By Chris Simmons
Academics continued to debate whether jealousy is triggered by low self-esteem or low self-worth. I believe it’s a distinction without a difference.
Jealousy is – at its core – an identity issue. Let’s assume your spouse or significant other is friendly, attractive, charismatic, self-confident, and a gifted athlete. However, he is very sensitive to money issues, as he plays professional lacrosse — a sport where the salaries and financial rewards are poor. Now imagine the two of you are at a friend’s party. Since he is a rich entrepreneur, the affluence of the host or fellow party-goers could trigger a jealous bout.
In your beloved’s mind, his identity is tied, in part, to his ability to earn a good income. Despite his other blessings, he is insecure about this facet of his identity. This feeling may be further complicated by the human tendency to “mirror image” – that is, he may take his focus on the need for a good income and superimpose that belief on you. In doing so, this further fuels jealous feelings.
All identity issues are rooted in our emotions. As such, his negative feelings are best counteracted by de-emphasizing the importance of his current income. Don’t go “off message” by complimenting him on his athleticism, appearance, etc. – those aren’t the jealousy triggers. Instead, you could simply reassure him that it’s more important to you that you both pursue your passions rather than sell out for a well-paying but soul-killing job. Remind him that together you share a nice income and incredible jobs. Life could not be any better.
Regardless of whether the root cause of the jealousy is low self-esteem, little self-worth, or envy, tread lightly on their emotions. Be empathetic rather than sympathetic and most importantly; be absolutely sincere in diminishing the perceived importance of the “jealousy trigger.” If they doubt your message, you could inadvertently leave them worse off than when you started.