You want it. Someone else has it. So, you can’t have it. Which only makes you want it more. You need to learn how to deal with jealousy and insecurity before you make a bad choice and try to get it.
The feeling is familiar to all of us. At the very least we can remember the creeping green of jealousy when we were kids. Why did she get the Malibu Barbie Playhouse for Christmas and I got books? Why does he get a car for his sixteenth birthday, and I still have to ride the school bus?
Dr. Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D. describes jealousy as “angry, agitated worry.” The insecurity underlying it stems from a yearning for certainty, worry about not having it, and anger at the threat you perceive.
You want to know that you are as valuable as the person who has what you want. You want to know that your partner won’t leave you for someone else. Perhaps you even hope another person’s partner will leave him/her for you.
At the root of this emotion that is the motive for so many dark headlines is the “grass-is-greener” effect. This can show up as romanticizing about someone who is unavailable. (Surely you and Ryan Reynolds are an ideal match, and you’re ready for your one-way flight to Hollywood.) It can also show up as fantasizing about a thing or a lifestyle that isn’t available to you.
Jealousy can be a coping strategy that you employ to keep from getting hurt. When insecurity starts to swell, jealousy can be a way of preempting a perceived threat. “If I make ‘this’ assumption, I won’t be as shocked and hurt when it becomes reality.”
But what are you supposed to do once you recognize the feeling? Knowing how to deal with jealousy and insecurity when you want something or someone you can’t have starts with recognizing those emotions.
The most important thing to remember about jealousy is that jealous feelings don’t equal jealous behaviors. The choice to act on those feelings is just that — a choice.
Here are some tips for how to deal with jealousy and insecurity when you want something or someone you can’t have.
- Accept and observe your thoughts and feelings.
You may feel your anger and anxiety heighten as you spend time observing your jealousy. But that mindful presence can help the feeling of jealousy weaken.
- Accept that your feelings are normal.
In the case of feeling attracted to a person who is unavailable (or if you are unavailable), acknowledge that your eye has wondered. Accept that you felt an attraction. The presence of a relationship doesn’t nullify the ability to feel attraction to someone you can’t have.
- Acknowledge the connection between unavailability and attractiveness.
Learning how to deal with jealousy and insecurity requires some fearless introspection. Ask yourself why you are so attracted to what is unavailable. Is it possible that you are emotionally unavailable and afraid of commitment? Is it possible that you don’t feel you have what it takes to have the things you covet in others’ lives?
- Learn to compartmentalize.
Jealousy and insecurity can take you on a long Thelma-and-Louise road trip if you let them. You wonder…and wander…and before you know it, you’ve lost the ability to discern between fantasy and reality.
Compartmentalizing is about reeling in your wandering thoughts. Don’t let yourself go deeper into your fantasies. Daydreaming about life without financial worries the night before the $1B Powerball draw is one thing. Spending your savings on tickets and quitting your job are another.
- Practice gratitude for what you have.
Jealousy and insecurity are handy labels for saying, “I’m not enough” and “I don’t have enough.” There is always going to be someone with more than you…and far, far more people with less than you. If your mind has space in any given moment for one thought only, why not choose to fill it with affirming gratitude for what you do have?
Feeling jealous is part of the human journey. Acting on jealousy is what ends up writing the tragic stories of human history.
Thoughts and feelings are only precursors to behavior. You may be surprised by some of the thoughts and feelings that show up at unexpected, unwelcomed times. But, in the same way that you can choose your behaviors, you can also choose the thoughts that direct them.
If you need help figuring out how to deal with jealousy and insecurity when you want something you can’t have, please reach out to us here.