Reader Request: Insecurity, Jealousy, and Closeness

Reader K e-mailed me with this question:

I’ve always dealt with insecurity issues and some of them go beyond body image into the range of general personality, so I understand that some of this is probably beyond the scope of what you’d write about for the blog. My brother-in-law has a somewhat-long-term girlfriend that makes me feel incredibly intimidated and insecure, but it’s not intentional on her part and the problem lies entirely with me. The fact that it’s my problem and is something I logically know I shouldn’t feel insecure over adds to me feeling frustrated and ashamed of myself, on top of feeling crappy and inadequate as a person. At the start of this year, I decided to work on feeling good about myself so that I can feel better as I go about my life and hopefully have a good relationship with whoever my BIL may marry on down the line. This has manifested itself in a few different ways and directions, one of which is the style angle (and thus, your blog).

My question is this: what does a person do when a source of insecurity/body issues comes from someone closer than celebrities, models, or even people you went to school with? On those occasions where all the positive thinking in the world doesn’t seem to help? Most of the time I’m good, but I still have moments where I feel horrible and can’t seem to shake myself out of it easily. In those moments, thinking positive thoughts about myself doesn’t work, trying to put myself in her shoes (maybe she’s insecure or intimidated by me in some fashion) doesn’t work, wearing a fabulous outfit doesn’t work, and genuine, unsolicited encouragement/compliments from others doesn’t work. Is it one of those cases where it boils down to just trying to keep on keeping on?

A secondary question/observation is that admitting to feeling insecure/jealous of someone else in any way seems to be very frowned-upon. While searching the internet for answers I’ve read different forum posts on this topic, from women feeling insecure of an in-law (usually mother or sister) or sometimes a sister or female cousin. Every time, there would be at least a handful of responses along the lines of: “You’re just jealous and childish and a bad person for feeling that way.” Even if there was no malicious intent stated and the original poster openly acknowledged that they knew feeling insecure/jealous is not a good thing and they wanted to work to fix it. Can there be any meaningful dialogue where these feelings are acknowledged as a legitimate issue for some people, without condoning/endorsing them as a good thing -or- shaming them into being too afraid of judgement to ask for advice to get past it and be happy and confident?

K is dealing with a tough situation. So many fraught emotions, so much stress, and no clear or easy path. I certainly don’t feel like I have a solid, foolproof answer, but here’s what I told her:

Try to remember that if you feel something, it is valid. Just the fact that you’re feeling it makes it so. People get jealous, insecure, and intimidated all the time! ALL THE TIME, I say! It’s completely natural! To shame people for feeling those things doesn’t make them any easier to cope with, and is often just a way for certain advice-givers to make themselves feel superior. I feel jealous myself, and although I try to identify the root of the emotion (which is often related to my own fears and insecurities), I don’t beat myself up for it. Try to give yourself some space and forgiveness around these feelings because loading shame on top of everything else is just going to make it all feel insurmountable.

The idea that has helped me the most when dealing with jealousy and insecurity is this: Often, feeling envious of someone stems from perceiving them to have something you wish you had yourself, or feel they don’t deserve. The fundamental flaw in this logic is that it rests upon the misconception that there is a limited amount of happiness and success in the world. (Or charisma, sex appeal, talent, beauty … any covetable trait.) Without realizing it, we decide that the person in question has it, and that makes it less likely or more difficult for us to get it ourselves. It’s not something most people actively ponder, but it’s at the root of a LOT of jealousy and insecurity. And once you see that and start to move past it, those feelings often loosen. You are an autonomous individual, and your own happiness and success is not contingent upon the actions of anyone but yourself. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s also liberating.

I also asked K to consider examining what it is, specifically, about this woman that makes her feel insecure. Does she have something you don’t? Is it something you want? Is it something that has been hard for you to get? Why? Has this always been the case? What can you do to take control of that part of your life? Alternately, does this woman remind you of some other person or relationship from your past? Is it possible that it’s not her so much as what she reminds you of?

Another tactic to consider: My mom once told me that there will be some people in your life who are just “difficult personalities.” And labeling them as such – internally, of course – can be really helpful. It may sound small-minded, but here’s why it’s potentially helpful: You interact with someone, you feel insecure, then you feel cruddy for feeling insecure, then you feel confused, and maybe hopeless. If you enter into your interactions with this person knowing ahead of time that she’s a “difficult personality,” you won’t beat yourself up if your emotions spin out of control. You can just say, “Oh yeah, she’s hard for me to handle. And that’s OK.” You don’t have to change yourself or her, just change how you view the situation and give both of you room to be yourselves.

