Behavioral Psychology

Managing Jealousy

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Some people will tell you that jealousy can be a good thing because it’s a motivating force. You see what someone else has, that you are lacking in this area, and you feel compelled to work until you have it too. Even if this is true it’s an attitude that takes all the joy out of self-actualization because it’s based on negative reinforcement. You are constantly trying to avoid the painful feeling caused by what you don’t have, and this is what propels you forward. It’s sort of like running up a hill because you’re being chased by a bear, as opposed to running up a hill because you genuinely enjoy running and want to challenge yourself to get to the top.

We are a goal focused culture, which makes most of us lose sight of the obvious fact that all of our lives occur in the present, not the future. So even if we achieve our goal, if this goal was based primarily on jealousy, feeling motivated to avoid the state of ‘have not’, most of our present moments will have been unhappy and unfulfilling.

We all have different natural traits and abilities, and from a self-actualization as well as a behavioral point of view it makes a lot more sense to focus on your own unique potentialities and decide to put all your energy into joyfully developing them than it does to compare yourself to some other situation where you find yourself lacking and then scurry to try to catch up. Both ways will probably get you results, but one will fill you with positivity and help you become who you really are while the other will fill you with negativity and make you at best a clone, at worst a bad copy.

The attitude of self-actualization that will get you the furthest while making you feel the best the whole time is one where you put 100% of your energy into what you have going on, not worrying at all about how far ahead or far behind others seem to be, not worrying about their natural traits or unfair advantages. As long as you are doing your very best with what you have been given you have no reason to be jealous of anyone. And every moment you spend mired in jealousy is a wasted moment where you could be actualizing your own potential.