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How to Not Be Jealous of Others' Success

by Sheri Oz

Jealousy is a very uncomfortable feeling -- for you and others. However, according to a 2011 article in the journal “Human Communication,” jealousy is a normal human emotion experienced by people in all cultures. Yet, instead of being envious, you really do want to feel happy for your friend’s academic success, your brother’s financial security or your cousin’s contented married life. There are things you can do that can help you tame that green-eyed monster.

When You Admire the Other Person

A study published in 2012 in the journal “Motivation and Emotion” found that when you feel the other person’s success is well-deserved, your jealousy often serves to motivate you to do better. In this case, you can regard your envy as a positive emotion that inspires you to work harder and aim higher. If you feel you are underperforming, then turn your focus to your own behaviors rather than on the other person's achievements.

When the Other Person Seems Not to Deserve Success

If you feel other people’s successes are achieved by manipulation or because of unfair circumstances, you might find yourself wishing something bad would happen to strip them of their advantaged positions. The article in “Motivation and Emotion” refers to this as malicious envy. Letting malicious envy take hold can drain you of your motivation and make you bitter and resentful. To combat this, think about people you admire. These positive thoughts can change how you feel inside and allow you to focus again on the goals you want to achieve.

Think in Terms of Win-Win

Perhaps it seems that when other people have what you want, they win and you lose. However, in many cases, there might be enough success for everyone. Change your frame of reference from win-lose to win-win and think to yourself that if one person can succeed, so can others, including you. Focusing your thoughts and energies on what needs to be done to achieve your goals will leave you with less time to concern yourself with envy.

Do Something Paradoxical

People like positive feedback, and they also like the people who give them positive feedback. You can change the negative impact of your malicious envy by praising those you are jealous of, psychiatrist Judith Orloff said in her blog. Find something meaningful to compliment them on and see how that changes your interactions with them. You may even find that they offer you some help toward achieving your own goals.

About the Author

With an Master of Science in marital and family therapy, Sheri Oz ran a private clinical practice for almost 30 years. Based on her clinical work, she has published a book and many professional articles and book chapters. She has also traveled extensively around the world and has volunteered in her field in China and South Sudan.

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