Finally, if you feel there’s real friction on both sides, you could consider trying to broach the subject with the person causing these difficult feelings. She may be a permanent fixture in your life, so it would help to clear the air. If that’s not gonna happen, you could also consider talking about or even cultivating mutual interests. Do you both like shopping? Love a certain band or author? Or would you consider asking her to join you at an event or for a class? Having something specific in common might make some of the other stuff fall away. You can focus on the places you two overlap, and less on the places where you diverge.

Image source

Originally posted 2013-04-22 06:03:14.

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30 Responses to “Reader Request: Insecurity, Jealousy, and Closeness”

  1. LK

    I would say for K it makes a difference as to why this woman makes her feel insecure. Is BIL’s girlfriend unintentionally saying things that make K feel bad or is it how she looks? That is where I would start. Because if it’s how she looks then befriending the BIL girlfriend probably will not fix the problem. K will find a new subject of her fixation. K I hope you can find things about yourself you like. Maybe make a list of all the things you do like about yourself. I find lists to be very helpful.

    I have been BIL’s girlfriend and once you realize you are making a friend feel insecure it sucks. But I didn’t do anything to them other than dress well and be a small size. Do I feel bad that my girlfriend’s give me the “why did she have to wear that today” look? Or when friends have told me such and such about my body makes them insecure? Of course. But I’m not going to wear a garage bag because they don’t feel good about themselves. However, I am conscious about my friends’ feelings and I do make accommodations such as not mentioning what size my bridesmaid dress ended up being. Its not worth making your friends feel bad.

  2. Stacey

    I deal with these feelings all the time because I have a long-time boyfriend who is very flirty and I feel nicer to other women than me and there have been a handful of women that have known him before me and even one of my friends that when we all get together I seem to always be the brunt of the joke or they appear to try to be alone together. I have been doing alot of soul searching on this and for the longest time he made me feel bad and discuss my said “insecurities” with these women. I am coming to the conclusion that it’s not me but HIM and his days are numbered if this behavior continues (15 years and counting). I was glad to see that I am NOT the only women that feel this way as he had me believing that it was a character flaw of mine and those other women do not feel these things. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Emmy

      Stacey, you’re right, it is HIM and not you. His behavior is inappropriate and disrespectful and, sadly, after 15 years I doubt he will change since he hasn’t already. You’ve expressed your feelings and concerns and they’ve gone ignored.
      You deserve to be with someone who lifts you up.

  3. Sarah

    LOVE this quote:

    The fundamental flaw in this logic is that it rests upon the misconception that there is a limited amount of happiness and success in the world. (Or charisma, sex appeal, talent, beauty … any covetable trait.) Without realizing it, we decide that the person in question has it, and that makes it less likely or more difficult for us to get it ourselves.

    Spot on, Sal!

  4. Amy

    Years ago I had a situation. I worked closely, day in and day out, with my nemesis. I thought I was crazy. This person kept doing and saying these little annoying things that made me feel awful, inadequate and jealous. But, of course, any time I talked to anyone about these little annoying things, the reaction I received was that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill and I needed to learn to keep things in perspective and not be so sensitive and to “grow up” (ouch).

    I even tried to talk to this person about her behavior, and asked her to please stop doing some of the things that were so hurtful. For my trouble I received a wide-eyed look of bafflement (if that’s even a word).

    So, I kept talking myself into a calmer state of mind and telling myself not to be so sensitive. Over time, I learned to stop reacting to the behavior of this person – not a word, not a glance to betray that I was hurt (it took years, by the way). I also became somewhat less sensitive to the behavior, not that things were perfect. I thought I must be imagining things, but it also seemed to me that this person’s behavior toward me improved.

    Well, for whatever reason, a time came when this person actually buddied up to me and started bragging about how she was doing similar things to drive another person nuts. BRAGGED ABOUT IT. In excruciating detail. In some ways I felt victimized all over again because it brought back how terrible she used to make me feel. On the other hand, I felt so vindicated. It wasn’t all in my head, and there really was some serious malicious intent behind this person’s behavior.

