Why Am I So Jealous?: Exploring the Link Between Self-Esteem and the Intolerance of Uncertainty

Why Do I Need Certainty?

Since the beginning of time, there have been two existential certainties: death and the uncertainty of the future. When man became man, he became condemned to freedom and all of the consequences of his imperfect decisions. Thus, he spent a great deal of his time calculating, concocting potential outcomes while searching for every possible relevant bit of information.

Due to the brevity of our lives, it makes sense that we would want to waste as little time as possible, making the best choices we can. In essence, we want our lives to encompass some optimal experience of what we believe they should be. So, practically speaking, certainty would be a significant contributor. But is that the entire story? If we simply want to create the best versions of what our lives could be, then why does uncertainty terrify us so much, especially when we aren’t in any actual, significant danger?

Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Self-Esteem is when you feel good about who you are, and self-efficacy is when you believe that you’re able to master the world around you (e.g. resolve challenging problems, cope with stress, etc…). There’s a negative correlation between each and the need for control in different areas. The more you study for an exam, the better you feel about your chance of performing well; therefore, your desire to know the questions, and maybe even answers, before-hand subsides. Similarly, the better you feel about yourself, the less you care about whether your partner is out with just her friends or if they’re also with other men.

All of the roads lead to you.

How This Manifests in a Need for Control

So, those who tend to feel unworthy of love, or perceive its expression as a form of deception, are continuously searching for clues of their partner’s potential crimes. The need to control another, or at least know her every move, is, in fact, the need for certainty. (e.g. I want to search through my girlfriend’s phone so that I know she’s being faithful to me.) People who struggle with low self-worth devise plans to enter their partner’s minds, as they believe that only certainty could quell their fear of loss.

But certainty is impossible, and, as significant, so is full control, or even full knowledge.

Because we’re freedom-loving beings, control and inquisition tend to damage our relationships. The more I try to control, or interrogate, my partner, the less time they’re going to want to spend with me and the less they’ll love me. The quest for certainty engenders self-sabogotge as the thing most feared becomes reality when our partner becomes fed-up with our irrational, and unwarranted, behavior.

Can the Cycle End?

There is a way out, but you’ll have to do the work. And, of course, by this I mean therapy. Once you feel better about your ability to problem-solve (self-efficacy), the world itself becomes less scary; for, the faith in your ability allows you to live your life without over-analyzing everything.

Similarly, believing that you’re good enough can decrease your need to know your partner’s every move. For, why would someone cheat on an individual who deserves their love, unless that person has their own unresolved struggles?

Feeling better about yourself causes you to care much less about another’s activities, because either way, they wouldn’t harm you, at least not in any significant way.

Unfortunately, being cheated on will always hurt to some extent, but it doesn’t have to devastate. And the way to prevent devastation and self-sabotage is to discover why you don’t think you’re enough in the first place and then examine if your belief is true. Until you do, your core belief of unlovability will continue to rear its ugly head.

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