Jealousy

Young women's version of this guide
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Depressed teenage boyJealousy is often a misunderstood emotion. The feeling can creep up on you anywhere—for example when you are hanging out with your friends and you hear them talking about a new romantic relationship or their upcoming fun weekend plans. Jealousy can also pop up when you are around strangers and you make assumptions about how great their life is based on superficial things, such as the clothes they are wearing or the designer bag they are carrying. However, jealousy can also motivate a person to work, train or study harder.

What is jealousy?

Jealousy is an emotion. You may feel jealous when you want what someone else has. It may bring out your competitive nature but it can also lead to other emotions such as anger or sadness. Jealousy can also affect your behavior and your reactions. For example, jealousy can cause you to isolate yourself (avoid being around others) and it can also cause you to say hurtful things. Jealousy may lead to gossiping which can create barriers between people, prolong difficult emotions, and ultimately hurt others. In the worst-case scenario, it can cause some people to become physically aggressive or violent toward others.

Why do I feel jealous?

Many times your thoughts about a situation or a person can bring on emotions. If you think you are not good enough while at the same time you view others as better or “having it all” then you may feel jealous. Jealousy can also happen if you feel like you have not been given the same opportunities as someone else.

Is it OK to feel jealous?

It is normal to experience jealousy and it’s even more normal to experience it in a variety of ways. Jealousy happens and it’s OK to admit it. You are neither a terrible person nor the only person that has ever felt this way. Jealousy can motivate you to work harder at your goals, but it can also get in the way and hold you back from being happy.

I don’t like feeling jealous. How can I stop feeling this way?

Take a moment to self-reflect, which is a term that basically means “check yourself.”   If you are feeling jealous, think back to when you felt this way in the past or even better, stop and think in the moment about what is going on inside your mind and heart. Are you comparing yourself to another person? If so, remind yourself that everyone has their own timeline.  You will achieve great things on your own schedule, not someone else’s. If you are feeling jealous because you believe you are not being given the same opportunities: speak up. Don’t be afraid to talk to a family member, community leader, or teacher about your concerns. They might be able to give you suggestions on how to overcome your feelings, get more involved, and improve your situation.

A more advanced tactic than reflecting in the moment (which is hard and takes lots of practice) is to encourage yourself to look at the bigger picture. For example, during sports, ask yourself: “are you jealous of someone’s talent on the playing field?” Rather than allowing jealousy to put a wedge between you and someone you admire, try to get to know that person. You may gain a friend who has similar interests and he or she may help you improve your skills.

What if my girlfriend/boyfriend/friend is jealous?

Since it’s normal to feel jealous now and then, there’s a really good chance your girlfriend/boyfriend/friend has experienced this emotion too.  If you notice your partner or friend is acting jealous, (especially if you’re not sure why) be direct and say, ”You seem upset. Is something bothering you?” Before jealousy causes an argument, you should help clear the air by speaking up right away, rather than waiting. This is also a good way to find out why your partner or friend is feeling insecure. However, be mindful that a discussion can only be helpful when all participants feel calm and safe. If your girlfriend/boyfriend/friend becomes angry or threatening, avoid contact with that person and reach out to a trusted adult (such as a family member, health care provider, or counselor).

When a person experiences jealousy they usually feel suspicious, untrusting, and/or resentful. Place yourself in their shoes, and think about how you feel when you experience this emotion.   When both you and your girlfriend/boyfriend/friend are calm, talk about what makes you feel jealous. Again, it is normal to feel jealous once in a while but it should not take over your life. If you tend to feel jealous very often or it gets in the way with your ability to have a trusting relationship with others, you should talk to your primary care provider, parent/guardian, or another adult you feel close to. Together you can continue to explore ways to manage difficult feelings in a positive way.