Envy and jealousy are thought to be negative feelings because they entail coveting, or desiring what another has. In a biblical sense, this is framed as a sin, and therefore, most people view such feelings as wrong and bad. Neither envy or jealousy feel good, and jealousy is likely to feel worse and be more harmful to the one who experiences it, and possibly even to the one who is the source of the jealousy. This hints at the difference between them.
If you envy someone, you want what they have but do not wish them ill, you may even admire them and feel discontented in yourself for not having what they do. Sometimes people will even say things like “I really envy you” which can be said and received as a compliment.
Although both imply the desire for what another person has, jealousy involves some other unpleasant feelings, for example, bitterness, resentment, and sometimes hostility toward the person who has what you want. Thus, if you are jealous of someone , you would wish to take what they have away from them, for yourself. This is where the important distinction lies – jealousy is malicious.
Some people feel mistrustful in relationships, this can lead to negative thoughts, for example, that their partner is cheating. Individuals will likely worry about this when away from their partner, and feel concerned when their partner talks about other people. They may check their partner’s social media or phone, and even control what they do and who they see.
The proliferation of social media means often people can experience powerful emotions when scrolling through the airbrushed lives of others. This can trigger feelings of envy, jealousy, deficiency, and resentment. Indeed, often people report feeling worse afterwards, with research suggesting this behaviour is thought to negatively impact self-esteem and wellbeing.
When people experience envy or jealousy a lot of the time, it can become overwhelming because of other unpleasant feelings. For example, inadequacy, resentment, and bitterness, which can cause stress and anxiety for some, and depression for others.
Jealousy can make people unhappy when others achieve success. This can cause them to judge others harshly, diminish others’ achievements, and experience schadenfreude, German for ‘pleasure from another’s misfortune’.
You may notice uncomfortable feelings, such as wanting what others have, and this can result in feelings of resentment toward people who have the thing(s) you want.
In some situations jealousy can become extreme, and manifest intimidation, anger, and even violence toward another person (for example, domestic violence).
Discontent – People who focus on what they don’t have and on what the perceive others to have often feel dissatisfied and this can breed envy or jealousy.
Comparison to others – this links to the last point. When individuals grow up around parents who they often hear making (often resentful) comparisons with others, this can create shame, greed, and external focus. They become conditioned to see themselves against others.
Entitlement – In part, due to the aforementioned, and the ‘celebrity culture’ we find ourselves in, many people are focused on what others have. They feel they deserve the same things, without considering the hard work that goes into acquiring the things they covet.
Low self-esteem – When individuals have a low opinion of themselves they will often attempt to cover this up by projecting a self-important image about their circumstances or status, rather than working on their feelings of low-worth. And because they feel bad about themselves, they often experience the feelings that come with envy or jealousy.
Superficial desires – When people fixate on gaining money, status, achievements, and appearance, they exist only in a superficial way. They will often focus on these same things in others, making comparisons, and experiencing feelings of resentment and low self-esteem, feelings associated with envy and jealousy.
Envy and jealousy are unpleasant feelings and can cause discontent and resentment. At Phinity, we see the admission of these feelings as an opportunity. We will provide you with a safe space to explore the depth of these feelings. For example, understanding why you might be predisposed to such feelings provides a useful starting point for therapy.
You might also like to learn strategies and techniques that help you to focus more on your own life, than on others’. We can offer you a lifestyle assessment, to identify the areas that you wish to focus on, and help you to develop systemised ways to achieve your aims.
Gratitude practice, which comes from positive psychology might be something to try, this can encourage you to develop gratitude for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t.
By understanding your own feelings, motivations, and patterns, in a historical sense, and in the moment when unpleasant feelings arise, you can gain self-awareness, and decide who you wish to be. We can guide you toward your own potential. Over time, rather than feeling envious or jealous of others, you might feel happy for, and inspired by them, which can serve you well.
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