Jealousy – I didn’t realize until recently what an impact jealousy has had on my life. I’ve just always accepted it was something I attract because of who I am. I never thought about it as something I could stop attracting, or something I was continuing to both give and receive in my life because I never knew I could let go of it.
It’s followed me my whole life, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.
I’m not sure that makes sense; let me go further.
When I was born, my next oldest sister was four and a half years old. She had been the adored baby that entire time. When I came along, I knocked her off her throne. Of course, I didn’t know that she was jealous for a long time. Somewhere along the line, it became clear to me. It has, despite being closer to her than any other sibling for most of my life, defined our relationship.
Recently I talked to her and made some reference about how my house is laid out. I said, “you know what I’m talking about,” assuming she’d been to my house and knew what I meant. When she replied that she’d never been to my house in the three and a half years I’ve owned it, I was a bit taken aback. But I stopped and thought about it, and she was right. Then she surprised me further by saying she was too jealous.
Here I am in my mid-fifties and my sister is still, admittedly, jealous of me.
That’s my normal.
I’m sure I give it off, too. But I’m ready to move on now that I’ve become aware of how much it’s impacted my life.
The problem with dysfunction is that you don’t know how dysfunctional you are when you’re inside of it. It’s nearly impossible to overcome while you’re in it.
In other words, someone else must make you aware or something has to happen to shake you out of it.
Luckily for me, the awareness of the jealousy in my life happened recently. Now that I see how dysfunctional it has been, I’m able to start moving past it. Of course, when you get clear on something like this, it doesn’t just cause mild realignments. It tends to blow up relationships that are steeped in it. This is what happened this week. A significant friendship that I knew I’d really outgrown, but hadn’t recognized the level of jealousy involved, blew up.
I’m good at keeping friends long past their expiration dates, but I’m not good at ending things gracefully. I think keeping them too long makes it harder to exit gently. As I start to see the dysfunction in them, I realize that it’s not really working for me any longer. Still, I am semi-entrenched in the dysfunction. I don’t realize just how affected I am. And then, suddenly, I hit the tipping point and it is game over. Usually, not very delicately.
Recognizing the dysfunction, whatever it is about, is the first step. I remember back in high school I dated a guy who I knew had a crush on me for years. I remember how jealous his ex-girlfriend was. Looking back now, I see that I recognized the jealousy; how could I not with the daggers she was throwing at me from across calculus class? I just had no idea what to do about it. Like I said, it was just part of what I accepted because I was who I was.
Strangely enough, that same gal approached me at our last class reunion and apologized for how horribly she treated me. I got over it long ago and neither of us even had much contact with the guy anymore. She was ready to move on from her dysfunction and she did it with grace.
Somehow, I’d like to learn from her how to let go of things, whether that’s an old emotion hanging me up or a friendship that I’ve outgrown that wreaks havoc in my life.
I’d also like to see us, as women, learn not to tear each other down with our jealousy.
We’re all in this together, after all, and it’s not a zero-sum game. I think we’ve been raised to compete with one another, especially for men. Sometimes we forget that we are stronger together. Having one another’s backs lifts us all up; fighting amongst ourselves keeps us weak.
I realize now, as a strong woman, other women feel threatened by me.
The perfect example of this was when I was in my mid-twenties and a friend started copying me. They say it’s the greatest form of flattery but, to me, it’s just trouble. First, she bought a leather jacket after I bought one. Then she bought a nearly identical car after I bought one. Then she slept with the man I had been sleeping with after asking me if it was okay. I told her it wasn’t.
Jealousy towards someone else, just because she has a bit more confidence than you or is willing to put herself out there for what she wants, is dysfunctional.
Taking your insecurities out on someone else is, well, just an insecure thing to do. Recognize that you are living in dysfunction. Extricating yourself from it might enable you to learn something from her that would be beneficial. Not only to you, but perhaps to her, and to the entire sisterhood.
Letting your weakness, insecurities, or whatever hang-ups are getting in your way interfere with what that strong woman in your life can teach you is irresponsible and short-sighted.
When a strong woman steps up to lead or offers an example of how to live a better life, don’t bring her down to your level. Let her bring you up to her level.
Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats. Jealousy will sink us all faster than any deeply ingrained societal dysfunction toward all women can. Standing strong together and lifting each other up will help our cause and join us in partnership. If a man is so weak as to leave one woman for another, especially if it’s just to indulge his ego temporarily, he’s not worth your time.
Be the strong woman you are meant to be. Learn to recognize when you are attracting jealousy and let it go instead. Offer to help other women in their growth instead of being threatened by them. Don’t let the situation go on unaddressed and festering until it blows up, leaving hurt feelings in its wake.
Even strong women sometimes act out of jealousy. We all need to help one another overcome this dysfunction that is eating at the core of our united strength.
Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (https://strongwomenthriving.com/), a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at email@example.com. Join our FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/womensurivingfinancialabuse