Is it okay to be jealous of kids who grew up immersed in their culture?

Dear Auntie, is it okay to be jealous of kids who grew up immersed in their culture, when mine was taken away from me at a young age?

I happen to be a believer of feeling every emotion you experience, to learn from it, and then decide how it can make you better. So when you say you’re jealous of kids who were blessed to grow up in their culture, I see this as an opportunity to discover why you feel this way.

What is jealousy?
Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses many different kinds of feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation. Jealously usually does more harm than good, creating relationship conflict and strife. According to psychologists, jealousy is a complex response that is broken down into three parts:

  • 1.part emotion (e.g., feeling inadequate, or like you don’t belong),
  • 2.part cognition (e.g., thinking of other kids blissfully growing up immersed in their culture), and
  • 3.part behavior (e.g., watching others dance with eyes blazing with jealousy).

Since jealousy is such a complicated issue, it’s no wonder you’re struggling with this. Here are some ideas that may help you get a handle on your jealousy and possible anger.

First, it’s worth taking a closer look at your feelings. Pinpointing what triggers your jealousy may help you to keep it in check next time you’re felling jealous about not knowing your culture like you’d want. For example, what makes you feel jealous? What things do you wish you had learned growing up? What can you do now to learn those things?

How to grow from this
Grieve your loss. Take some uninterrupted time to really mourn the loss of the childhood you wish you had. Go through the emotions of pain, sadness, hurt, or whatever else may come up, so that you can move on. It might be a good idea to give yourself a time frame for this. Allow yourself an afternoon, a day or two to focus on your grief, then tell yourself it’s time to let it all go and decide to move forward.

How can you move forward?
Writing or journaling may help you sort out complicated feelings. Try making a list of all the “triggers” or events that make you feel jealous. For example, do you feel jealous when you hear others talk about their tribe, or when they make references you don’t understand, or feel a part of?

It sounds like your being removed from your culture at an early age, is unresolved and is definitely worth spending some time journaling, or talking to a friend, or trusted adult about.

If your jealousy continues to get in the way, it might be helpful to talk with a friend, a spiritual advisor, or even a counselor. A counselor or therapist can help you learn more about your jealousy, and find ways to curb your jealous behavior. You can get a counseling referral from your primary health care provider, or tribal clinic if you have access to it.

I wish you the best of luck and want you to know that whatever your experience was growing up, you belong and are a part of our community. We each come to the table with different experiences that makes us uniquely beautiful and stronger. We should share these and learn from each other.


Aunty Manda

Acknowledgements: This answer was adapted from our friends at Go Ask Alice, a question and answer service provided by Columbia University.

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