    This caused me to think about how I had handled the situation with her. I realized that there wasn’t anything I could have done differently if I had been able to confirm the malicious intent behind this person’s behavior when it was directed at me.

    I also realized that what had likely caused this person to stop picking on me was that it wasn’t “fun” for her anymore and therefore she had found someone else who was more “fun” to bother. (Secondary conclusion: schmucky people rarely change their stripes, they just find new victims – so learning how to handle one schmuck may very well help you avoid becoming the target of some other schmuck.)

    I also realized that the advice that was given to me not to react to her behavior was exactly the right advice on so many levels, even if it was (a) unsympathetic and (b) in some ways misdirected (because the assumption by the advice givers was that there was no malicious intent behind the hurtful behavior).

    This also caused me to think about how I had reacted to that advice. That advice had made me feel even worse because I felt so judged on top of being belittled. The reality is that I DID need to learn ways to control how this person’s behavior affected me, since I couldn’t change her behavior (I tried talking to her about it). I DID need to learn to not make more of her hurtful behavior than it was (hey, there are people starving in the world – why should I care if this person can afford to spend $6,000.00 on a vacation while I can’t and then gives me this skeptical look as she says in a dubious tone “Really? You like camping?”). I DID need to learn to stop being so sensitive to her constant preening and bragging about her fancy hair dresser and spa weekends and shopping sprees (hey, I can sew my own clothes, lay a paver sidewalk, can vegetables, garden and administer CPR – if there is ever a crisis, I am better prepared on many levels than she will ever be). I DID need to “grow up.” The world can be a tough place, and coming out on the other side of this experience with some grace and dignity has made me feel more confident and beautiful and just classy.

    I highly doubt that improving my self image is what this particular schmuck had in mind.

    Here’s the point: I don’t think that anyone can give very specific advice to the poster about how to deal with her personal nemesis. Every situation is different. Maybe there is malicious intent and maybe there isn’t – that doesn’t matter much. I hope she can try to have some faith in herself that she will eventually find her way through this. We are all capable of doing more than we think we can. Some day, I am sure that she will look back on this experience older, wiser and more at peace with herself.

    • Jane McLaughlin

      I had a similar experience with a supervisor. It made all the difference when I was able to manage my emotions and not react in a way that gave her satisfaction. Great post Sally and wonderful comments from everyone!

  5. JFin

    K, if you’re reading this – don’t beat yourself up for feeling jealous/envious/insecure. Those online posters are nuts (irony alert!). We all feel this way from time to time, and people are lying if they say they don’t. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling, but it doesn’t make you a horrible person.

    I have two main strategies for dealing with envy/jealousy/insecurity.

    1. Listen to what that feeling is telling me. Am I envious that Soandso has a gorgeous house and I want one? Well, maybe I need to re-examine the choices I’ve made with regard to money, so I can afford to buy a house. Or remember that while yes, I do want a house, at this point in my life it makes more sense and I am choosing to live in an apartment for x and y reasons. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate my own choices, maybe it’s time to refocus on being thankful for what I do have. Either way, envy reminds me to think hard about what is prompting the feeling and how I might deal with that. Of course, sometimes circumstances are out of my control in a way that I’m angry or frustrated about, or in a way that I can’t change. Which brings me to

    2. Keep your eyes on your own paper / Do not stand next to anyone else (literally and metaphorically). It’s impossible not to compare myself to other people, but whenever I notice that I’m doing it I conciously stop and remind myself not to. I remind myself that I have a totally difference life and set of circumstances than anyone else, and I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. If I need to make some changes in my life, then I need to make my own changes based on my own priorities, and that is no reflection on anyone else, nor is anyone else’s priorities and circumstances a reflection on me. And sometimes, honestly, I literally just don’t stand next to my insanely adorable/beautiful coworker because I feel like a giant, fat schlub next to her. I am not a giant, fat schlub, nor do I think this would make me unbeautiful if I were, and if feeling beautiful means never standing next to that coworker, well: done. It’s a lot easier to believe I look great when I’m standing across the room and can’t compare us up close.

    I feel like it sounds so easy and effortless written out. It’s not. It’s hard and messy and ungraceful and makes me cranky. I’ve been feeling envious and insecure a lot recently, and it basically just sucks. But I’ve got both of these strategies on endless repeat, and therefore I know I’m doing the best I can, even when it doesn’t feel that way.

