Jealousy, otherwise known as that irritating green-eyed monster, is a complex human emotion. Unlike happiness and anger – emotions you can easily attribute to a rhyme or reason – jealousy is a “gut reaction in your emotional/evaluative system” that can fester long before you even realise it’s there, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers In Psychology.
No one sets out to be envious. It just sort of happens. You might not always know the cause of or be able to rationalize the envy, but one thing’s for sure – jealousy is not a positive emotion, and the ways your jealousy can sabotage your own happiness are striking.
Jealousy can make you feel insecure in your relationship.
The more you find yourself wanting, the more you subject yourself to the comparison of other people who have whatever it is you covet.
When you aren’t satisfied with what you already own, when you aren’t appreciative of the people in your life, or are constantly searching for the latest and greatest, these fantastical images of a life someone else is living can result in comparison, which will eventually translate into self-criticism, self-doubt, and insecurity. This can especially become volatile when these emotions come through in romantic relationships.
“Jealousy is an indication of an insecurity in a relationship – sometimes we don’t feel ‘good enough,'” therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness, Jor-El Caraballo told INSIDER. “If you continue to let jealousy run your relationship it’s likely it will only exacerbate those feelings of insecurity, chipping away at your self-esteem even more over time. This can make the jealousy worsen over time and deteriorate your own confidence in your ability to be a balanced partner.”
You’re never satisfied with who you are, or what you have.
At the heart of it, jealousy sparks from desire, a deep-rooted yearning to be more, or have more. But if you’re constantly fixated on the upgrade, on the promotion, on the weight loss, and lose sight of the here and now, it becomes almost impossible to feel 100% satisfied with who you are, and what you already have.
“If not properly worked through, [jealousy] becomes a recipe for self-criticism, disapproval, and negation,” said Michael Alcee, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Tarrytown, New York. “It becomes a back-door way of saying that you aren’t worthy as you are, and if only, you had or did or were this other thing would you be complete.”
Jealousy can spiral into perfectionism, which can be equally as unhealthy.
“Jealousy can spur the natural human desire for perfection and omnipotence, wanting to be and have it all,” Alcee added. “Lovely in theory, in practice, this becomes nearly impossible to navigate without distortions.”
It can be a difficult concept for some to grasp, but Alcee explained that human beings do have limitations and constraints, and there is no one-size-fits-all definition of what it is to be perfect.
“It is the story of the Garden again, where we all become jealous of that which isn’t meant for us and want to know more about why.”
You end up searching for validation in others.
At the end of the day, your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters. The little green monster on your shoulder, however, will tell you otherwise.
“Jealousy tries to convince that if only our partner or friend would validate this or not do that, we will be free from the pain of what we feel we lack, the loss of something which we never comfortably had and so wished for, and from our very human tendency to want it all,” Alcee told INSIDER.
Jealousy can result in control issues.
When jealousy is present in relationships, or friendships, someone with jealous tendencies has a photo drawn up in their mind of what the other person should be, how they should act, and respond to others. When these fantastical expectations prove otherwise in real life, jealousy can morph into a very real control issue.
“People don’t change because you want them to. You can’t control factors in other’s lives that they can’t control for in their own lives,” behavioural scientist, relationship coach, and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method: Breakup Recovery, Clarissa Silva explained. “Similarly, you can’t try to control factors in other people’s lives because you can’t control yours.”
Jealousy makes you selfish, and that can be difficult to deal with from a partner’s perspective.
“If someone allows jealousy to take control and rule their actions, they become too selfish,” Jayne Kinsman told INSIDER. “When someone constantly prioritises their own needs over the needs of others, this wears on the relationship.”
When this dynamic occurs, the licensed marriage and family therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University said, both romantic partners, as well as friends or family members, can feel like they have to sacrifice a lot of their own happiness for the sake of their partner’s stability.
“It can absolutely ruin relationships.”
Jealousy could negatively affect your performance at work.
Jealousy can impact work relationships in the same way it can interfere with the relationship you have with a romantic partner. Jayne Kinsman said this is especially relevant in workplaces that depend on collaboration.
“If someone is too focused on a fear of limited resources, this shuts down collaboration and creates competition instead,” the licensed marriage and family therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University told INSIDER. “For example, if someone is jealous that another person is getting the boss’s praise, they will be less able to have the open and generous energy required in collaboration.”
Jealousy can push away the ones you love most.
Oftentimes, jealousy stems from irrational thoughts and predictions about the future, aka events or scenarios that have yet to happen – if they end up happening at all. This kind of paranoia can be taxing, specifically on loved ones who get to bulk of it.
“When we are jealous, we behave in unloving and controlling ways, perhaps blaming, getting angry, accusing, people-pleasing or withdrawing,” Margaret Paul, PhD told INSIDER. “All these controlling behaviours push others away.”
Jealousy prevents you from being a more mindful person.
Jealousy is a hyper-focus on the future, of what’s to come, preventing us from living in the here and now.
“We are worried about our future without the person or possession we are convinced we need and are thinking about what we have done in the past, that may have caused this perceived loss,” Opert Love & Relationship Coach, Jessica Elizabeth explained. “Fear of the future and regret of the past, leave little room for happiness.”
Jealousy prevents us from being able to self-love.
And the most heartbreaking, most eye-opening fact about jealousy, is that the green-eyed monster makes it their personal business to prevent ourselves from feeling and expressing self-love.
“The feeling of jealousy is letting us know that we are abandoning ourselves – telling ourselves lies and judging ourselves – the opposite of self-love,” Paul said. “Any forms of self-abandonment make us feel unlovable and worthless.”
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