August 15, 2021
By Audrey Stanton
In Eco-Wellness

Dealing With Envy and Jealousy


When the word jealousy comes to mind, does the word envy quickly follow? Though these two words are often used interchangeably, jealousy and envy are two distinct “green monsters.” Jealousy relates to a possible loss, when what we already have is threatened by others. Envy refers to want, when we desire something that another has.

The two are constantly confused because jealousy and envy frequently travel together, as Richard H. Smith Ph.D. pointed out in Psychology Today, “What kind of rival to your partner’s affections is likely to create jealousy? It is the rival with characteristics that you are likely to envy—that is, the attractive rival.” Situations such as those can easily blur the lines between jealousy and envy; however the two distinct feelings must each be understood to be conquered.

Understanding Emotions

Jealousy and envy both stem from insecurity. Whether it is professional envy, romantic jealousy, friendship jealousy or material envy, our self-doubt is what eggs us on. “Jealousy in general erupts from the mistrust of others or of oneself,” Susan Heitler Ph.D. explained explained back in 2011. A lack of trust can be exacerbated by social media, which makes it increasingly easy to assume the grass is greener on any side which isn’t ours. A study published in 2018 found that society has shifted value from material possessions to experiential ones, which encapsulate all that we envy in one go– the discretionary income needed to participate in many leisure activities, the societal standards of beauty, and the flawless personal relationships or self-confidence one flaunts. Attempting to keep up with these trends is a nearly impossible undertaking.

At the same time, most feelings have a duality and complexity to them, making it difficult to say that envy or jealousy are strictly unhelpful. Envy can lead to ambition, and ambition to positive drive. Benign envy can encourage self-advancement. A secure individual could very well carry a healthy dose of benign envy to motivate them in a non-destructive manner. Nothing wrong with that! But envy can also veer into destructive behavior, merging with jealousy if mutual friends, significant others, or loved ones are involved. When this happens, anger, depression, or anxiety are likely to follow.

Similarly, jealousy, although commonly associated with destructive behavior, can bring with it an opportunity for great self-awareness or a pivotal mindset shift. Emily Williams’ explained this well in a piece for HuffPost; “So many people don’t know what they want from life, so use jealousy to your advantage… Awareness is key when you’re trying to reach your goals, and I believe jealousy is something that’s actually quite a good indicator of where you want to be in your life.” Both feelings have the potential to run amuck in your life, as well as create beautiful possibilities– it all depends on how you deal with them.

Finding Solutions

Once you’ve identified where your jealousy or envy comes from, learning a few ways to cope with those feelings is essential. Creating a healthier relationship with social media is a great place to start. Create boundaries by unfollowing people who only fill you with resentment. You don’t need accounts which attempt to convince you that a purchase will make you happy, nor do you need to constantly confront posts that trigger your insecurity or fear of missing out (FOMO.) Set boundaries with social apps, only checking them for a certain amount of time or at a certain time of day.

This gives you breathing room for a reality check; there will always be someone “better” than you and “worse” than you, there will always be someone with more than you and less than you. You can only control you. While we live in a society hell-bent on a scarcity mindset, the truth is that there is enough to go around. Meaning that someone else’s success does not cancel out yours, and someone else’s possessions don’t diminish what you have. Gratitude is so powerful here, as it directly combats envy and jealousy– keep this in mind as you work on being happy for others.

If jealousy is specifically bubbling to the surface within romantic or platonic relationships, communication is key. Be honest with your partner or friend about how you’re feeling. Codependency is dangerous but there’s no harm in giving your loved one a chance to help you work through jealousy. Vulnerability and self-awareness are so powerful in relationships. Whether it’s friendships, romantic partnerships, or career connections, collaboration is always stronger than competition.

Jealousy and envy will always be a part of our lives, it’s inevitable, but you don’t have to let those feelings control you. Instead, use them to your advantage by working on self-awareness to become better prepared for when they creep up on you. Letting jealousy and envy go is a lifelong process well worth the work.

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