The Difference Between Envy and Jealousy

You see your ex-boyfriend with the new pretty girl in town. Are you envious or jealous?

You could be both.

If you desire the happy relationship that your ex and his new girl seem to have, you would be envious.  If you feel threatened that she is prettier, a better girlfriend, or makes him happier than you could/did, you would be jealous.

Many of us use these terms interchangeably.  However, they are different.

By definition envy is a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”  Jealousy, by definition, “is that unpleasant emotion you feel when you think someone’s trying to take what’s yours.”

In other words, envy is the desire to have or want something that you do not possess. Jealousy, on the other hand, is feeling threatened of something you already possess.  Usually, jealousy involves relationships and envy involves wanting a job or type of life that someone else has. I have experienced both.

When I first became a stepmother, I used to be envious of the boy’s relationship with their natural mother. I feared that my sons didn’t love me enough and that I wasn’t as important. I feared that I wasn’t enough.  If I was their natural mother and not “just the stepmom”, things would be different.  Or if I had my own kids I wouldn’t feel or have these negative emotions or thoughts. I would be the most important mom.  This feeling of envy stole valuable time away from me that I can never get back.  The time that I could have emotionally invested 100% in the boys without hesitancy.

Thankfully, I learned to adjust my view of my relationship with my two sons and realized that there is room for me, as their step-mom, too.

In college, I became jealous of my best friend’s new friend. She started hanging out with another girl all the time. I felt threatened that our friendship wasn’t as important to her anymore. Maybe this other girl was friendlier, funnier, easier to talk to, etc. My mind went wild with negative possibilities of why I wasn’t the better friend.  I started to withdrawal from my friend out of fear of rejection and loosing something I had, which ultimately ended our relationship.  This bled into new friendships as I didn’t make much of an effort to pursue relationships.

In hindsight, I would have realized that a person can have many different relationships.  Just because your friend has another important relationship doesn’t mean you are any less important.

Both envy and jealousy steal and destroy.  I have learned that envy is the root of discontentment and trying to change what is out of your control, and jealousy is the root of fear and insecurity.

There is no need for envy.  There will always be someone better, richer, smarter. You can’t compare yourself to others. You have to be content with who you are and what you have, or don’t have.  If there is something you want, then do your best to obtain it. If you can’t obtain it, accept it and move on with your life.

Also, remember that someone else’s win doesn’t equal your loss.  Just because someone has something that you do not, doesn’t mean you are any less valuable or worthy.

“Most of us learn to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We think about succeeding in terms of someone else failing–that is, if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose…..Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions.” – Steve Covey from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

There is no need for jealousy.  You should never fear someone leaving.  You cannot and never will be able to control how another person feels or what they do.  If someone wants to leave, there is nothing you can do about it. In the words of wisdom of Medea, “let em’ go!”

Comparisons are the main ingredient in the poison called jealousy.  It will only leave you feeling bitter, unaccepted, and unworthy.  Learn to accept yourself for who you are, and believe that you are worthy.

It is important to recognize when you are feeling envy or jealousy, so it doesn’t rob you of success, happiness, and love.  Here are quotes and sayings to remind you why envy and jealousy should not take-up-residence in your life:

What people are saying about envy:

“People who make the choice to study, work hard or do whatever they endeavor is to give it the max on themselves to reach to the top level.  And you have the people who get envy and jealous, yet are not willing to put that work in, and they want to get the same praise.” – Evander Holyfield


“Envy blinds men and makes it impossible for them to think clearly.” – Malcolm X


“Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.” – Jean Vanier


“Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope.” – Josh Billings


“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey


“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.” – Ann Brashares


“You will never get everything in life but you will get enough.” – Sanhita Baruah

What people are saying about jealousy:

“Jealousy is the fear of comparison” – Max Frisch


“Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy.  Never underestimate that.” – Oliver Stone


“Why do we feel jealousy? Therapists often regard the demon as a scar of childhood trauma or a symptom of a psychological problem.  And it’s true that people who feel inadequate, insecure, or overly dependent tend to be more jealous than others.” – Helen Fisher


“When we look inward, not outward, we can dismantle the parts of our personalities that have controlled us for so long – such as anger, jealousy, vindictiveness, superiority, and inferiority.” – Gary Zukav


“Jealousy….is a mental cancer” – B.C. Forbes


“A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything.  Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.” – Robert A. Heinlein


“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others – it only changes yours.” – Shannon L. Alder


“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition.  The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy – in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.” – Robert Heinlein

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