What Is Healthy Jealousy?

Three young woman sitting at a table taking a break from shopping
Three women compare their recent clothing purchases around a kitchen table. (Image: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images)

Jealousy is a normal human emotion, jut like love and anger. The problem with jealousy is often in the way that you deal with it. Jealousy is also a problem if it becomes such a part of your life that it overshadows everything else and destroys relationships or leads to behavior that can cause the loss of a job or fissures in social connections.

Features

Healthy jealousy can manifest itself in feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem. It is also normal for someone experiencing a healthy level of jealousy to be angry at the object of their jealousy, although they should be capable of keeping their anger under control. Finally, some people develop a "stiff upper lip" when experiencing jealousy, and insist that nothing is wrong; meanwhile, they may feel very confused internally.

Misconceptions

Jealousy does not have to be a purely negative emotion, although many times it is. Jealousy is natural; however, how you react to the emotion of jealousy is what determines whether the jealousy is healthy. Acting out in an aggressive manner, such as storming into the boss's office to protest the promotion of a coworker, is a negative reaction to jealousy, while using that unsettled feeling as motivation to volunteer to take on additional duties or further your education are positive reactions to jealousy.

Benefits

Healthy jealousy can encourage you to work harder or improve in some other way. If you are jealous of your neighbor's new car, for example, you may work harder to improve your own financial situation. If you have a healthy level of jealousy toward your partner, you may be more attentive in order to ensure your partner is not attracted to someone else. According to an article in "The Globe and Mail," jealousy, at its most basic level, promotes survival for children and fidelity in adults.

Prevention/Solution

While it is impossible to prevent feelings of jealousy, it is possible to control how you deal with them. When you notice feelings of jealousy, rather than ignore them, assess your feelings and make a decision about how you will act. Trying to ignore feelings of jealousy will likely result in a loss of control later.

Warning

Sometimes jealousy is not only unhealthy, but also dangerous. Feeling like you must make someone feel bad in order to make yourself feel better, trying to control someone else or threatening someone you are jealous of is never OK. These actions are most common in a romantic relationship, and should not be confused with true love. Arizona State University points out that these types of actions are signs of an unhealthy relationship.

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