How to Overcome Jealousy in Life

Jealousy is a useless emotion.

But not only is it useless, it’s also destructive. Some have said that all wars start from jealousy.

Remember the legend of the Trojan War, portrayed in the movie Troy? Supposedly,  the great armies of Greece and Troy warred for ten years over Helen, a single beautiful woman.

How stupid right?

But jealousy also f*cks with us on a smaller scale — within ourselves. It tells us that we’re not good enough. That’s why we look at someone else and wish for what they have.

Ever felt that way? To me, when I get jealous — I feel like a loser.

This, despite reminding myself how destructive it is. I try so hard to stay away from it. And yet, it strikes from time to time.

There are things that can help though. From research and personal experience, here are my top tips on how to deal with jealousy. If you’ve ever struggled with it, hopefully these steps will help you too.

 

1. Acknowledge Jealousy

The first step to deal with an uncomfortable feeling is acceptance.

But just like how 80% of drivers claim to be better-than-average (which of course doesn’t make sense statistically), a lot of people might think they’re immune to jealousy.

Most of us aren’t though. Jealousy is a universal emotion. Heck, it’s so universal, you can even see it in animals. Ever petted a dog/cat other than your own — only to realize your “permanent” pet is giving you “the eye”?

Even wise ol’ Warren Buffett says:

“It is not greed that drives the world, but envy.”

So if you ever catch yourself feeling those burning envious feelings, say “I’m <your name here>, and I get jealous.”

But more crucially, also say: “But it’s okay to feel jealous. It’s only human. And here’s what I’m going to do about it.”

 

2. Talk to Yourself

If you want to get better at managing negative emotions like jealousy — you have to get very familiar with them. This might feel uncomfortably touchy-feely (especially for you macho men out there), but don’t brush them off, saying: “This is just me — I’m an angry person.”

Instead, we have to think about how we feel. And why.

In psychology speak, this is called “metacognition,” or thinking about thinking. Some psychologists use the same word to include “thinking about feelings,” which is what we’re gonna do here.

For example, whenever you feel like punching someone, it’s useful to take a deep breath, pause, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What emotions am I feeling now? Is it anger? Is it hurt? Is it jealousy?
  • What were the triggers that caused this emotion? Was I stalking someone’s “perfect” life on Instagram? Did someone say something mean to me? Did someone smile at my boyfriend?
  • What’s the real reason I feel so bad? Do I feel like a loser compared to my friends? Do I have a shitty job that I hate? Am I unsure that my boyfriend loves me?

Detach yourself from the situation, and imagine you’re a neutral third party observing from the outside. Like an invisible angel, watching yourself and taking notes — trying to figure out why you do certain things.

Examining yourself like this isn’t gonna give you answers immediately. But over time, it allows you to understand yourself better.

And opens you up to some of the other things we’re gonna talk about next.

 

Model sitting and thinking about life
“Hmmm… I wonder why I have so many Instagram followers?”

 

3. Practice the “100% Swap” Thought Experiment

The “100% swap” is the first practical tool we’re gonna discuss. You use it when you catch yourself saying things like:

  • “I wish I could be him. He has so much money.”
  • “I wish I could be her. She travels so much and her Instagram is so gorgeous.”
  • “I wish I could be like them. They have no problems.”

It’s the antidote to whenever you’re jealous of someone else’s life. And it goes like this… Ask yourself:

“If I could swap my life completely for his/hers, including not just the good stuff, but all the bad things — would I?”

And then you realize it. What we see externally about other people is just one part of their lives. What we see so beautifully portrayed on an Insta pic just tells you how they spend one hour of their entire week. But there’s a lot more beyond that.

Yet, we compare the best parts of other people’s lives to the most boring parts of ours. That’s why we feel like shit.

But when we rationally think of all the pain, suffering and trade-offs they have to make to get to their good moments — we realize we wouldn’t give up our own lives either.

You don’t want someone else’s life. You just like fantasizing about it.

