A strong self-image quickly stifles that self-hating inner voice
By Patti Carmalt-Vener 09/01/2011
I’m only 15, but I’ve watched both my parents be very unhappy in their lives at times, and it seems like neither one of them has had much personal insight. I want to learn to understand myself at an early age. I think I’m a happy person, but it bothers me that I tend to get jealous very easily. If I see a boy I have a crush on talk to one of my friends or give another girl a long, lingering look, I can get real jealous. My two best friends are both beautiful and, even though I care deeply for both of them, I secretly can get upset and resentful. Cara is tall like a model with long, beautiful hair and when she walks in a room everyone notices her and only her. Anna is energetic, athletic, has a great personality and makes everybody laugh. I’m very proud of them and happy they’re my closest friends, but I feel like I’m dull in comparison. I’d never admit this to anybody, but sometimes I feel very threatened and see them as my rivals for the attention of certain boys and sometimes even teachers. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Why am I so jealous? ~Molly
Jealousy isn’t just one emotion but typically refers to a cluster of intense, negative feelings, thoughts and actions connected to the anticipated loss of a loved one’s affection or attention to a third party. Underlying these feelings is a perceived threat to the existence or quality of the desired relationship.
It’s important to understand the origins of your own personal jealousy, a process that a professional counselor can help you to explore. When you’re jealous, for instance, are you more angry, sad, betrayed or fearful? Do you feel lonely, insecure or anxious? Do you have childhood memories of experiencing similarly intense emotions, such as wanting the attention your parents or other family members were giving to your sibling?
You mentioned that you observed both of your parents as periodically unhappy. How did you feel during these times? Did you experience sadness or anger similar to your current feelings of jealousy?
These circumstances are important to explore, as they may be contributing to your easily aroused jealousy.
It’s clear that your jealousy is triggered in at least two major ways. The first is when the attention you desire from a certain person is perceived by you to be redirected to someone else. The second trigger stems from the self-judgment you’ve imposed on yourself that you’re not “good enough” or have somehow failed to lived up to the standards necessary to merit notice. This inner voice compares you mercilessly to your friend — the perceived rival — with you always coming out second-best. Due to a fear of being replaced, you destructively use comparison and competition, damaging self-esteem as well the quality of your relationships with your girlfriends.
I admire how you seek awareness at your age, and it will take just such consciousness to see how the unfavorable comparisons you’ve been making are harming your self-esteem. Counseling can help you gain clarity about your past — as well as your faulty core beliefs about yourself — and enable you to recover your personal power. When you change your self-view and distance yourself from that critical, fault-finding inner voice, the destructive emotional reactions and insecurities will lessen. Self-love doesn’t replace the desire for a mate, but it does stop the desperate search predicated on escape from a self-hating inner voice.
Work on building a strong, positive self-image which will help diminish your reactive side and dissolve false beliefs of inferiority. Understand and resurface subconscious feelings due to childhood traumas that may have also contributed to the problem. Honest self-communication about your faults and vulnerabilities is a healthy practice and can assist in establishing self-knowledge and trust, which is very different from self-accusatory behavior. If you can learn to love yourself for the unique individual that you are, the feelings of jealousy that have been so easily triggered will eventually disappear.
Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her Web site: patticarmalt-vener.com.