By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health; I’m Jeremy Godwin and every week I look at one aspect of better mental health and I share practical and straightforward advice that you can apply immediately to improve your wellbeing.
Today I’m talking about jealousy and how to manage those feelings for the sake of your mental health — so get comfortable, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health…
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the full transcript.
Watch Episode 46 of Better Mental Health on YouTube — in this latest episode I’m looking at the importance of rest and relaxation for your mental health.
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This podcast episode was originally released on 5 December, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 108, and thanks so much for joining me!
This week I’m talking about jealousy and I’ll be covering what jealousy is, why understanding it matters, and how to deal with jealousy in a healthy way.
Before we start I have two very quick things to cover. First, I mentioned in my newsletter that I’m working on a book (which will take some of the topics I’ve covered from the past and turn them into a practical set of workbook exercises you can use to improve and maintain your mental health); it’s due for release in the first half of 2022, so sign up to my free weekly newsletter at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/subscribe to stay up to date on what’s happening (and you’ll find the link in the episode description as well).
Secondly, you’ll notice that my episodes for the next few weeks will be a bit shorter and that’s because I am currently exhausted; I haven’t had any time off since the end of 2020 and I’ve hit a bit of a wall in terms of energy, so I’m looking at how to make things a bit easier for myself over the next month or two. That also means you’ll notice some minor changes to the way this podcast is edited, which shouldn’t have too big of an impact but if you notice that it seems a bit different then that’s why. I talked about the whole ‘being exhausted’ thing in my latest Better Mental Health video on YouTube, which is linked in the episode description, and if you like this show then please watch it and subscribe to my channel; that is the single easiest thing you can do to support my work so that I can continue to grow.
So, with all of that covered, let’s talk about jealousy!
There’s an old Pet Shop Boys song from the early 90’s called Jealousy (although, fun fact, it was actually written in 1982 so that makes me feel really old!); it goes…
“I’ve tried to see your point of view
But could not hear or see
For jealousy”Jealousy, Pet Shop Boys
Aside from being a good excuse to quote one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs, that feeling of being completely blinded by jealousy is, I’m quite sure, one that many of us have experienced at least once or twice in our lives — I know I have in the past!
Whether it’s jealousy in a romantic relationship or being envious of a friend, family member or colleague for some reason (or a lot of reasons), jealousy is one of the more nasty (and potentially harmful) emotions, in the sense that it can very quickly drive a wedge between you and the other person. Jealousy can be damaging to your self worth and your self esteem, not to mention the way it can tear relationships apart if left unaddressed… and so that’s why it’s something that needs to be confronted, processed and released for the sake of your mental health and wellbeing.
So let’s jump into some definitions and let’s talk about…
What is jealousy?
Jealousy is a feeling of envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions, or perceived advantages (and that comes from the Oxford Dictionary) or it’s about feeling or showing suspicion that your partner is possibly attracted to another person or is actually involved with someone else (or that another party is trying to entice your partner). Regardless of whether it’s romantic jealousy or the more-general feeling of envy towards another person and what they have, it’s a strong negative emotion based on feelings of suspicion, distrust and/or resentment… so, all-in-all, we’re talking about some pretty negative stuff!
To cover this topic today, which was requested by a listener, it means I need to tackle both definitions; being envious of other people and their circumstances, and then also being jealous of your partner (or someone you feel is trying to hit on your partner). That’s a bit of a challenge, to cover those two different meanings, but they’re closely related and so I’ll be talking generally and will then point out any specifics related just to one type or the other where necessary.
So the main thing I want to say about jealousy is that it isn’t generally a mental health condition, but an emotion… and as I said back in Episode 57, about emotions, and Episode 28, about feelings, all the things that we feel serve a purpose (yes, even the unpleasant ones); it’s up to us to work out what they are really trying to tell us rather than just responding to the emotion itself (and I’ll come back to that point in a bit). Now, there is one exception that I would like to point out to that “it’s an emotion not a disorder” thing and that is pathological jealousy (or morbid jealousy), which is where someone is obsessed with the idea that their partner is cheating on them, even if there is no proof of that. Usually I’m a big advocate of doing self-development work, but if you’re experiencing that type of pathological jealousy then I would recommend speaking with a therapist as a means of managing it (because it’s a bit more complicated than just a DIY job!).