 

4. Count Your Blessings

Jealousy comes from feelings of inadequacy. Remember, if we feel like we’re not enough — that’s when we start looking outside at other people.

The way to fix this isn’t to get everything you want. You already instinctively know that humans are never satisfied. The moment you buy a better phone than your iPhone 8 friend, you start looking for someone with an iPhone X to compare to. It’s human nature to constantly want to compare and get better.

But there’s another way. And here, I quote a great Greek OG:

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Socrates

So here’s a powerful exercise to do: every time you feel jealous, take out your phone and quickly note down three things you’re thankful for. Shift your focus away from the external, but look at what’s already good in your life. It could even be something really simple, like:

  • I’m thankful for my lunch today. It tasted good.
  • I’m thankful that my parents are still around, strong and healthy.
  • I’m thankful that I have a friend to hang out with.

Gratitude is such a powerful tool that lots of researchers have studied it and proven one thing: it just makes people happier.

Now I know this might sound like some unrealistic “Everything is perfect, just smile!” bullshit. But I’m not making light of difficult times we face in life.

Suffering is real — it’s part of the human experience. None of us have a choice in this.

But you have a choice in the way you look at life. Everything can seem like a miracle, or everything can seem like shit — your choice.

 

Coffee mug saying "Keep calm and drink coffee"
At worst, we can always be thankful for coffee

 

5. Reach out to the Object of Your Jealousy

“When you envy someone, you put a wall up between yourself and the things about that person you envy.

If they have a good job, there’s now a new wall between you and getting a good job. Why? Because you are programming yourself to dislike people who have good jobs.”
James Altucher

Sometimes I get jealous of other writers. “Why does he have so many followers? He doesn’t even write well.” “Why does she get shared so much? She’s not even smart.” It’s not fair. I put in a lot more time and effort — I should be king.

But of course, feeling like this is stupid. And the longer I stew in this feeling, the more toxic I become.

So here’s my secret for dealing with this: I reach out to him/her and humbly ask to learn from them. And then, maybe we become friends. And eventually, the jealousy falls away to become something better — like respect.

There are so many successful people out there who make me feel small. I could isolate them in a corner of my mind and list down everything negative about them: “Of course they make a lot of money. They use sexy people in advertisements. So low class. Bla bla bla.”

But no, I don’t want to be jealous of them any more. I want to learn from them. I want to be their friends.

Let’s all be friends.

 

6. Even If It’s VERY Uncomfortable

“Okay, that’s fine for work,” you say. “But I seriously hate the bitch who keeps talking to my boyfriend.”

I know — when it comes to matters of the heart, things get complicated.

Maybe because I’m naturally very empathetic (meaning I can feel myself in other people’s shoes quite easily), I find it very hard to dislike someone once I get to know them.

But remember that invisible wall between you and that person you’re jealous of? The feeling only gets worse if you build that barrier higher and higher — until it becomes a great wall of negative emotions. One that could threaten you and your partner’s relationship too.

(Remember — jealousy is toxic.)

If you open a door through that wall and reach out to the other side, there’s no guarantee you’ll like what you find there. But it’s going to be better for your feelings in the long run.

And if you do it with an open heart — maybe you’ll realize you actually have an ally, not an enemy. In this world of mistrust, it’s not isolation that will save us — it’s dialogue and empathy.

Even North Korea speaks to South Korea sometimes.

 

Soldier giving apple to kids

 

7. Talk It out — Get Support

Remember Point Number 2, where you analyse your feelings by yourself? Well think of this point as an extension of Point Number 2 — only this time you’ve got backup: a person who can respond.

Who we’re looking for here is someone who will listen and empathize with you. And then lend you some non-judgmental emotional support (plus a hug maybe?). He/she doesn’t even need to give you advice on how to solve your problems. If it’s jealousy — technically, there’s no external problem to solve anyway.