  6. Judy Carpenter

    I think this is a perfect topic for your blog. After all, already pretty says we are pretty no matter where we stand on the body thing. But sometimes the person we are jealous of is unconsciously putting vibes out that we get and then don’t know how to answer. I remember one in particular that my husband thought hung the moon and when I met her she barely spoke, as if I were an afterthought. Sometimes the messages are just there. I’m 67 and still looking for a way to get past that. It helps that I’m in a relationship now that doesn’t make me feel bad about myself as my husband did. My advice- look to the people who love you. That helps.

  7. J.B.

    I have three extremely beautiful women in my life – my sister, my husband’s sister, and my brother’s wife – and have dealt with feelings of insecurity with all of them at one time or another. With my sisters-in-law, one thing that helped was the realization that we are not in competition at all. I mean, we should never feel competitive with other women, but if what we are competing for is the sexual attention of men, I don’t need my brother to feel I am prettier than his wife, and my husband doesn’t care about his sister’s beauty. So I actually should feel less insecure around these women, and when I let go of that, I find that I really, really like both of them.

    With my husband’s sister, I think she actively did things that made me insecure. So much of her identity was wrapped up with being the prettiest girl in the room, so she was very competitive with other women (like if I did myself up at all, she would go change so that she was the most done up, or if anyone gave me a complement instead of her it obviously bothered her). But when she realized that my husband and I could care less about how beautiful she was, it was obviously such a relief to her, a safe space where she could just be herself and appreciated for who she was and not how she looked. And then she was delightful to be around. So just by opting out of the competition with her (which feeling insecure is part of), it totally defused it.

  8. alice

    We have definitely all been there! For me, I find that when these feelings crop up, they can get out of hand if I don’t control them. My thoughts start to go into a spiral and what I realized is, the thoughts become very “me” focused. It becomes all about me and my feelings and these feed into each other and take me to a bad place. So what has helped for me is to force myself to direct my thoughts outward, to not focus on myself but on my actions and how my actions can make others feel good about themselves. And I find that indirectly, I feel good.

  9. chrissy

    K, in dealing with this type of situation, I found this book very helpful: Negotiating the Inner Peace Treaty by Chelsea Wakefield http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1452544042/

    Includes techniques to identify where different feelings are coming from and develop strategies to handle them.

    • Anne B

      Thanks for this reference. I just ordered the book. When I was feeling anxious last night, I asked myself “who’s upset?” (a technique from the excerpt I read online). I realized that it was my Cranky Child who wanted to go to bed. I think this book will really help me understand and deal with my thoughts in a more constructive way. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. eliza

    I struggled for years with jealousy and insecurity whenever I was around my younger cousin. We are opposites in almost every way: growing up, she was small and looked young for her age, while I was tall and looked older; her family stressed “smart” while mine stressed “effort”; her immediate family was wealthy while mine had constant tension over finances; her father was emotionally present while mine wasn’t, etc. Every time I was around her, I felt ungainly and stupid and shabby, and most of all, incredibly petty for feeling that way.

    I don’t have a magic solution for getting rid of these feelings, but I’ve definitely found that the more I learn to trust my own values, the less frequently and intensely these feelings occur. Having a clearly defined idea of who I want to be helps me shake off that momentary feeling of inadaquecy when I’m unexpectedly blindsided by one of my cousin’s strengths triggering my own insecurities.
    To give a more concrete example, it would be nice to be able to eat anything without worrying about gaining weight, the way my cousin can. And sometimes it’s really difficult to be in a bathing suit around her without comparing and feeling I’m falling short. But when I do find myself feeling jealous, I try to remember that being skinny (above and beyond maintaining a healthy weight) is a tiny fraction of my REAL values. Being around my cousin may trigger a desire to be thinner, but it’s circumstantial. When I’m not around her, I’m happy with my weight.
    I don’t want to build my life around being the thinnest person in the room. I want to build it around being interesting, thoughtful, healthy, and attactive. At the moment, those are the descriptions that mean the most to me. Washboard abs may move to the top someday, but for now, they are way, way, down the list!

