by Kassandra Lamb
This post is part of the 2017 Beauty of a Woman Blogfest, sponsored by the wonderful August McLaughlin. Please go to her site to see the other great posts in this wonderful event—some are funny, some are serious, all are entertaining and informative.
Physical beauty has little to do with attractiveness for me. I’m much more focused on inner beauty. And inner beauty is emotional (and is reflected in the person’s body language). Is the person warm and kind and seems comfortable in their own skin, or are they tense and frowning?
As a psychologist, I am intimately acquainted with emotions. And I know that almost all of them have some value.
Fear tells us when our safety or our ability to get our needs met is being threatened. Anger gives us the courage to stand and fight against such threats. Joy, love and excitement tell us that our needs are currently being met, encouraging us to seek similar situations to those currently happening.
Even guilt and shame serve a purpose by providing a moral compass for our behavior.
But jealousy? I’m sorry, it’s just ugly and has no socially redeeming value.
Recently I’ve had two friends complain about jealousy. One, a male, said, “Why are women so conniving and competitive and jealous?” The other, a girlfriend, simply said, “Why are men so jealous?”
Their comments inspired this post for BOAW. Because honestly, I haven’t personally found women all that jealous or competitive or conniving.
Perhaps that’s because I’m not particularly physically beautiful. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t break mirrors. I’m a reasonably attractive woman, but I’m no beauty.
I’ve also rarely encountered jealousy in men. As I think about the issue, I’m concluding that this is because I tend to hang out with fairly confident people.
Jealousy is not a gender-specific trait. It has absolutely nothing to do with being male or female. Rather it has a lot to do with being insecure!
One avenue that insecure people may take is to put down, compete with, and feel jealousy or envy (jealousy’s kissing cousin) toward those they perceive as better than themselves. (See my recent post on healthy vs. unhealthy competitiveness.)
This is incredibly self-defeating, a total waste of psychic (and sometimes physical) energy.
But wait, let me break down jealousy a bit more. It actually has two emotional components—fear and anger.
We feel jealous when we fear that someone is threatening our ability to get our needs met. We then experience anger regarding this threat.
If we want to be mentally sane individuals, our first task when we feel jealous is to assess if the threat is real. Is there a REAL risk that someone might steal away the affections of someone important to us?
Jealousy is only a “helpful” emotion if it is truly warning us of an actual threat. If it is mainly our own insecurity talking, we need to deal with that within ourselves. We need to work on improving our own self-esteem so that we do not feel so easily threatened.
Once we’ve determined that the threat seems to be real, we need to assess where we can legitimately aim our anger about that threat. Should we direct it at the person important to us? Is he or she ACTUALLY showing an interest in someone else? Or is that someone else ACTUALLY attempting to steal his/her affections?
Let me give you two examples from my own life. I don’t always get it right, but these two times, I did.
In my early twenties, I dated a guy who had a nasty habit. He had to comment on the attractiveness of every female who crossed his path. This behavior didn’t surface until we were supposedly dating exclusively.
More and more frequently, he would make references to the attractiveness of women passing by on the street, in very personal terms. “Hmm, I wouldn’t mind coming home to her” was one of his milder comments.
Of course these comments hurt. They made me feel jealous, scared that he would someday find one of these women preferable to me.
It all came to a head one day when a woman passing by, who happened to be a bit on the plain side, prompted him to comment that he wouldn’t “f**k” her unless he could put a bag over her head. This brought home to me the absurdity of his behavior. This woman was oblivious to his presence, so it certainly wasn’t her fault that he was commenting on her attractiveness or lack thereof.
HE was the problem. HE deserved my wrath, not the women he ogled on a regular basis. So I dumped him.
My husband and I had been married just a few years when he told me about a woman at work who was going through a rough divorce. “Why do women confide in me about this stuff?” he asked.
“Because you’re a nice guy, and a good listener,” I replied.
A few weeks later, he came home from work more than a little agitated. He reported that this woman (we’ll call her Jezebel 😉 ) had asked him if he was, quote, “getting enough,” and did he want to go out for a “nooner.”