It’s great if your partner is who you turn to for this. But a sibling, relative or close friend could be your “jealousy-confessional” outlet too.

BTW — I don’t just mean jealousy in relationships here. If you’re jealous about how Nora keeps getting promoted every year, it’s good to talk it out with your husband too.

p.s. This is not an excuse for a bitching session — which only adds fuel to the fire and makes you feel worse.

 

8. Overcome Insecurity — Build Your Self-Esteem

Ever wish that you feel better about yourself? That you could love yourself more? Well, this final point is for you. Because when we love ourselves, we stop feeling so insecure. And we stop being so jealous of other people.

That’s why it’s so important to develop your self-esteem. It’s the mind’s defense against insecurity.

But how? Well, the first step is to surround yourself with positive people, who will help build you up. (Refer to previous point.)

The second step is to become good at things that are important to you.

This is crucial, so let’s dwell on this for a while. For example, let’s say that academic qualifications are important to you, and you wanna have an MBA. Progress towards this goal — every page you read, every assignment you complete, and every semester you pass — will help build you up.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t care about qualifications, but you really love cooking. Becoming a better cook, where you can feed your friends with delicious creations is gonna be your boost.

Within reason, whatever you choose doesn’t matter. What matters is you make that choice — decide what’s important to you; decide on your core values. And then make progress in that.

Loving yourself is the ultimate antidote for jealousy. Because then you realize that everything external you were looking for can actually be found within you.

 

Woman looking at rough sea

 

– – –

 

We are all travelers in this great river of life. Some of us are born into great prosperity, with powerful ships to cruise across life’s rough seas. Some of us are working people — with small boats that often break down — so we still have to paddle hard. While some of us have to swim naked against the tide, just to survive.

Someday I hope when I see someone in a bigger boat zoom past me, I hope I can be happy for him. Instead of looking at myself and cursing my own situation.

I wrote this not because I’ve overcome jealousy, and I’m some peaceful monk who’s calm in the storms of life. I wrote this because I sometimes get jealous too, and it disturbs the hell out of me.

How can I be stronger? How can I not let things affect me so easily? I keep trying.

Because maybe one day when I can be happy for him, I can be happy for me too.

 

– – –

 

Further Reading: Lifehacker, Positivity BlogPsychology Today.

I’m not a trained psychologist, so I welcome suggestions and corrections.

Pics from: Pexels, Pexels, Pexels, Pexels & Pexels.


Join more than 2,082 subscribers to receive free updates on living a better life.

I respect your privacy and will never spam you.

46 comments

  • Hey!
    Thank you so so much for your energy and time putting into this article. For me personally, my biggest tip for How to overcome jealousy is to read about it. Because your final opinion about this really uneasy and uncomfortable feeling will be “jealousy is shit”. Thanks to reading about it, I see and feel that is toxic and it is no longer current problem anymore

  • Thanks a lot! Maybe this is what I need right now. Hope I can stay positive and love myself more. 🙂

  • Great article 🙌 thanks for writing it! Very helpful and will be using it to help me 😂