  11. Lisa

    Oh man, I’ve been there. To Sal’s spot-on suggestions, I’d like to add another option: Try to focus on what’s likable about the person instead of what it is about her that triggers one’s jealousy. K said the reasons lie mostly with her own feelings, not with her BIL’s girlfriend’s personality or actions per se. But maybe if K focuses on how friendly her BIL’s girlfriend is, or how she’s a great cook and always willing to share tips and recipes, or how she’s generous with her time or really friendly to strangers, some of the jealousy might be tempered by genuine regard and affection for her.

  12. Urska

    Dear K.,

    I have a similar situation with my sister-in-law. It’s ironic – my husband likes me also because I’m so different from his family but even that doesn’t help. And the fact she’s 20 cm higher and anything she puts on looks great (in my eyes).. I can’t get taller, I know that. And I’m a smaller size than she is, so it’s not about being skinnier..
    My friends are always disappointed when they finally meet her because they expect so much because of my talking about her.. But they say she’s nothing special etc.. Still it doesn’t help.
    So I don’t have the ultimate answer what to do for these feelings to disappear.
    But you are not alone. And also, we are not bad people for feeling this way. Childish maybe – who isn’t in some way or another.
    I know I try hard, I take care of my family, I go to therapy, etc.. And I see from your letter you try your best too. I think that’s what counts.

    All the best,
    Urska

  13. Monica

    K,

    My advice first of all is not to beat yourself up for feeling the way you do. As you noted, it’s just adding to your poor conception of yourself. That is easier said than done!! But I find that with these kinds of things, the more I tell myself, “I shouldn’t feel that way!” the more I do. What’s more helpful for me is to try to just observe the feeling and get some distance from it. “Oh look, I’m feeling insecure again. (deep breath) OK, on with life…” For me, even asking myself “why am I feeling this way?” just gives it more weight and importance. Most of the time there is no answer to the “why” question, and when there is, it hasn’t really helped me anyway. Giving it less weight does seem to help.

    One other thing that might be helpful is it seems to me that culturally, Americans view “confidence” as one of the most important traits for a person to have. We view it as the magic bullet for achieving success and happiness – which is part of what drives us all to pretend that we have it no matter what, and to shame anyone that doesn’t and call it “childish.” And while, sure, confidence is great and all, I realized at some point it was not the be-all-and-end-all of being happy or a good person. I don’t value other people with confidence per se – I value kindness, hard work, and a whole lot of other things more. When I could focus on valuing those things in myself, confidence magically appeared. 🙂 Good luck, and no you are not alone!

  14. Anne

    Dear K, boy are you in good company! I have been in the same boat and now that girlfriend is my sister in law. Sally gave you some fabulous advice. I sure don’t have much to add other to reaffirm that these feelings are normal. We just have to choose what to do with them, that’s the tricky part. I my particular instance I felt the my mother in law helped to set up a competitive dynamic between the two of us (unwittingly I’m sure). It has taken me a long time to learn that it is only a contest if both people choose to play. Remembering that point about good things not coming in finite quantities is also very helpful. Surround yourself with people that love you and make you feel good about yourself. My own thoughts on this are one: as much as you can, free yourself of expectations and assumptions about this new person and try to just roll with things; two, you probably wouldn’t angst over this at all if you did not value your relationship with your BIL. (that’s good) Try to see what he sees in her and if you can’t, try to fake it til you make it, You just might end up liking her.

    • mina

      You seem to be talking about my life!! I have been battling with these feelings for the last 4 years. My only tip is : DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY and immediately those insecurities will vanish. So everytime you meet or talk on the phone with your nemesis your conversation is full of stuff that you’ve enjoyed doing in the last few months or so and you are paying less attention to what she has done or is doing! And honestly if you are jealous of someone there are high chances that the other person is jealous of you for things that you have and she doesn’t. So rub it in 😉

  15. Lydia

    The eloquence and genuine kindness of these comments is really astounding. I found them all very helpful, and validating. Thank you.

    I have been in situations where family, friends and colleauges have made me feel insecure, and I find for me, it wears off quite quickly. What helps me is that I know I can never be them, and I quickly look to my own life / go back inside myself. This has helped me the most — as another poster said — knowing yourself, and what your values are. I also ‘fake it’ — basically, try and pretend I am not feeling insecure. Not always easy, but it helps!

