Decoding Jealousy :
The Emotion With A Bad Name

"You can’t feel jealous of no-one. You can get sad, you can get happy, or even angry, all by yourself. But jealousy – you can’t get jealous by yourself. You need an object. In other words, you need another person to remind you of what you’re lacking."

What defines jealousy? If you hit a google search on this emotion, it says “thoughts or feelings of insecurity. Fear and concern over relative lack of possessions or safety”. We might associate it with its closest friends – anger and disgust. But jealousy is more than a set of negative emotions, it’s a gateway to understand ourselves better.

Why do we get jealous of anyone? Look closer and it’s only the things that we want the most that's making us jealous. And that’s not wrong - it’s not wrong that someone else is required to make us realize what lacking in our lives.

An emotion with a bad name – jealousy, is not good or evil. The actions arising out of jealousy might be. The anger due to realization of “relative” lack of possessions can be used to take necessary steps for us to acquire what we like and not necessarily make us bitter with spite.

It’s only a relative emotion. You can’t feel jealous of no-one. You can get sad, you can get happy, or even angry, all by yourself. But jealousy – you can’t get jealous by yourself. You need an object. In other words, you need another person to remind you of what you’re lacking. Wait, not what you’re lacking, but what the other person’s having that you don’t. I might be completely happy with my 2-bedroom, one hatchback and one vacation-a-year life. Suddenly, I find myself around a colleague who lives in a 3-bedroom apartment with skyline views, drives an Audi and travels around the world twice a year and boom! All my happiness comes crashing down. It doesn’t matter how perfectly satisfied I was all this time, but instead, what could I have been ruined it all. Then I grow jealous, I work harder, I earn more, I save more, and I finally get to travel the world thrice in a year. I think I’m close to being happy now. Only that the same colleague has a 4-bedroom apartment now.

That’s a sad truth about jealousy. We’re going to carry it around with us. However old we grow, wherever we go. Every time. We are going to compare ourselves with someone better. We’re unsatisfied, and that’s fine because we will only look for better life. But being unsatisfied because someone else has something and we don’t will forever keep us craving for more.

It's a proximity emotion. We are rarely jealous of a superstar (speaking for the aam aadmi here). We don’t get jealous of Lady gaga carrying a Bottega bag. But if my neighbour is carrying one, I will be jealous. This throws light to how short-haul jealousy is. You are only jealous of what you think “could have been” because someone similar to you could do it. We are jealous of people who seem to possess similar means as us in daily life but are somehow doing much better than us. But what we lose sight of is how far even the closest person could be!

A superstar might be extremely rich, and we are sure we don’t know by how many millions or if they are going to declare bankruptcy. But do we know what’s in the accounts of my neighbour who I’m so jealous of? I believe most of us would say “I can guess”, but probably we can’t. We don’t know if that person just had a windfall gain, sold off their ancestral property, worked smarter, or just spent a million on a bag and is left with few thousands in their account. We don’t know and probably we will never really know what’s on their bank accounts. Dear friend, it makes sense to treat the neighbour as a super star too – bankrupt or multi-millionaire, you can adore their possessions. But as for you, you’re perfectly fine at where you are with what you have, based on the choices you’ve made.

Jealousy requires an audience – Simply put, it’s not you who is jealous. It’s you in the context of your surroundings that makes you jealous. Remove the people who revere a Bugatti, and you might not be jealous. You’re only jealous when YOUR friends and family recognized someone else’s possessions as superior.  You’re jealous of a couple in love when your friends regard being in a relationship highly and not when they believe being single is the coolest thing on earth. You’re jealous of a person who looks better than you because you believe society treats good looking people better. You’re jealous of someone driving a bigger car because you think an onlooker will respect him more than you.

The audience will always be there and will always be judging. Is the society right or wrong in doing so, I won’t comment. But are we right or wrong by basing our feelings on what a random stranger might feel? It’s for you to decide. How much do you want to impress others? The random person on a flight, the receptionist behind the counter, the waiter, the other kid’s parents – how much will you impress and till when?