  • Since the dawn of time, jealousy has been as prevalent an emotion as love. Biblically, jealousy is a common narrative, too. Think about Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam. Cain killed his younger brother in a jealous rage. When we become consumed with the pervading idea that we lack things, we slowly become blind to what we already have, and we become ungrateful for those gifts.
    Let’s stop to define jealousy, which is either resentment of someone enjoying success or advantage, or is the fear of losing something you feel is yours (rightly or wrongly) to someone else—your spouse, your best friend.
    “Maybe he’ll fall in love with his bubbly receptionist and leave me,” “She’s going to lunch with her ex-boyfriend, obviously she’s still attracted to him,” “He’ll come home and tell me he wants a divorce,” “Obviously she’ll get the promotion! She is such a brown noser…” Whatever movie we have created in our heads, we will always find people or situations to support our story. What is the story you tell yourself? Do you believe that you are unlovable and soon your partner will find you out? What is at the core of your jealous feelings?
    “Nothing can ruin a relationship faster than jealousy.”
    No one wants a jealous partner, sibling, colleague, or friend—and nobody enjoys feeling jealous or living out his or her jealousy with bizarre and hurtful behavior. Nothing can ruin a relationship faster than jealousy. The ever-pressing question is: How can we overcome it?
    Solution 1: COMMUNICATION. Be emotionally intelligent with yourself first and those that are important to you, because no one can read your mind. If you are feeling jealous, be open with yourself about your intentions. Do you feel more deserving to be in that new position at work? Do you have cause to think your partner is cheating? Have you been cheated on before? Very often we are unaware of what is going on subconsciously. It is up to you to find the root of your insecurity and then address it. Don’t hide what it is—it doesn’t have to be a deep secret that you carry.
    Solution 2: TRUST. Jealousy comes out of a lack of trust; lack of trust in the process of life, in your partner, in yourself. Lack of trust breeds insecurity, which creates jealousy; we stifle these feelings because they are uncomfortable. It’s a vicious circle, and as long as our thoughts and energy are clearly focused on what we could lose, that is exactly what will happen. This is the cold hard truth about jealousy: It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    “It’s a vicious circle, and as long as our thoughts and energy are clearly focused on what we could lose, that is exactly what will happen.”
    Solution 3: TAKE ACTION. It is paramount that we prevent ourselves from fixating on what we don’t have and rather shift our perspective to the fact that our desires can and are revealing themselves through our daily actions. The big question and hard truth is, “How are we spending our days?” What we desire should be a source of inspiration, which provides us with the power, motivation, and ability to work toward and manifest (no matter how big or small).
    If the green-eyed monster shows his face, remember that jealousy can be an extraordinarily powerful tool if we use it to propel ourselves to get what we most desire. Instead of being afflicted with envy, rather use this powerful energy of envy to help you work towards what will actually bring you more of what you desire and less of what you feel you lack.
    “Emotions are simply something we experience, but we do not have to become them.”
    Emotions are simply something we experience, but we do not have to become them. See the jealousy you feel as a signal that something in you warrants your awareness, bring it to your consciousness and use it to bring about positive change; be it in your relationships with yourself or those you hold dearest to you.
    You can connect to these videos in order to combat and fight these emotions.
    Video 1: http://adfoc.us/5489141
    Video 2: http://adfoc.us/54891476462068
    Video 3: http://adfoc.us/54891476462074

  • I’m really happy to find this articule it’s really practical and helpful….
    I say thank you and God bless you from the depth of my heart..

  • I’m definitely not the type of person who tells her life story in the comments of random blogs—but if I can possibly help someone realize they are not alone in this—mission accomplished!

    I shed a tear or 2 reading this…I was able to pin point where my feeling of inadequacy begin to stem from…when I was a very small child.

    By the time we reach our 30s, most memories began to blend together. The ones that stick out are either the super amazing or super traumatic. One of the things that popped into my head while reading this article was the fact that i can only remember 2 times in my entire life where my mom showed me any affection.
    2 times where I felt safe and loved. I never knew my father and my stepdad was extremely abusive…verbally, physically you name it. My mother chose to stay with him no matter how bad the abuse got.

    I began to use perfectionism as a way to hopefully garner any sort of attention and love. Make good grades, do exactly what is asked of you. Honestly, I thought it worked as I my textbook successes began to add up. The truth is, underneath it all I was suffering with jealousy, ego inflating, unnecessary competition with my friends…yes the ugly stuff I hate to admit.

    An incident happened today with a close friend, where I just couldn’t feel happy for her. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it bothers me that her reaching her goals somehow makes me feel less important, less inadequate, less special.

