The irrationality of jealousy; focusing on the wrong variable.


Ms X is looking at a reflection of herself in a mirror. She is wearing a white dress and a high heel. Ms Zee comes to stand right next to her, wearing the dark version of the same dress but there’s something about Zee’s dress that stands out and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the dress or makeup she is wearing. She’s literally beaming hysterically as she tells Ms X about how she’d been saving for this dress for the past 2 months; it’s for her daughter’s graduation. For Ms X, this would be her third trip to the store in one month.

What is it about Ms Zee that makes Ms X’s bowel churn so violently? We often think about materialistic things when we hear the word ‘jealousy’. I have the opinion that people are unlikely to be jealous merely about a person’s net income. However, what comes with that net income is the catch. Net income comes with status, recognition and sometimes a facade of success and love from those in contact with the bearer. However, satisfaction is an internal attribute, sometimes not easily ‘perceptible’.

  • A high net income does not guarantee a high net worth.
  • The fact that a person displays his assets does not mean there’s excess of it to display or that this person is financially stable.

Jealousy becomes increasingly irrational when you do not know the full picture and this could be in two ways; you do not know yourself or fail to admit certain circumstances in your life, or you do not completely know the story behind another person’s ‘success’. As to whether you fully know someone’s story or not, that is a variable you have minimum control over. But guess what, there’s YOU in the other equation- there’s something you can improve on; yourself.

Let’s backtrack to the previous question;

What is it about Ms Zee that makes Ms X’s bowel churn so violently?

Gratitude: I like the quotes ;

‘You are not rich until you have something that money can’t buy’

‘Money may not buy happiness; it can, however, rent it’.

Sometimes peace and joy just seems to manifest itself in the form of gratitude so let’s give Ms Zee the benefit of the doubt! Let’s say she is truly happy. But how does one find happiness in ‘poverty’? I believe the right question would be what is poverty? and who defines it? In Ms X’s eyes, maybe buying 10 clothes per month is fulfilling. For others, that might be number 50 on their priority list because they have found that their satisfaction comes from other things. For Ms Zee who might normally spend on food or other necessities, she chooses to ‘invest’ in this dress because her daughter makes it high on that priority list. Ms X is therefore comparing apples with oranges. Where does clothes fit on her priority list? Does she even know what is on her number 1-10? Because, without this knowledge or if she is choosing to ignore her priorities, another Ms or Mr would inflict the same emotional stress on her.

Confidence:

Check out my previous blog posts on confidence; confidence looks good on you and/or confidently self-aware or confidently proud! If you’ve ever been coerced into buying something online ‘without sleeping on it’, you’ll know that confidence is a powerful marketing tactic which has nothing to do with truth per se, but the belief or trust in a product. What Ms Zee might have shown was confidence in her identity.

Self- reflection:

When choosing to embark on the journey of self discovery, at any time 0, there is a lifetime full of self-discovery ahead. Yet, some have chosen to limit themselves only to what meets the eye, forgetting that like most things with an inner core, our identity lies not in the external. Alas, certainly not in a totally different person.

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