My sweet husband was concerned that Jezebel was fragile due to her recent divorce. He wanted my advice on how to gently let her know that while he was willing to listen to her woes, he wasn’t interested in having an affair with her.
Can you imagine the array of feelings I was experiencing? I quickly attempted to evaluate the situation. One, I figured if he was telling me about all this, then he wasn’t the least bit tempted by this woman.
So I had no reason to be afraid, and, two, no way did he deserve my anger.
This is the most common mistake people make with jealousy. They direct the anger over the threat toward their loved one, rather than toward the one who is actually presenting the threat. Which can all too often lead to the very thing they’re afraid of, a disruption in that important relationship.
Once I was clear that my anger should be directed at Jezebel, for daring to step into my territory and try to take my man, I had to decide what to do with that anger. First, I put my therapist hat on and responded to my husband’s desire to be a nice guy. I suggested several possible approaches he could use to back her off gently.
“And if none of those things work,” I then said, “you can tell her that if she doesn’t leave you alone, your wife will come down to the office and rip her eyes out!”
My husband gave me a very startled look. “The first few suggestions were the therapist talking,” I said. “Now your wife is talking. Tell her to find her own man. You’re taken!”
I felt much better after that. 🙂
Getting back to more recent events, my male friend’s relationship ended over his girlfriend’s jealousy. She freaked out because she saw another woman as her competition (even though he wasn’t interested in that woman) and she put him in a damned-if-he-did-damned-if-he-didn’t position. So he decided to opt out of the relationship, and I couldn’t blame him.
But I did try to set him straight about the gender thing.
What are your thoughts? Have you seen more jealousy in men or in women? How have you dealt with the fear and anger of jealousy?
To read some other wonderful posts about the Beauty of a Woman, click over to August’s site and see the list of funny, entertaining, interesting, serious posts.
Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.
We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.
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Barb TaubMarch 6, 2017 at 7:13 am
“My husband gave me a very startled look. “The first few suggestions were the therapist talking,” I said. “Now your wife is talking. ” Okay, I totally spit out coffee at that one.
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 11:15 am
LOL One of those conversations that was deadly serious at the time, but is so much fun to retell!
Jenny HansenMarch 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm
That was one of my favorite lines too, Barb! Go, Kass. 🙂
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 10:28 pm
🙂 Thanks, Jenny! It was a righteous moment.
The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VI! - Girl Boner®March 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm
[…] Kassandra Lamb: Inner Beauty vs. the Ugliest of Emotions […]
LauraMarch 6, 2017 at 12:29 pm
This is such an important topic and not well understood. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been doing a lot of reading about insecure attachment (sis is a psychotherapist) and it resonates.
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm
Glad you got something from the post, Laura! Insecure attachment and jealousy often go hand in hand, unfortunately.
Jennifer RedmondMarch 6, 2017 at 1:03 pm
This makes me aware of why I dealt with so much jealousy in others as a young woman–I was attracting insecure people! Great post.
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 1:29 pm
I saw a lot more jealousy around me too, when I was younger. I was never the jealous type but I was insecure and therefore, attracted insecure people. Much happier with where I am now, even if I’m not as skinny as I was back then. 😉
Shan Jeniah BurtonMarch 6, 2017 at 1:11 pm
I love the way you handled your husband’s situation (that came out a little wrong, but I’m a little naughty, so I’m leaving it that way). I think giving him solid advice, followed by the fierce certainty that his woman would fight for him in a primal way, was a perfect delivery of the message! =)
I tend to look, with men and women alike, at eyes and smiles. If someone’s smiles don’t glow through their eyes, I don’t see that as attractive. I’m very oriented toward emotions, and I want honest ones.
I’m happy to say that my marriage is relatively free of jealousy. My Accomplice comes home to me every night, and I strive to be a person he finds it rewarding to come home to. When I hear about marriages where there is no trust and rampant jealousy, I find it sad and foreign.