    This article was the first that I’ve came across that helps me begin to unpack the baggage of the past, and realize how insanely connected it is the the present. You may not be a licensed therapist, but you have a natural ability to connect-the -dots, offer insight most of us had never thought of and also be relatable and transparent. Don’t miss your calling! Lol

    Thank you for this

    • Hi Rose,

      Thank you so much for sharing. Really appreciate the brutal honesty. The first step to improvement is awareness. May we all find peace and contentment someday.

  • “We are all travelers in this great river of life. Some of us are born into great prosperity, with powerful ships to cruise across life’s rough seas. Some of us are working people — with small boats that often break down — so we still have to paddle hard. While some of us have to swim naked against the tide, just to survive. Someday I hope when I see someone in a bigger boat zoom past me, I hope I can be happy for him. Instead of looking at myself and cursing my own situation.”
    This is the kind of inspiration I really needed.

  • Excellent article. You make a great counsellor. Feel so much at ease after reading your article. You have been so open about the true feelings one can through. God bless you

  • Thanks you for these words. You’ve somehow managed to capture with words these feelings of anger that goes along with feeling jealous. But the way you cope with it, makes me calm and less jealous without even doing these excersises.

  • Hi Mr., I’m from the Philippines and I’m jealous of my best friend who had s*x with my present boyfriend. Although it happened before we started to like each other, I just couldn’t get it off my head before going to sleep. This jealousy is eating me and I can’t do anything about it. Now that I read your article it helped me a lot! Thank you for this! It made me went through a toxic emotion.

  • This article was so relevant to what I’m currently going through. I have always suffered from jealousy, ever since I was a little girl. When it comes down to it, it’s because I was bullied, lived in a chaotic household, and have always suffered from low self-esteem. Recently, since I relocated to one of the largest metropolitan cities in the U.S., this feeling of inadequacy has multiplied tenfold and has been a big issue in my relationship with an amazing and self-assured partner. I have had some of my darkest days, most heightened anxiety. I was always looking for the exterior reasons to blame but when it comes down to it, it really is a ‘me’ thing. While I know I need to do things proactively to make myself feel confident, it is a comfort to see an article that resonates and clearly shows that this is a universal human struggle and there is nothing ‘wrong’ or less about me! Thank you for your words, which were beautifully written.

    • Thanks for dropping by Joann,

      I think jealousy is inherent in all of us. My hope is we can all learn to cope with it and be comfortable knowing we’re not crazy ourselves. Please take care — sending you all my best wishes!

  • OMG!!! I’m only a girl that’s 13 years old but I still needed that guidance to boost up my emotions! You provided me with all the right advice that helped me get rid of my nasty jealousy on my brothers! I only have one question though, can I get your autograph? 🙂

  • It was indeed a great read. I desperately needed this dose! I hope it helps me get over with such toxic emotion. Thank you!

  • Just found this website and I’ve been reading a few articles for the past few days.

    I would say this is one of the best websites available out there for personal development, at least for myself. Keep up the good work and I hope I can meet you someday!

  • “Because maybe one day when I can be happy for him, I can be happy for me too.” – Aaron

    1. Waiting for the future.

    Telling yourself, “I’ll be happy when…” is one of the easiest unhappy habits to fall into. How you end the statement doesn’t really matter (it might be a promotion, more pay, or a new relationship) because it puts too much emphasis on circumstances, and improved circumstances don’t lead to happiness. Don’t spend your time waiting for something that’s proven to have no effect on your mood. Instead, focus on being happy right now, in the present moment, because there’s no guarantee of the future. – Travis Bradberry
    Reposted by Aaron

    Cheers bro. 🙂

  • Thanks for the article! In my experience, the trick is to see the humanity in all of us. I am allowed to be jealous and forgive myself, you are allowed to be jealous and forgive yourself, I and you are humans. If we see that much commonality, then we can begin to get out of the rut of jealousy.

    Also, if we can see past our jealousy, we can then manage our finances better without needing to keep up with the Joneses or to do retail therapy. 🙂

  • Thanks Aaron. Very well written and it really speaks to me.

    Your articles are getting better and better!

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *