How Jealousy Can Help With Self-Improvement

By Alison Bowen
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article (tl;dr) oooooh who wants to admit to being jealous?  It’s so unbecoming right? But, also a natural emotion, an emotion that women in business CAN use to help lift themselves to a better place. According to Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, envy is rooted in a sense of survival, but we try to battle it. Instead of battling the emotion, she suggests flipping the feeling back onto yourself.  If it’s a friend whose love life is suddenly fairy tale-worthy, or someone is crushing it in their career, think of your OWN goals. I know….easier said than done.

Chicago Tribune

You’re grinding away at your mediocre job, and your spouse gets a prestigious, well-paying position. Or a friend is excited about her new love, but your OKCupid dates flake out. Or your sibling buys a fabulous, new home you know you could never afford.

Jealousy may be your natural emotion in these situations, but that might not be a bad thing.

“When we see what someone else has, it gives us a chance to reflect on what we want,” said Lindsay Burke, creator of the LA-based LIFT Child and Family therapy.

Envy is rooted in a sense of survival, but we try to battle it.

“Battling it is what doesn’t work,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Flip the feeling back to yourself, Burke suggests. If it’s a friend whose love life is suddenly fairy tale-worthy, think of your own goals.

“Are you really missing something?” she said. “How much does having a partner weigh on their life balance, and on their quality of life?”

Arizona therapist Mike Gaziano says he asks his clients what would happen if they got what the other person has, and how would that change their life or define their happiness?

“Most of the time people look at you and say, ‘I don’t know. I just know that, if I had it, I would be happier,'” he said.

Sometimes it might not be as simple as coveting exactly what someone else has.

“We always pin jealousy on insecurity,” Saltz said. “Sometimes it is insecurity. But sometimes it’s that you hold important to you a certain value.”

You may value following the right steps with expectations of success, but then someone else gets rewarded. Life isn’t always going to turn out the way you think it should happen, and jealousy could “be sort of a flag to investigate what values you find key,” Saltz said.

Jealousy allows thoughts to revolve in your brain. Thinking over and over about what someone else has only amplifies the feeling, says Saltz.

“That mindset then becomes an obsessive,” added Gaziano.

Feeling green with envy doesn’t have to translate into action.

“Recognize that you don’t have to do something just because you feel it,” Saltz said.

Jealousy often masks a feeling of uncertainty, and you begin to question yourself: Will I ever have a relationship like that? Will my career ever stop stalling?

Jealousy brings a feeling of anxiety that good things might not be in store for you. Instead of feeling down, you should embrace the lesson.

“The reality is we can’t 100 percent control things,” she said.

It is important to communicate your feelings, but in the right way.

This is not the place for passive aggressive behavior. Instead of eye rolling at that celebratory cake, or making not-so-subtle comments about surprising success, try for a positive spin, Saltz suggested: “Good for you. I’m impressed. Tell me about the book. Wish I’d done it too.”

That type of reaction is authentic, she noted, “and authenticity builds actual intimacy with people.”

Jealousy tends to creep its way into a partnership in which one spouse stays at home, says Burke.

“The other person might be succeeding and getting a lot of recognition,” she said, while the stay-at-home parent might not be getting the same hurrahs for handling carpool.

Communicating to each other that both roles are supporting success can help in that situation.

Gaziano, who works with families at an addiction treatment center, says good communication can lead to a closer relationship, especially during a tough time.

“You don’t go in with the expectation that somehow, if I let my guard down, I’m going to get back what I want in that relationship,” he said.

Most importantly, take time to step back and honestly assess your own emotions. If you find yourself immersed in jealousy, use that situation as an opportunity for self-improvement.

“If we’re really wanting something ourselves, most of the time it’s something that we can attain,” Burke said. “We don’t need them to fail in order for us to succeed.”

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