    My BIL’s fiancee makes me feel a tiny bit insecure — not because of what she says, or does, but simply because my BIL is the ‘golden child’ of the family, and ergo, his fiancee is an extension of that role. My husband and I accepted (long ago) that we would not likely be viewed in the same light! It still hurts at times, but as I mentioned, once I get over the initial ‘shock’ every time we meet (not that often), I try to be tougher, pretend/ fake it, and simply look inward. The only drawback is, that due to ‘looking inward’ (sometimes I withdraw a bit to cope) they think I am a)grumpy — I am usually chatty, or b)have nothing to say. Honesty, I have visited them and it often takes them over and hour to ask how I am! Overall, I have learned not to feed into their energy, or attempts to gloat. The funny thing is, when we purchase something new, they start to dig into us. When this happens, I just keep thinking — I want to live the bigger life, and be uplifted — not pulled down.

  16. Kristin

    Hey everyone, I’m Reader K. I hadn’t forgotten that I emailed Sally about this, but it had slipped to the back of my mind so I was actually a little surprised to see the post today (even though I was asked for and gave permission for it to be posted, heh)! Thank you so much for the support and suggestions you’ve all given – it means so much to someone like me that carries a fear of rejection.

    Sally’s best piece of advice, which has been echoed here by others, for me has been to stop and really *think* about why the girlfriend makes me feel insecure. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching since I initially emailed her and I realized that a lot of it comes down to my own personality/hobbies/quirks and how I want to be seen by my in-laws, especially my MIL.

    I think very highly of my MIL. I feel that she has a lot of positive qualities (outgoing, cheerful, sensible, kind) and is a good example of a Christian woman. For as long as I’ve known her (a little over 5 years at this point) she’s never made me feel uncomfortable or bad about myself and who I am, and she’s always made me feel welcome in their home and with their family. My own mother, though I love her very much, can be more difficult to deal with at times. She can be critical and blunt – for example, she’s never liked anything I’ve done with my hair since she started letting me choose my cut for myself. She’s never been big on giving compliments or praise or physical affection – she shows that she cares by doing things, like cooking foods that I like or buying little “just because” gifts, stuff like that. I get along with my mother better now that I’m adult and out of the house, but sometimes my MIL is a nice change of pace.

    My insecurity about BIL’s girlfriend stems from the fact that in a lot of ways, I feel that she’s the opposite of me. She’s pretty, outgoing, athletic, and seems to be fairly steady and active in her faith as a Christian. I’ve long felt that I’m a plain jane (working on changing this), I’m both shy and introverted, I’m not athletic in the least, and I feel like I’ve got a long way to go yet in my spiritual walk as a Christian. I’ve not interacted with her much in-person, but (and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this) I sometimes look at her Twitter and FB profiles since they’re open for public viewing, so I know a little about her from that and from what my MIL tells me. I guess it seems from my perspective that her positive qualities and interests overlap more with my in-laws’; MIL was a cheerleader in HS, both in-laws did the frat/sorority thing in college, my FIL and BIL are both big into sports and athletic things, both in-laws are active in our church (singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, etc). So my mind says, “She’s the type of girl that folks like your in-laws are thrilled to see a son bring home….what on earth do you have to offer?”

    All of this is stuff that I’m still sorting out and trying to learn to handle and overcome. I recently talked a little about this with a coworker (and friend) and what she had to say was basically this: “Just from what little I spoke to her at your wedding, it seemed that your MIL is very fond of you, and so is her mother. I think that she’s probably very happy that her son found you because you seem to fit with him. From what I’ve seen and based on first-hand experience, if you love her son and are good to him, she’ll love you. I can tell that you think well of her from how you talk about her, so if you make the effort and respect her and treat her like somebody, she’ll love you. If you don’t put any effort into it, then they’ll likely treat you the same way.” It’s funny how a little outside perspective from a trusted source (this coworker won’t say it if she doesn’t mean it) can really change the way you look at a situation!

