We all have been through experiences when we felt that someone close to us suddenly cooled off, and kept their distance from us after hearing of a positive development in our lives. It's natural for human beings to covet happiness, and usually they assume that happiness can only be attained by the acquisition of certain blessings at definitive points in their lives. If they don't get what they want, they feel sad; but watching someone else get it makes them feel even worse about their siutation. As a result, they start feeling jealous of that person. This can happen to people of all ages.
For example, a child in school would love to have a new bike. Consequently, when he or she sees another child with a brand new one, he feels jealous and covetous. Older children or teenagers crave good grades, popularity and good looks in their academic life; a pretty, smart and popular girl might attract the negative feelings of the nerdy and introvert plain-janes in her class.
These scenarios continue into adulthood and, quite literally, throughout our lives. We must learn to identify jealous behavior and then learn how to handle the negative feelings of jealousy.
Let's take a look at the tell-tale signs of jealousy.
- The silence or pause that follows your announcement of success. The sincere friend or relative will start gushing happiness as soon as you inform them of your pay-raise, promotion, engagement, pregnancy, or new home acquisition. The jealous person will, however, pause in silence, and mumble a half-hearted congratulations, as they try to digest the news. It's difficult for them to feel happy for you while being gripped by the flames of jealousy.
- The negative aura that surrounds you when in the jealous person's company. The jealous person exudes such a negative energy towards the person they are jealous of, that the latter can literally feel very uneasy and tense around them, akin to "being guilty until proven innocent". The warmth and friendliness are suddenly gone.
- Breaking off eye contact, or all kinds of contact, for some time. After hearing your good news, the jealous relative or friend will shift his/her eyes away from you, either by looking down or away during the conversation, and not contact you too much after that. You see, their jealuos feelings make it difficult for them to look at you or talk to you - it pains them too much, because you have something they don't have. By looking at you or talking to you, that fact gets rubbed in, so they break off contact.
- Caustic or derisive remarks, or open antagonism. Some jealous people literally become very mean, and start openly putting you down before others. It's a counter-strategy to pull you down to their level. This hurtful behavior can really damage your relationship, unless you ignore it by focusing on the the reason behind it: jealousy.
For example, a friend who really wanted to get admission into her favorite Ivy League university got turned down, and she's sulking away, while you, whom she considers less gifted, get informed of acceptance into the very same school. Consequently, she might start making comments to others about how you got accepted despite not being smart enough, or how tough it will be for you when you study there, since you don't possess the caliber for it, and so on..
- Obssessive competitiveness or imitation. For some jealous people, it suffices to just brood and distance themselves from the person they are jealous of. For others, however, it's not sufficient to just feel jealous; they cannot rest until they see you lose your newly-acquired blessing, and get it for themselves instead!
They try to do that by immediately coming into a flurry of action: if it's a lovely outfit people liked on you, they rush out to buy it, no matter how many markets and stores they need to comb for it. If it's a glamorous new look or makeover that's getting you compliments from all, they rush to the salon to get the same look. If you are on to baby number 3, they'll start trying for another one of their own. If it's a dish you made that everyone loved at a dinner party, they'll immediately try out the recipe until they excel in it just as you do. Some jealous people do the imitation discreetly, while others couldn't be more obvious of the fact that they will leave no stone unturned in directing the attention, success, compliments and popularity away from you and towards them!
- Ill-willed sabotage. Notwithstanding the films showing the jealous girl intentionally spill her drink on the dress of the pageant winner, there are such jealous people who just might stoop this low in real life! Sulking, antagonizing, or competing is not enough for them - they go one step further by trying to sabotage what makes you successful.
The co-worker could do that by slandering you to your boss if they discover you're being considered for a promotion; the ex-best-friend could backbite about you to your new friend; the sister could wrongly complain about you so that she gets to go out with her friends while you stay in to do the chores, and so on.
Now that you know that a person is jealous of you, what do you do? The sulkiness, competition, imitation or slandering is bothering you. How do you handle all of this?
Ignore them. Yes, it IS easier said than done. But really, think about it! Do you want to ruin your composure, peace of mind and jovial mood by thinking about these jealous people? Why bother? Use your time, positive energy and talents for more productive pursuits, and you won't be able to do that until you learn to detach yourself by ignoring their shenanigans. They are not worth the sweat.
Return their bad behavior with good. Nothing extinguishes fire like water! Successful people don't just ignore malice - they take every opportunity to convert their foes into friends. The best way to do that - and the most difficult - is by doing good to such people as soon as the chance comes by.
So that co-worker who deliberately exposed your bluff and ruined your chances for a pay-raise last quarter, is sick? Visit her at the hospital with some flowers and wish her a quick recovery. Chances are your strained relationship with her will get better too, as a result.
Never stoop to their level! Don't fight fire with fire. If you start returning tit for tat, you are no better than they. Two negatives don't make a positive. Don't resort to revenge, no matter how tempted you might be. Some gossip-mongers might entice you to a cat-fight by saying, "Did you hear what [jealous person] said about you?". Ignore these attempts at war; others just want to be entertained at your expense. It will make the situation even worse if you returned the favours.
It's important to realize that each of us will get what is destined for us. Constantly keeping track of others' acquisitions and cribbing over what they have and why we don't have it, will only result in destroying our own peace of mind and personal happiness.
Be content with what you have and who you are. Work hard at doing what you love. Positive thoughts and sincerity for others lead to good health and high spirits!
Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes regularly for the Islamic Family Magazine, Hiba. She has also recently self-published her first book.