Jealousy is a trickery-filled experience: Even though your emotions may feel targeted at someone else, there are painfully self-critical thoughts below that boiling surface.
So, is your jealousy due to someone else’s actions or even just their thoughts?
Or is this jealousy your own fault?
Does it have to be one or the other?
It could be that someone has “done you wrong” — betrayed you, deceived you.
Or maybe you just think they have…
What lies at the base of those thoughts is often similar, either way:
a critical inner voice.
What are these voices telling us?
“You’re not good enough,” that Inner Critic whispers.
From that one, simple-sounding thought — You’re not good enough — enormous ripples of pain can ooze forth.
Even if we cannot actually hear that thought clearly echoing in our minds — You’re not good enough — our brain responds to it anyway.
How does our brain respond?
By preparing us to defend our self-integrity, that is, our ability for being true to what we value and cherish.
Here’s an example:
- Friend A has a quietly lingering feeling that they “aren’t good enough.” They vaguely sense this feeling occasionally, but life is busy and even fun, so they manage to hardly ever hear that critical voice.
- Then Friend B announces that they’re changing social plans — Instead of going out with Friend A as originally scheduled, Friend B has decided they’re going out with Friend C. Friend B tells Friend A, “No hard feelings, it’s just how plans are working out.”
- Friend A’s critical voice — You’re not good enough — clamors loudly for attention.
But it’s far too painful to hear.
- So Friend A’s brain goes into High Gear to defend A’s self-integrity: Friend A values loyalty, kindness, and caring in a friendship. It sure doesn’t seem that Friend B values the same.
Just who IS this Friend B?
- Suddenly, Friend B looks not so much like a friend, after all. And suddenly, Friend A finds they cannot resist thoughts of comparison to Friend C. What makes Friend C more interesting to Friend B? Is there something about Friend A that’s not as good as Friend C?
- Other emotions start to bubble up in Friend A: envy, anger, sadness… it becomes a confusing, painful, even disorienting personal mess. And deep inside, fueling this growing fire, the critical inner voice whispers: You’re not good enough.
Reasons you may feel so jealous
It’s simple — if you feel or think you’re not-quite-as-good-as someone else, you might feel more insecure than usual. And our tolerance levels for our own insecurity — that is, how much we “can take” — can be quite different. Our example with Friends A, B, and C demonstrates this well.
Obsessive or Paranoid Thinking:
Some people genuinely have a very hard time putting their mind to rest about all kinds of things. If situations or relationships around them become a little uncertain, their minds go into over-drive to find the missing puzzle pieces. And some people experience a sense of persecution (sometimes it’s mild and other times it’s severe) throughout their lives, in all kinds of settings and relationships.
An example: Student A was at the top of his class in first semester, and the teacher frequently remarked out loud in class about how the student really knew his stuff. Then classes and other activities became overwhelming for Student A. When his grades started slipping, the teacher began directing those positive remarks toward Student B, who was now the new class leader. Now, instead of focusing on schoolwork, Student A’s mental wheels were constantly spinning, trying to figure out just what Student B was up to: Was B bringing gifts to the teacher? Were there after-class consultations going on? Why would the teacher suddenly turn against Student A like that?
You might experience jealousy because someone really has done something to betray you or treated you unjustly. It happens! In such cases, jealous thoughts or feelings might be a warning from your own innate center of self-preservation wisdom.
The next important question is:
What are you going to do about it?
Do a little Googling and you can find a lot of references to diminishing, taming, quieting, silencing, and combatting your “inner critic.” Related articles can be found in publications ranging from “Good Housekeeping” to “Psychology Today” to academic journals.
The influence of a Critical Inner Voice, or Inner Critic, is not an entirely new concept. About 100 years ago, Sigmund Freud introduced the idea of the Id, Ego, and Superego as the components of the human “psyche” (by the way, it’s important to know that there are not actual brain structures that are labeled “Id, Ego, and Superego”); in Freud’s structural model, the Superego keeps a handle on the Id and Ego, staying on top of impulses and exerting pressure to “behave.” Even though Freudian concepts have largely fallen to the roadside as newer psychology theories came along, his initial ideas still hold some weight in many people’s minds. Later, the concept of a critical inner voice started to take shape in more recent attempts to describe the psychology of humans, like Carl Jung’s analytical theory and Carl Roger’s more humanistic ideas about what makes a person think, feel, and behave as they do. Even more recently, the Inner Critic is an essential piece of the puzzle for psychologists and therapists who use Anthetic therapy to help their clients.