OK, so continuing on from the general stuff I just covered in terms of jealousy, now let’s talk about…
Why does understanding jealousy matter?
And here’s why (and I’m about to state the obvious): because jealousy is harmful. Whether it’s based on actual concerns (like your partner being untrustworthy) or it stems from a place of unfounded fears is pretty-much irrelevant; it’s a destructive emotion that serves to focus you on the negative and, as I’ve said about 14 million times on this podcast, negativity attracts negativity. There are healthy ways to deal with jealousy (like seeking to understand where it comes from and communicating openly and honestly), and there are unhealthy ways (like keying someone’s car or turning yourself into a private investigator and following your partner day and night).
Regular listeners will be very aware that I have my three foundations of good mental health (do no harm, be kind and give more than you take) and those three things apply to how you treat others as well as how you treat yourself. Jealousy, envy, suspicion, resentment — whatever it looks and feels like, whatever the situation is, whatever you want to call it — it is harmful to you and it is harmful to the other person, either directly or indirectly (or both). It can tear relationships apart, whether romantic or platonic, and it can make you feel terrible about yourself.
So how do you manage it? Well, that’s a great question and that means it’s time for the how-to part of this episode; so, let’s talk about…
How to deal with jealousy in a healthy way
And my first point might seem really obvious but I’m going to say it anyway: confront it — and the reason why I say this first is that it can be easy to just dismiss jealousy, but often when you try to ignore things they just become louder and more insistent over time. Ignoring emotions (or, worse yet, burying them) is one of the most common ways we deal with the tough stuff that we don’t want to explore, but negative emotions have a tendency to keep on popping up for you time and time again until you finally confront them. And that brings me to my next point…
Process it — because you need to work through it to work through it. This is about seeking to understand where envious or jealous feelings are coming from, and it requires you to dig deep and be really honest with yourself about your feelings. If you feel envious towards a friend, family member, colleague or acquaintance, why? If they have some great news or good fortune to celebrate, what’s contributing to you feeling envy rather than being happy for them What’s happening inside you to contribute to that feeling? These are tough questions to ask yourself, because it’s about looking inward and being brutally honest about what is being triggered for you and what’s actually going on (because a lot of this stuff can stem from deep-seated fears and insecurities). It’s also about control (which I discussed in Episode 48); if we forget that all we can directly control is ourselves and what we choose to do and say, it can become easy to fall into the trap of trying to control people or situations that are out of our direct control (and I’ll talk more broadly about this in minute). In terms of processing these types of feelings and working through them, I’ve covered quite a few topics in the past that might be useful depending on the situation; I talked about triggers in Episode 91, worry in Episode 95, overthinking in Episode 4, fear in Episode 10 and insecurity in Episode 35 so you may find one (or all) of those to be helpful. I also covered baggage back in Episode 7 and I’m turning a condensed version of that into a video on my YouTube channel, Better Mental Health, in a few weeks, so subscribe (for free) to keep an eye out for that (the link is in the episode description or you can just visit my website, letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au, which is where you’ll also find full transcripts and audio for every episode I’ve ever released). OK so my next point is…
Talk about it — and this one is probably more specific to jealousy in a relationship (although it might also be helpful with a friend or family member if you think you can do it in a kind and objective way); the piece here is to have an honest conversation about what you’re experiencing and see if you can find ways with the other person to work through whatever you need to work through. You’ll notice I said ‘conversation’ and so what I mean here is an actual two-way discussion that is about solutions rather than blame, because pointing the finger or accusing is not a particularly constructive way to deal with issues (and I talked about that in Episode 88 about conflict)! OK, my next point is…
Compare yourself to yourself only — here’s the thing: comparison can play a big role in jealousy and envy, but the fact is that comparison is useless. You are unique; every single one of us is unique — so comparison is wasted energy because there is no comparison! We are each on our own unique journey and we have our own set of skills and personal attributes as part of that, so it’s pointless to compare yourself to another person as their life will never be identical to yours… and that’s the point of life; to live your life and be the best version of you that you can be. That’s why I don’t listen to other mental health podcasts or watch other mental health YouTubers; I know all the business reasons why I should probably do market research, but my approach is my approach and I prefer not to compare myself to what others are or are not doing. There will be some people who enjoy my work and others who think, “nope, it’s not for me” — and that’s OK! The point is that there’s plenty of variety to suit everybody’s tastes and, in general, comparing yourself with others is a completely useless waste of your time. Instead, focus on cultivating your own sense of self worth (which I covered in Episode 78) and self esteem (which I talked about in Episode 43). Alright, moving on; my next point is…