    So, I still have my moments but I feel that I’ve improved from when I initially sent Sally my email. There are a lot of different things that I try to keep in mind when I start feeling a flare of insecurity:

    (1) Even if I can’t always fathom the idea, I try to remember that the girlfriend could be feeling insecure or intimidated by me for a number of reasons: I have a career, I have no debt or any major family/health issues, I’m older, and I’m already part of the family. I really do hope that she isn’t bothered by me, but I remind myself that it’s always a possibility.
    (2) I married the older of the sons and we’re both out in our own place, working and doing our thing, and there are no grandchildren on the horizon for the time being. The BIL is just about to finish up college and though he’s moved out too, him & his GF may see my in-laws a little more than my husband and I do at this point. It’s only natural that she’s going to shift some of her focus to what her younger son is up to and trying to get to know his girlfriend (who could be a potential daughter-in-law) better.
    (3) My MIL loves me. She loves me because I make her oldest son happy and I fit with his personality and interests. The two sons are very much different so the women they marry will likely be different too, but that’s how life is and it’s okay. She’ll love whoever her youngest son marries (whether this girl or someone else) because they’ll ideally fit him and make him happy, but it won’t mean that she’ll love or care about me any less. Hearts don’t have finite space. My MIL loves me.

    (Sorry for the long reply, I tend to ramble!)

    • LK

      Great to hear about your progress! This reply makes the post so much more understandable. Your MIL does love you and its great to have two young ladies who are so different! Although it seems that you and BIL GF may not be all that different in the long run. Befriending her might actually help in this situation. Maybe you and MIL and BIL GF could go to lunch sometime and spend some time together. Might give you a new perspective.

      Take care and keep trying!

    • alice

      Hi K,
      I found your post insightful and honest, so glad you checked back in and gave everyone an update and that you are in such a better place now.

  17. Monica

    K,

    I’m glad that you are finding some peace with this. It takes courage to do so! There are three things that struck me in reading your post that I thought I’d mention.

    First, remember also that God loves you just the way you are, and even though you may feel you have room for growth in this area, what is asked of you is only that you walk your spiritual path the best way you can, not that you are perfect.

    Secondly, it may help you to talk about this issue with your MIL and tell her what you’re dealing with. Tell her you admire her and would like her counsel and guidance, and her support on your spiritual path. It will provide an opportunity for you both to grow closer, to enlist her support in becoming the kind of person you’d like to be, and to get some reassurance from her. What I’ve found for myself is that often, what others see in us and what we have to offer may be things that we take for granted or are blind to. When we are feeling insecure, having others remind us of these things can be very helpful.

    Lastly, if you haven’t tried doing the exercises in Sally’s book and workbook, I highly recommend them. As a reforming “plain jane” myself, it really helped me a lot to spend some time thinking about what I wanted MY style to be like, rather than working from what should look good on me or what was the latest trend or someone else’s idea of what I was supposed to look like. This seems so obvious in hindsight, but it was actually an eye opener. I started this journey just wanting to look “better,” but now I’m much more tuned in to wanting to look like ME! This is about self-expression, not just presenting a better mask to the world. You are already here, so perhaps you’re ahead of me on this one, but I thought I’d mention it because it really has altered my perspective, and allowed me to succeed in a way I hadn’t really been able to before!

    • Kristin

      Thank you for the kind words and encouragement LK, alice, and Monica! I’m trying to work on doing things together with my MIL and that part of things shouldn’t be too much trouble; I actually asked her recently if she wanted to do some things together once school is out (she teaches) and she has more free time during the week and she liked the idea. I did suggest that we try to do things in bigger groups too (aka invite the men along, probably to go eat) and that BIL & girlfriend were welcome too, if they’d be interested. Thing is that I don’t actually know how close my MIL and girlfriend are; they’re friends on FB and I know they have each other’s phone numbers but I don’t know how much they actually communicate beyond that. So the girlfriend might be comfortable going to eat or something with just me and my MIL and she might not; I’m not really sure.

      As far as talking to my MIL goes, I’m not really sure if you’re meaning I should tell her how the girlfriend makes me feel or if I should just tell her the part about feeling that my spiritual walk needs some work. She’s actually already given me some advice about a couple things that weigh on my mind (like children and my fears about being a mother) and she invited me to participate in a women’s Bible study group that her sister-in-law was leading; I wasn’t able to attend all of the meetings due to work but I enjoyed the ones I did get to attend and I did kinda feel like I got to bond with my MIL a little.

      I’ve not tried the exercises that Sally has in her book and workbook, but I may have to give them a try. Since I started working on my wardrobe at the start of the year, I’ve started to form some vague ideas of what I want to look like and what would suit my personality. I don’t know that I’ve got a particular style in mind at this point, but I’m getting a better idea of what I like and don’t like for myself.

