Heather writes to help readers maintain a healthy lifestyle by addressing both external and internal stressors.
Jealousy is one of the most destructive emotions we can experience. There is no mistaking the feelings of anger, fear and longing when they crop up. And the effects damage ourselves as well as others.
As a woman in her 50s, I have plenty of opportunities every day to see and interact with younger women. And truthfully, I've battled jealousy toward them at times. But I've come to hate how that makes me feel.
Wouldn't it be great to be able to connect with younger women, respecting them, and ourselves enough to let everyone be who they are? It may be challenging at times, but we can have a mindset that encourages relationships instead of competition.
At it's root, jealousy stems from a fear of losing something vital to us, whether a relationship or a sense of our own worthiness. Something or someone threatens us, and our reaction is to try to protect what we have.
There are different situations that can cause jealous feelings to surface: in a dating or marriage relationship, at work, in friendships and families. But in each case the set of feelings of anxiety and resentment are similar.
When I've felt jealous of younger women, it has usually been in the context of my own insecurities. If I feel old and frumpy, it's easy for me to envy a young woman who seems hip and fashionable. If I notice some extra padding around my middle, I'll compare myself unfavorably to a flat-stomached 20-something nearby.
And there isn't a big leap from that point to getting worried that my husband will find one of those younger women more attractive. Then I get the compulsion to buy new clothes and join a gym. But if I do that, I'm giving in to faulty thinking.
The good news is that though we can't totally eliminate these emotions, we can learn to effectively deal with them so they have only a limited impact on our lives.
We can change our mindset to a more positive setting that will allow us to appreciate the uniqueness in others without anxiety.
The Positive Side Of Jealousy
- Jealousy can actually improve your relationships. Feeling the sense of threat can be a signal to spend some time strengthening your marriage, friendships or family bonds.
- Sharing with the spouse or friend who is directly involved can lead to a deeper level of intimacy in the relationship. You need to be thoughtful about how to approach the person and what to say (clear without being accusatory), and be willing to listen when it's their turn.
- Learning to articulate your feelings will help you be a better communicator in every area. You'll feel more confident and respect yourself more. And understanding your own thoughts better will probably lead you to believe the best about others. That is an attractive trait, no matter what your age.
Are You The Jealous Type?
When feelings of jealousy strike, they can seem overwhelming. But you don't have to give into them. Taking a few key steps can help you get unstuck and more confident.
1. Admit Your Feelings
Jealousy is a universal emotion that everyone has felt. And It's important to be honest with yourself in those times of struggle. Bringing an issue out into the open is vital to overcoming it.
Write about it. Share with a trusted friend or find another support system. I find just saying "I'm feeling jealous" can dispel some of the power the feelings have over me.
2. Discover The Cause Of Your Jealousy
The sooner you take ownership of the emotions, the better off you'll be. Try to figure out what thoughts and beliefs might be triggering your jealousy of younger women. Are you feeling regret about not pursuing a dream or accomplishing enough? Do you think you need to be more attractive to keep your husband?
What fears are driving you: fear of losing your mate or friends or an opportunity? Carefully consider how much of what you feel is based on the actions of others verses your own fears or insecurities.
If you're truthful, you'll probably find that the resentment you've been keeping against that younger woman doesn't have much to do with her. Admitting that is an important step to get you moving forward.
3. Take a Personal Inventory
The object of this isn't to find out what's wrong with you, but what's right. What do you like about yourself now? Think about the whole package you are, body, mind, personality, and soul. Make an actual list of your qualities, abilities and talents - none are too small to mention. Be your own cheerleader, and ask others to cheer you on, too.
4. Work On Your Own Life
If you do come across some aspect of yourself or your life that could use some improvement, go for it! Taking care of yourself isn't vain, and can actually help combat jealousy.
Instead of giving your energy to feeling bad or fearful about what you don't have, you can devote time to growing your own life. Keeping the focus on being the most you can be right now in your life will improve your overall mood and provide some of the contentment you're craving.
Letting Go of Jealousy
5. Get To Know Some Younger Women
It may sound counterproductive, but doing this has really worked in my life. The more you get to know a person, the more you see and appreciate them as an individual.
Every woman has strengths and weaknesses, dreams and struggles. Realizing how they are like you can ease some of the need for comparison, and might even lead to friendship.
6. Offer Up Your Life Experience To Younger Women
I've learned many things from older women in my life, from practical hints to spiritual advice. And I've had the chance to be a resource for younger women I know.
I thought I might feel more old in that kind of a role. On the contrary - I've felt needed, and that my experience can be very relevant to others today.
I can't feel or look 20 years old again. And, honestly, I really don't want to be. I've come to believe that I'm right where I need to be. Jealousy may try to creep in once in a while, but it never gets very far - I'm too glad to be myself these days!
Recommended Reading: The Self Confidence Workbook by Barbara Markway, PhD
Becoming aware of your jealous feelings opens the door to making positive changes in your life. This book will lead you to a deeper understanding, and acceptance of, yourself - the basis for true self confidence and love for others.