Set and maintain clear boundaries — and I talked about boundaries in Episode 53 (plus I’ve done a couple of YouTube videos on the subject), so I’ll be brief… be clear on what you need from any relationship (regardless of whether it’s a romantic, platonic or family relationship) and communicate that openly in order to reach agreements in a healthy way. Unless you say what you need, other people cannot read your mind and they may assume differently… so be crystal-clear, especially if something is a deal-breaker for you (like a partner cheating or a friend being inconsiderate). And a specific thing I want to mention here in terms of romantic relationships; every person is different and so please never just assume that their definition of a certain type of relationship is the same as yours… the only way to do that is to communicate, communicate, communicate. For example, some people will window shop (as in look at other people they find attractive) and that’s just a biological reaction rather than any kind of statement on whether or not they find you attractive; the issue is whether or not they step inside the store (as in, do they do anything beyond looking if that’s something that is outside of your agreed relationship boundaries). Which is probably a good time to remind you that not everyone chooses to practice monogamy, and it’s about finding what works for you, but that’s a conversation that needs to be had — and parameters agreed on — well before anything happens. Again, communicate! I’ve covered a few topics in the past that you might find helpful: relationships (Episode 38), trust (Episode 54), expectations (Episode 82), conflict (Episode 88) and doubt (Episode 70). Alright, that leads to my next point…
Focus on the present — and this is a general bit of advice that’s relevant to many different types of relationship; focus on today rather than letting your past dictate your future. For example, if you’ve been burnt by friends or partners before, it’s unfair on new people in your life if you bring that into those relationships (such as by keeping people at arm’s length emotionally or being overly suspicious). Work through what you need to and focus on taking things one day at a time (and I talked about being present in Episode 83, which might be helpful as well). OK, next…
Confront self doubt — because it will eat away at you if you let it! I just recently covered the topic of self doubt in Episode 104 and it’s about finding ways to let go of those fearful inner voices so that you can be kind to yourself and to others. There are a couple of other episodes that might be helpful as well; self respect (Episode 96) and acceptance (Episode 36).
And finally, if you’re having trouble working through feelings of jealousy or envy, or if you’re finding it tough to let it go, then talk with a professional so you can work through why and identify different approaches that may work for you.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to jealousy and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: You may experience jealousy or envy of others sometimes, and in small doses it’s not terribly unhealthy; it can be a sign that you’re emotionally invested in a relationship or that you’re striving for something better for yourself. But the issue comes when it morphs into unhealthy obsessions or where it causes damage to your relationships, because it can fuel fear and anger while eroding trust. Choose to take the time to understand where those feelings are coming from and find healthy ways to confront it, process it and release it, so that you can bring the best of yourself to any relationship you might be in.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:
“Jealousy is a form of hatred built upon insecurity.”Unknown
Alright… that’s nearly it for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about rest. I mentioned at the start of this episode that I recently released a video on my YouTube channel about the value of rest (and it’s linked in the episode description), and talking about that topic led me to do some research about the important role that rest and relaxation plays in better mental health… and I got so into the research that I decided it was a perfect topic to talk about here on the podcast! So next time I’ll be talking about what rest is (and what it isn’t), why quality rest matters, and how to rest and recharge in a healthy way.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 12th of December, 2021. And on Wednesday you’ll also find another brand-new episode of Better Mental Health landing on YouTube (so take a moment to subscribe to my channel using the link in the episode description) or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you can also join my free mailing list for my weekly newsletter (and my website is also linked in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on).
And, as always, find me on Instagram at @ltamentalhealth where I post extra content daily.
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time!
Let’s Talk About Mental Health is proudly produced by Reconnaissance Media, helping you find gratitude and meaning. For more information visit reconnaissancemedia.com
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