This line really spoke to me (and made me think of a certain middle-of-the-night Tweeter whose insecurities seem to ooze through every word and action):
Jealousy is not a gender-specific trait. It has absolutely nothing to do with being male or female. Rather it has a lot to do with being insecure!
If I couldn’t trust my Accomplice, I wouldn’t be with him – but then, I’m secure enough in who I am that I could part from him and not feel as though I’m a failure unworthy of love.
As for the gender issue – I haven’t noticed one gender or the other being more jealous. I do think jealousy is often expressed or acted upon differently by men and women, so that’s maybe what your male friend was noticing. It could be that male jealousies were such a familiar language he didn’t notice them, and female jealousy was like a foreign language he couldn’t help but notice, and couldn’t understand.
By the way, you have one of those smiles that resonates through the direct gaze of your eyes, and makes me want to have coffee with you, laugh with you, and hug you upon parting. =)
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 1:37 pm
Aww shucks, Shan! Maybe we’ll get to meet IRL one of these days, and have that coffee and that hug!
So much to unpack in this thoughtful comment. Yes, trust is the key, and I wanted my husband to know that I trusted him, but still didn’t like other women coming on to him, and indeed would fight for him, in a very “primal way” if need be.
And an excellent point about my male friend being confused about the differences in the ways men and women express jealousy. He also is a secure person who tends to hang out with secure friends, but when he is first dating a woman, he doesn’t know how secure she is until she does something like his latest girlfriend pulled. Therefore, he sees more women being jealous than men.
And I like the word “foreign” in this context. Jealousy always feels foreign to me, and I think it does to him as well, which is why it confuses him so.
Shan Jeniah BurtonMarch 7, 2017 at 2:27 pm
I’s love a RL meetup. One of the coolest things about online friendships is when they move beyond that.
We expect to be traveling further afield in the next few years, once the kids are a little older. We started out traveling the country, and want to go back to those roots. So it’s quite possible we can arrange something, down the road a bit. =)
Kassandra LambMarch 7, 2017 at 3:51 pm
Awesome! I’m in north Florida.
Liz GnazzoMarch 6, 2017 at 5:13 pm
Jealousy can make us do some crazy stuff. It is good to take a moment, take a few breaths, then figure out WHY you’re feeling what you are feeling…whether it be jealousy or another not-so-nice feeling, like anger. Thank you for encouraging people to take that step back and look at what is REALLY happening in their life to make them feel the way they are feeling.
I shared this with my friends and family, because I keep seeing many of them running with their anger/jealousy far too often, and feel they can benefit by following your advice in this wonderfully-written piece.
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 11:20 pm
Thank you, Liz, for that compliment! Wow!
I hope those you share it with find it helpful. I’m certainly not perfect at doing that step back, but I try. And the more we stop and think things through before reacting, the better our lives, and the world, will be.
K.B. OwenMarch 6, 2017 at 6:42 pm
Terrific post, Kass! I have no “therapist” hat to put on, so I would have jumped right to the “scratch her eyes out” part of the comment, LOL.
Jealousy is not a pretty trait, for sure. With a self-aware person, the internal feeling can be a useful tool. It usually has more to do with the person experiencing the emotion!
Jenny HansenMarch 6, 2017 at 6:59 pm
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 10:35 pm
Me too, Jenny!
I kind of had that therapist’s hat clamped on there, Kathy, clutching it hard with both hands. But I was really glad that I kept my cool (for once). It turned out to be the perfect combination of responses. I can still see, in my mind’s eye, the shocked look on his face. 😀
Aurora Jean AlexanderMarch 6, 2017 at 6:44 pm
This was a quite interesting read, I have to say. I was facing jealousy and envy often enough in my life, over and over and over again. And I have to say: I can’t draw a clear boarder on how many of them were men and how many women… I was bullied by both my entire life.
One of the best (and worst) situations I faced was a little while ago, when I found out my back then fiancé was with other women to the same time. Yes, it was traumatic, it drove me up the walls and made me sad… but at least I knew where to direct my anger. It wasn’t the women’s fault… they were as much victims as I was. It was his.
