Jealousy Is An Emotion, And Deserves Compassion. Action Is What Counts.Jealousy, at its core, stems from insecurity, low self esteem, and a feeling that good things are finite and fear there won't be enough for you.
I have suffered from low self esteem and insecurity since I was a kid. I was incredibly socially awkward and suffered from a mood disorder from the time I was very young. I never knew how to fit in, and due to my extreme sensitivity, I always felt like an outsider.
Compounding matters, I was a very beautiful little girl and received tons of positive reinforcement ba
Between my depression...mood swings (then untreated, back in the seventies, mental illness in kids wasn't recognized and I was labeled as difficult)...my social awkwardness and ugly duckling phase, and a narcissistic mother who would pit my sister and I against each other for her good graces, I believe the mold for my jealous nature became set.
Fast forward to my teen years...my braces came off, the ugly duckling became a swan, and attention for my beauty returned with a vengeance. After years of being invisible, I was now again showered with attention for my looks. It is any wonder that I came to value my outward appearance as paramount, and felt threatened by other attractive women who threatened to take my attention away?
I learned from a young age that love was a rationed commodity. Besides the impact of my sister and myself battling for my mother's favor, we both had to deal with the reality that my father would inevitably choose placating my mother over our emotional well being. I can't imagine a scenario that would lay a stronger foundation for future issues with jealousy!
Despite, the attention for my beauty, underneath I believed I was a unworthy person who burdened others with my emotions and difficulty. This led to my proclivity for choosing abusive men for my intimate relationships. My self esteem was so low from my past childhood and social isolation, it was no wonder I picked men whom I felt no one else would ever want. I felt no one else would have me. And, it appeased my jealousy. In a twisted way, it made me feel more secure that I would not be abandoned. After a childhood of isolation and loneliness, being with anyone felt less isolating then being alone.
Ultimately, this cycle was highly destructive and counter productive. Obviously, there is not a lot of happiness to be found in abusive relationships. Over the years, I sought treatment and counseling. I recognized the early dynamics that fed my insecurity and low self esteem. It took me years to end a unhealthy marriage that lasted until I was 39 with a former heroine addict.
Finally, at forty one I have come to a point where I am choosing healthier relationships and friendships and learning to like and have compassion for myself. I have ceased to identify my value solely on my looks. I have learned to view other women as sisters and friends instead of rivals.
But, it is never easy. I am now in a healthy relationship with a man for the first time in my life and I have to openly work to not let my jealousy and tendency for low self esteem to impact the relationship. Before I entered into this relationship, I believed I had conquered the jealousy dragon (in fairness to myself, I am far better with it then I was before). But, I realize I managed it through becoming numb and withdrawing from life. Not caring or becoming numb through the majority of my past relationship or risking failure or rejection in moving forward with my career and talents was an emotional bubble. I had experienced so much pain and loss, it became a survival strategy. Moving forward in a loving and healthy relationship has challenged me to look at the naked underbelly of my unresolved feelings. The feelings of unworthiness. The fear of losing something I care about and love.
I still experience these feelings, though they are much less then before. But, they still hurt. It has been a challenge to manage them without inflicting damage on my new relationship. Thus far, I believe I have been mostly successful. If I feel the jealousy/insecurity monster arising, I work to stay with the feelings and sit through them without feeding a storyline that will make them worse. I talk with my boyfriend about what triggers these feelings (not while I am in it!). I don't blame him for them, I just let him know where my struggles lie. I don't expect him to alter his behavior to placate me. It has been tough because there have been some situations that have arisen between us where I did need to draw boundaries if we were to move forward as serious partners. This tested all my strength and will. But, I found I was able to hold healthy boundaries without compromising my integrity and operating from a place of taking care of my own self.
He has been very loving to me. Since I have not brought these feelings to him in a way that berates or blames him (and does not try to control him), I think he can be supportive of the pain of my struggle rather then having to react to defend himself. I do not want to limit him or his life with controlling behavior, I want him to be free to experience life with and without me, so we enhance each other and not tear each other down. I truly do not care if he has female friends, and I don't care if he takes time for his private rejuvenation and interests. We have both chosen sexual exclusivity because we want to develop the intimacy between us and frankly, though I am working to improve, I am not Gandhi and don't really feel the need to test myself at that level. Fortunately, that is his preference as well.
Outside of my intimate relationship, I have successfully developed several good female and male friendships and healthier family relationships, so I am supported in many healthy ways. I am learning a new trade that feeds my talents and creativity, and life has never seemed to offer so many possibilities.
The only caveat is that I need to consistently work to be aware of my emotional triggers and strive to act from a place of love and non-reactivity to my insecurities. This process is never easy as the cause of jealousy stems from what I believe to be deep hurt and pain and sitting through it is about as much fun as a dental extraction. But, when the alternative is a non-existent intimate life and depression, it is clear there is no other way.
To all my fellow jealousy strugglers....have compassion for yourself. It is a painful emotion, and ultimately, it is how you ACT that defines your character. It is hard but it does NOT have to rule you.