We all get jealous, don’t we? Actually, no, not everyone experiences jealousy as an emotion.
I don’t get jealous. It’s true: I don’t experience jealously as an emotion. Yes, I experience sadness, happiness, anger, euphoria, and a plethora of other emotions—but not jealousy.
Why? Because, unlike many emotions, we can choose to not experience jealousy.
After years of observing people getting jealous in myriad ways, I understand that our culture is riddled with jealousy, envy, and greed, all of which are by-products of our competitive, consumer-driven culture.
What’s worse is that it’s far more pernicious than we think. Competition breeds jealousy, though we often give it prettier labels like “competitive spirit” or “stick-to-itiveness” or “ambition.”
But the truth is that jealousy leads to certain cultural imperatives—what we commonly refer to as “keeping up with the Joneses.” Thus, we envy Mr. and Mrs. Jones for their money and large house and luxury cars and big boat and weekend retreat and fancy vacations and all the trappings of our heavily mediated society.
But of course we don’t get jealous solely over material possessions. We also get jealous over our relationships. We think our friends don’t spend enough time with us, our lovers don’t care about us as much as they should, our customers aren’t loyal enough. It all revolves around us: He doesn’t spend enough time with me. She doesn’t care enough about me.
We think this way because it’s hard to back away from ourselves, it’s hard to realize I am not the center of the universe.
There is good news, though. Like our televisions, we can chose to turn it off. We can choose to remove jealousy from our emotional arsenal. And like TV, it’s not always easy to turn off (it sure seems interesting sometimes, doesn’t it?). But turning off jealousy can significantly improve one’s emotional health. Because, at the end of the day, jealousy is never useful. Many negative emotions can be useful—pain tells us something is wrong, fear tells us to look before we leap—but jealousy, no matter how jealous we get, will never help.
The easiest way to turn jealousy off is to stop questioning other people’s intentions. We often get jealous because we think a person meant one thing by their actions, when they meant something totally different. And the truth is that you’ll never know someone’s real intent, so it’s a waste of time to question it.
If you’re struggling with questioning someone’s intent, you can do one of two things: Ask them what they meant by their actions or words. Or accept that you will never know their true intent, no matter how much you question it.
The bottom line with jealousy: you can turn it off. Jealousy is ugly: it is never a way to express we care—it’s only a channel through which we broadcast our insecurities. Let it go—a better life is waiting on the other side of jealousy.
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