HE is out of my life – and I don’t regret that.
But two of the girls and I became really good friends! 🙂 Amazing, isn’t it?
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 10:38 pm
Hmm, cheating fiance vs. two good female friends. Sounds like you ended up with the better deal, Aurora, but so sorry you had to go through that pain.
August McLaughlinMarch 6, 2017 at 8:31 pm
Ever so insightful, as always! I often see jealousy as a sign of insecurity — partly based on the fact that I used to feel jealous of other women when I was ultra low on myself. As I’ve grown emotionally, I’ve outgrown the green eyes, too. 😉
I recently heard someone refer to it, in some cases, as a reflection of one’s value system. I’m still pondering that! 🙂 So interesting what you said about misdirecting it. And YAY, I’m so glad you were able to see that hurtful guy was the problem and not you!
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 11:00 pm
Ha, wish I could say I was incredibly astute back then. The “bag over her head” comment was made while walking back to the car after dinner, during which I had told him that it really bothered me when he commented on every woman he saw. Two-by-four upside the head time when he immediately did the same thing on the way home.
Hmm, it reflects one’s value system… Not sure what is meant by that, but it certainly reflects whether one values others’ feelings as being important, not just your own. And whether you value introspection and thinking before reacting based on raw emotion. We all feel just about every emotion at times; what’s important is how we chose to handle those emotions.
Okay, now you’ve got me pondering that too. I’ll let you know if I come up with any other insights. 🙂
rasjacobsonMarch 6, 2017 at 10:50 pm
I’ve never been a very jealous person – until recently. I just started dating a man and I am crazy about him. If anyone else tried to hone in on him, well…for the first time in my life, I understand that impulse to want to rip someone’s eyes out!
Kassandra LambMarch 6, 2017 at 11:26 pm
Oh, Renee, that is such a tough time (both exciting and scary), the early phases of a relationship, especially if you really like the person. No matter how secure you feel inside yourself, it’s still nerve-wracking because you don’t feel totally secure in the relationship yet. I’ll be praying that this works out for you, because you deserve all the happiness in the world!
Audrey KalmanMarch 7, 2017 at 1:45 am
Such an interesting take on a near-universal emotion. It’s not always easy to keep those raw emotions from driving us immediately to an action we’ll regret later. Thanks for sharing the story about interacting with your husband. I admire how you kept your cool and were able to communicate–even when the wife in you came out!
Kassandra LambMarch 7, 2017 at 1:57 am
Thanks, Audrey. It was one of my finer moments. 😉
Glad you found the post interesting.
Diana BeebeMarch 7, 2017 at 10:04 am
Fabulous post, Kassandra! Recently, I’ve seen this in a friend’s boyfriend–he gets “possessive” anytime she has interactions with other men (people who are co-workers and friends and not at all interested in crossing that line). I realized after reading this that it’s not about how much he trusts her, it’s about how insecure he is about himself. It makes me a little sad.
I think it’s much easier to be grateful for what I have and for the people who fill my days with joy.
Kassandra LambMarch 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm
Yes, Diana! I will choose gratitude for what I have over envy/jealousy about what others have any day of the week.
Hope you can find a discreet way to share your insight with your friend. Possessiveness and jealousy don’t usually change unless they are confronted and the person is willing to look at themselves. (And the problem usually gets worse, not better, over time.)
KimberlyMarch 7, 2017 at 7:14 pm
I have to say, I rarely encounter jealousy in a relationship situation anymore, and that may be because of my age and being married for 17 years…
I do, however feel it sometimes when it comes to seeing other people succeeding in similar businesses to where I am working. I feel a twinge and immediately reframe to get above that low vibration! Interesting piece – it made me think!
Kassandra LambMarch 7, 2017 at 10:02 pm
Glad you found it interesting, Kimberly. We all feel that little twinge at times. I certainly have. Good for you that you’re quick to reframe it.
