, etc., can often invoke jealousy. When we recognize the fear that is underlying this emotion, we can view it as an opportunity to develop and grow.

By removing the mask hiding the underlying need and looking squarely at what we desire, we can work to create whatever missing element is in our life. Sitting with the emotion as if it were a good friend, helps to dissolve our avoidance or resistance.

Negative Consequences of Unmanaged Emotions

Jealous man of a woman textingIs overcoming jealousy is a myth? There is no real need to overcome anything. What we need to do is accept our feelings as legitimate guides. When we understand jealousy from a perspective of desired growth, we can identify precisely our desires. If we diffuse the strong charge that usually accompanies envy, we can search for what triggered the emotion. Once we pinpoint the area where we feel lack, we can then decide whether we are committed to fulfilling our desires and working toward the desired outcome.

Some common fears that ignite jealousy

  • the unknown or a major change
  • a loss or an imagined catastrophe
  • protection from feeling hurt
  • feeling inadequate or having a lack of self-esteem or confidence
  • fear of losing a valued relationship or the rejection by someone we love

Negative aspects of  unmanaged jealousy

  • Often creates hurt, fatigue, anxiety, anger, and sometimes irrational actions.
  • Jealousy is rooted in fear, not self-worth or power, which disempowers a person through a belief that others have something he or she cannot have.
  • Fear that others will steal what is important to the person.
  • Fuels mistrust and increases distance in relationships.
  • Depletes positive energy toward goals.
  • Robs the person from an opportunity of self-development when the emotion goes unheard.

Positive aspects of listening to our emotions

  • Offers an opportunity to imagine and claim what we are capable of having, doing, and being.
  • Shows us where we have stunted our personal growth.
  • Increases gratitude for our unlimited potential to create a life we love.
  • Provides the opportunity to acknowledge weak areas of trust in ourselves and our relationships so closeness can increase.
  • Signals us that a boundary is needed or that we need to advocate for ourselves.
A jealous woman self-soothing herselfHow to Effectively Handle Jealousy through Self-Awareness

The first step is self-awareness when we seek to navigate this emotion. Stop and acknowledge what you're feeling. Let go of the tug of war. Stop fighting the feeling. Replace negative mental chatter that makes you feel worse with encouraging and soothing self-talk. Relax and move to acceptance. Emotions are intended to help us process our experiences so we can be our best self. Own and accept what you feel; your feelings are there to guide you to your truth.

Let me share a personal story that illustrates how jealousy can play out in one's life.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I became jealous of a CEO who had tremendous clout and vitality in the business world and was an impressive leader in her company. Every time I saw this woman or heard her name mentioned, I’d get a knot in my stomach. The harder I tried to push jealousy down, the more relentless the feeling persisted. Then one day, I decided to sit with my feelings and just listen.

As I consciously released the judgment on myself for feeling this way, my curiosity replaced the resistance. I discovered when I pulled back the layers that I wanted to start my own business. Before this emotion, I had no awareness of this desire.

Unfortunately, being a full-time mom at the time felt juxtaposed to this accomplishment. When I fully felt and listened to my emotions, I realized that I could have whatever I wanted. Jealousy showed me what was important to me, a future goal. What started out as uncomfortable turned to inspiration.

True, it wasn’t the season for me to pursue my career and mission but my heart became peaceful knowing that it was possible.

Then one day I ran into this woman, and I shared my yearnings and my previous jealousy of her (disclosing is not a requirement, so don’t worry). What surprised me was her response. She was jealous of my motherhood! She couldn’t have children of her own. My delightful toddler and the quickly approaching birth of my second child triggered her jealous feelings surrounding the loss she was feeling. As we talked, the emotion all made sense. Clarity and patience replaced the emotional static. And today, I am the CEO and Founder of Heartmanity, running a thriving and expanding business.

Each emotion is a messenger of your values, needs, and desires.

Being able to process and work through difficult feelings helps you grow emotionally. Every time you feel an emotion, you open up the flow, unfreezing energy that is trapped.

Emotions show us how to course correct flawlessly—if we listen and act on their wisdom. When you take the time to work through painful experiences and their accompanying emotions, the experience is integrated, and you develop a sense of inner peace within yourself. To accomplish this outcome, we must be willing to acknowledge all of our emotions and feelings and be open to exploring them.

And when you are at peace, you have much more energy for pursuing what’s important to you. Inner peace allows you to love yourself and others more freely.

To develop the knowledge, skills, and ability to embrace all of your emotions, feel free to check out Heartmanity’s programs for growth and transformation.

Related reading: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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