      • Monica

        Kristin,

        I was suggesting that you tell her how the GF makes you feel. I’m not sure how close you are to her, and I’m sure this might be an uncomfortable conversation and one you’re not ready for. But I’ll give you an example from my own life to show why I suggested that.

        My husband has been a ballroom dancer for 20 years. He’s been a teacher, and he’s very good at a wide variety of dances. He’s worked hard, and even now takes lessons every week to improve his skills. He has a competitive partner who is also an amazing dancer. If we go out social dancing, women who have been dancing for a long time flock to him because he’s a good leader.

        I have been dancing only since I met him (4 years) and I haven’t seriously taken it on as a hobby. I LOVE to dance, but for me it is more of a fun/romantic activity, wheras others take it on because they want to be really good at it.

        It may seem strange to people outside the dance community that my husband dances so much with other women, but it’s very common and it’s not a romantic activity for them, and I know this. All the women are very gracious and respectful, and I like many of them. At the same time, watching him dance with other women brings out my insecurity and jealousy like nothing else. I see him gliding across the floor and having fun with someone else, and I think, “Oh, she’s so good. I’m so awful. How can he even stand to dance with me?” “He can do so much. I wish I didn’t hold him back.” “I should be able to dance like that too. What’s wrong with me?” It’s an ongoing internal littany of “I’m not good enough, what could he possibly see in me?”

        For quite a while I kept this to myself, knowing it was my issue, knowing I needed to work on myself and being ashamed of how I was feeling, basically making myself miserable. One day I burst into tears in front of him and told him everything. To my surprise, he was kind and loving with me. He assured me that he LOVED dancing with me. And he told me that while, yes, those women did have some other skills and moves that I don’t, one of the things that most enjoyable to him about dance is connecting with another person, and having someone who really listens to his lead. Apparently I am naturally awesome at both of these things which are very important to him. However, my awesomeness in these areas is completely transparent to me. I mostly don’t notice them at all, and if I do, I discount them as unimportant. But letting him know how I was feeling gave him the opportunity to show me what he DOES appreciate about me. Hearing that and letting it in (rather than deflecting it), has helped me feel more confident. Being vulnerable with him and having him respond to it helped me feel more loved.

        Sorry that’s long, but I’m hoping you can see what I was getting at. And, maybe it shows you something that might be possible with your MIL. Or, maybe you’ll feel it’s not appropriate in the context of this relationship for you. But I have found it to be very useful in dealing with my own issues. The people that care about us want to be there for us, and showing them parts of ourselves that we are hiding gives them an opportunity to be there for us, and show their love for us.

        Good luck!
        Monica

  18. Kristin

    @Monica – Thank you for sharing your reasoning behind your suggestion! That’s something that takes more nerve than I might have at the moment, but I’ll definitely consider it. I’d like to talk to her but I’m afraid of making her feel awkward.

    @Heather – I’m not offended by your suggestion, but I respectfully disagree that I need professional help. Things get lost in translation since I tried to not tell my life story for the sake of brevity. Basically this comes up if I’m already in a low mood, which isn’t as often as it seems from my email. If I were unable to function in my day-to-day life or couldn’t be around this woman without falling apart, I’d agree with. Also, this isn’t really just a clothing blog anymore.

  19. KayBug

    It’s my sister. We’re 16 months apart. So I’ve been jealous all my life ;o).

    What I have done over the years is to learn to value what I do have over and above what I covet in her. I’m undisciplined? She has everything down to a T, but can be too rigid. I’m chubby? I’ve got curves. She may be 60 pounds thinner, but she can look like a boy if she’s not careful. She has the perfect husband and I’m single? Not so long ago the opposite was true.

    Does that mean I love her any less? Heck, no. But I value my strengths and natural assets, and have learned over time to value them more than anything I may have at one time coveted in her.

    We are both flawed and perfect, and completely different individuals. Plenty to go around.

  20. mina

    LOVELY LOVELY LOVELY blog. Everywhere else on the net, there are over-the-top stories of crazy relatives (like sister-in-laws) but nowhere have I come across a description of the more mundane everyday feelings like jealousy and insecurity. Those subtle and sometimes not so subtle feelings that we all have to deal with time to time but can never be explained or expressed. I loved reading every part of it. Thank you.