Kitt CrescendoMarch 7, 2017 at 10:42 pm
I’ve never been much for jealousy.
I remember a “boyfriend” in middle school who thought volume of jealous feelings equated to how much I cared, partially probably because I had so many male friends and he was insecure. So he went out of his way to try to make me jealous. It didn’t work quite the way he wanted. I got irritated instead and broke up with him. Even then I didn’t like people trying to manipulate my emotions.
In high school I got my feelings hurt by a former classmate who told me that many of my female classmates used to hate me, but kissed my a$$ because they didn’t want my guy friends to hate them. I asked her what I’d done to cause that kind of animosity and she told me I’d done nothing wrong. They all hated me because I “had” all the guys. Her perception. Not the truth. They were my best friends. I had more in common with them.
I’m grateful every day that my hubby is not a jealous man, and he loves that I’m not, either.
Loved your post… and I thought your reaction to the woman’s inappropriate crossing of boundaries was classic!
Kassandra LambMarch 8, 2017 at 8:06 pm
Thanks, Kitt! Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m extremely grateful that my husband isn’t the jealous type. And personally I see no point in getting jealous. He will either stay loyal to me or he won’t, and my being/acting jealous won’t change that (except perhaps in a negative way).
And that kind of envy/getting jealous of/being threatened by someone because you perceive them as being better than you in some area or having more of something than you do — that never made much sense to me either. Again, wasted energy.
Kitt CrescendoMarch 8, 2017 at 10:36 pm
Right? Jealousy always seemed like such a destructive emotion.
Vinnie HansenMarch 8, 2017 at 12:18 am
I enjoyed the same part others did, the way you dealt with the situation with Jezebel. 🙂 Personally, though, my feelings run more like, “If a guy doesn’t want me, why would I fight for him, and if he does, there’s no reason to fight.” But maybe that’s too glib. Maybe our loved ones want to know or to feel we’d fight to keep them. What do you think?
Kassandra LambMarch 8, 2017 at 9:01 pm
I’m kind of with you, Vinnie. He’s either gonna stick around or he isn’t. But I don’t think it hurts, when a Jezebel comes along, to let him know we care enough to fend off intruders. 🙂
EuniceMarch 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm
I love that you call jealousy a useless emotion. As I read through your post, I have to question if jealousy is even real, or if it’s simply another label for fear. Thinking back on my own experiences (specifically my ex-husband, who was beyond insecure and constantly jealous of my spending time without him pretty much anywhere, including work), jealousy simply boils down to cold hard fear.
Fear of loss.
Fear of exclusion.
Fear of failure.
This forces me to reflect differently on this emotion. When I feel jealousy, what is the real root of my fears?
Thank you for this post!
Kassandra LambMarch 8, 2017 at 9:04 pm
Glad I’ve given you food for thought, Eunice! And maybe I should have said dangerous rather than useless. It is definitely based in fear, but with that anger part layered on too. The fear gnaws at us and the anger is corrosive to the relationship if it isn’t handled properly.
KM HuberMarch 8, 2017 at 9:18 pm
Remarkably informative post. Lots to think about. Jealousy, what it brings out in all of us. I, too, am contemplating it as a “reflection of one’s values.” My gut says there really is something to that….hm. Thanks for this thought-provoking article.
Kassandra LambMarch 8, 2017 at 9:42 pm
You’re welcome. Glad it has you reflecting. I’m off to read your post now.
Rhiannon Rhys-JonesMarch 10, 2017 at 11:54 pm
Holy hell I love your post! It is so true. I have not been a jealous person for a long time, but I remember back to when I was, and yes. I felt exactly the same way.
Kassandra LambMarch 11, 2017 at 11:22 pm
And I love that you loved it, Rhiannon. I, for one, am very glad to have left my insecure youth behind.
Lynn KelleyMarch 11, 2017 at 1:27 am
Very insightful post, Kass. Jealousy is very ugly, indeed!
Kassandra LambMarch 11, 2017 at 11:18 pm
Glad you enjoyed it, Lynn. Yup, ugly to the bone!