On Overcoming Jealousy

On Overcoming Jealousy | Positively Smitten

On Overcoming Jealousy | Positively Smitten

By Mariele Ventrice

There is a small ethnic group living in southwest China who refer to themselves as the Na. The Na don’t have a word for “jealousy.” According to some sociologists and anthropologists, they don’t even understand the concept.

The Na are fascinating people in many ways. Their social framework is primarily matriarchal, partners often do not live in the same household, and men and women may have as many partners as they wish in their lifetime without fearing social stigma.

I often think of the Na people and try to imagine a world in which jealousy doesn’t exist. It’s near impossible for me. Sometimes, I am consumed by envy.

I can proclaim with certainty that jealousy is a destructive and negative force. It yields an emotional state resembling hysteria and operates with a mind of its own, tearing through me in sharp waves, causing panic and pain.

Although romantic/sexual jealousy is perhaps the most potent manifestation, it doesn’t stop there. There is always someone who is more beautiful, more educated, more adventurous, more fun, more stable, fitter and richer. I struggle to understand why this causes me so much agony, when it is true for virtually everyone.

Worst of all, I feel inexplicably attached to jealousy, like it’s a part of myself of which I’m afraid to let go. Sometimes, I blame a consumerist society, in which we are taught to always search for something bigger and better—in which the goal is to attain rather than to be.

Other times I blame sexism, for when it is internalized, it creates the urge to seek approval from male “superiors.” When that approval is not obtained, jealousy runs rampant and reigns without restraint.

However, the emotion is certainly not exclusive to women, and it existed long before the advertising industry or fashion magazines. You only need to do a little reading to ascertain these truths. Othello comes to mind right away.

So how can I combat this omnipresent beast? How can anyone? It helps to remember that the Na do not have a word for jealousy. Perhaps it is a less intrinsic trait than we are inclined to think.

However, I believe the power to overcome jealousy lies ultimately within oneself. Regardless of the societal influences, the bottom line is that feel unworthy, am full of self-doubt, and, most significantly, am afraid.

Last summer, after an unpleasant break-up, I made an appointment with my therapist. I remember sitting in her office, a small but cozy room, sobbing madly. Just when it seemed like I would pull myself together, a sudden surge of panic overcame me. I could feel my eyes involuntarily widening before I’d start to cry again. Finally, I said, “I just keep thinking about him sleeping with other girls and it makes me feel terrible!”

My therapist’s reply was not the sympathetic coddling I expected.

“Well of course it does,” she said. “If you want to feel really horrible and jealous, you should try to envision that. It’s a fail-proof method.”

I laughed.

Somehow, during that session, I came to realize for the first time that I don’t have to be chained to my jealousy. Although sometimes it’s extremely difficult, I don’t have to obsess about things that flood me with envy. It’s okay to let them be. To let myself be. I’ve tried it and nothing bad has happened.

I’ve come to believe that my attachment to jealousy stems from fear that if I stop caring so much I will lose the people I love. In reality, feeling jealous does not make me or anyone else “care” more. In fact, the opposite is true. Jealousy gets in the way of our relationships and our ability to achieve our dreams. It is stagnating and obstructive.

It feels wonderful and liberating to let jealousy and fear drift away like the fleeting emotions that they are. If you can remember that negativity does not define you, you can let it slip away. I’ll admit, I haven’t perfected this art. Unlike the Na people, jealousy is a part of the cultural construction that surrounds me.

But occasionally, I take deep breaths and feel perfectly fine. I allow myself to simply be.

About Mariele: 

Mariele Ventrice is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied writing, literature, and publishing. She’s an eclectic 20-something with an array of interests, which include traveling, running, community service, grocery shopping, loud music, cheap wine, poetry, and tea. She currently calls Somerville, MA home.

5 Comments

  1. “There is always someone who is more beautiful, more educated, more adventurous, more fun, more stable, fitter and richer. I struggle to understand why this causes me so much agony, when it is true for virtually everyone.

    Worst of all, I feel inexplicably attached to jealousy, like it’s a part of myself of which I’m afraid to let go.”

    Yes, times a million. I love this article so much. I have a tendency to become inexplicably jealous of people, even if I don’t necessarily want what they’ve got. It’s almost a sick addiction, in a strange way.

    Amazing job on the piece! 🙂

  2. This is so encouraging to me because I, too, still struggle with jealousy sometimes (ok, often!). My mom reminds me of a quote that goes something like, “so much of our unhappiness is a result of comparing ourselves to others.” So true! Thanks for putting this yucky-feeling emotion into words for us.

  3. Melanie Ventrice March 27, 2013 at 9:25 am

    It has always been a mystery to me as to why so many of you beautiful, talented, ambitious, and all around “nearly perfect” young people have problems with jealousy or self-esteem, etc. Also, it is very striking that while those of us on the outside looking in see nothing but young people who “have it all” and “have it all together”, so many of you experience yourselves differently than how you are perceived. We often see this and/or hear about it with celebrities too. So…things are seldom what they seem. I wish everyone could experience themselves in the same way that their most ardent admirers do! I do think jealousy is more a western world phenomenon- I don’t know why. I admire the willingness of the author to make herself vulnerable and known through the writing of this article. I love that this magazine allows all of you to safely say what is on your hearts. Great job…all of you here at this magazine.

  4. Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad to know that this topic resonates with many!

  5. Mariele, I think this is so beautifully written. Your vulnerability and honesty makes this so relatable, and the message is so poignant. Thank you so much for sharing. This is a piece I will keep coming back to!

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