What is the difference between envy vs. jealousy? Envy and jealousy are feelings we experience when we want something we don’t have.
More money. A promotion at work. A bigger house.
Envy and jealousy can be destructive and can prevent us from achieving happiness. However, we can overcome it by understanding what they are and what they push us to do.
Envy and jealousy are two emotions that many of us experience. They are different emotions, even though we often use them interchangeably. Understanding what they are, how they differ, and how we can use them to our advantage is an essential step to a journey of contentedness and satisfaction.
What Is The Difference Between Envy & Jealousy?
Before we discuss the difference between envy and jealousy, we have to define them. According to dictionary.com, here are the two definitions:
Envy: a feeling of discontent or covetousness concerning another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.
Jealousy: resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself
Cause of Envy or Jealousy
Although they may sound similar and often can cause similar behaviors, they are, in fact, different feelings and emotions.
Envy occurs internally when you want something that someone else has. That causes a feeling of sadness and discontent in your own life. You want something that you do not or cannot have, and you want it.
Jealousy, on the other hand, involves another person. Jealousy consists of a level of anger towards another person. It’s not only that you wish you had an object – you are angry that another person has that item. You want to possess it, and you do not want the other person to possess it.
Both of these feelings are not only about tangible objects. You can feel them in regards to intangible things as well: success, power, health, and love.
Are Envy and Jealousy Healthy and Normal?
All human emotions are normal. All healthy humans experience ranges of emotions at different times. However, just because having a feeling is normal does not mean that you cannot work on yourself to reduce the amount of emotion you experience. You cannot control the actions you take when experiencing that emotion.
A healthy and normal person may experience emotion and choose not to act on that emotion and recognize that the emotion exists but does not need to affect the way they feel and act. They can also endeavor to make sure that they work to reduce feeling that emotion in various ways.
How To Overcome Envy Or Jealousy
As always, in case of extreme emotions or emotions that seriously hamper a person’s day-to-day living, you should seek out professional help.
Envy or jealousy is caused when we want or desire something that someone else has. How do we overcome envy or jealousy? We overcome it by not wanting what another person has. Easier said than done, right?
We only want more things if we are not happy with the things that we have. So the first step to overcoming envy or jealousy is to become satisfied with what we have. When you appreciate the good in your life, you no longer need other people’s things.
You cultivate gratitude by noticing what you have and appreciating it. You can do this by practicing mindfulness, starting a gratitude journal (or a similar gratitude challenge), and taking time to focus on the goodness in your life.
You also appreciate what you have when you notice how much more you have than others. You can do this by giving to those who are less fortunate than you. There are so many ways to do this. You can give money to charity; you can volunteer to help others (there are so many ways you can do this – either by joining an organization or finding a specific need and working to address it). People who give to others and devote themselves to others are more likely to be content with what they have and are less likely to be envious or jealous.
Making sure that you are not focusing only on yourself helps you be more at peace with your life. But, on the other hand, focusing only on yourself causes discontentedness, which, as we said, leads to envy and jealousy.
What Happens When We’re Envious
What happens when we’re envious depends on the person.
Usually, when someone is envious, they focus on that feeling of envy and allow it to guide them. They become obsessed with the object of their envy and work to get that item no matter the cost. This quickly becomes toxic as envy is usually not caused by an object but by a feeling of discontent in their own life. So achieving and acquiring that object will not make them happier. A sense of contentment is one of these things that money cannot buy.
However, it is possible to recognize envy for what it is – discontent with your own life. Once you acknowledge that, then you can focus on fixing that instead of focusing on the object of your envy.
Envy and Jealousy Confuse Our Sense of Control
When we feel envy, we are focused on something we do not have. When we feel jealousy, we are focused on someone that is threatening us.
These are both things that we cannot control – we cannot control things we do not own or other people. That upsets us and makes us angry. However, we may think that we can control these things. We may convince ourselves that we do control these things. However, we do not, which leads to frustration, anger, and possibly dangerous actions.
The trick is to start to focus on the things that are in our control. We cannot control other things or other people. We can control how we feel, act or react. Start by understanding what is causing the feelings of envy or Jealousy and work to control that. The only person you can control is yourself.
How Taking Control Helps Reduce Anxiety Generated By Envy vs. Jealousy
When we try to take control of things outside of our power to control, we become anxious. Anxiety is caused being the desperate feeling to be in control. When you are not in control of things that you think you should control, you feel anxious. The keywords to focus on in that statement are things that you think you should be able to control. The things you think you should control are not the same as the things you can control.
We want to be in control of things that we cannot control, which causes anxiety. So when you start to focus on the things that you actually can control, you reduce your anxiety.
Take jealousy, for example; you may feel jealous that another person is taking what you want. However, you cannot control that person. You cannot make someone do something. The only thing that you can control is how you respond to this “threat.” You can become better at what you are doing; you can leave the situation and focus on other things you can have. Those are all in your control. Concentrating on those things will reduce the anxiety generated by envy or jealousy.
Taking control of the things we can control – ourselves – will reduce the anxiety generated by envy and jealousy.
Why It Matters
Emotions are a driving factor in most of the things we do. We are more dependent on our emotions than we realize or care to admit. Understanding the correlation between the way we feel and the way we act can empower us to use our emotions to push us towards the lives we want instead of the lives we are living. Understanding where our envy, Jealousy, or anxiety comes from lets us focus on the root issues and help us lead lives of contentedness, happiness, and self-actualization. After all, isn’t that what we all want?
Harnessing Energy From Envy vs. Jealousy To Get What You Want
Are there times when envy or jealousy can be a good thing? Yes! Envy or jealousy can be good if they spur you to positive action. You can harness the energy from envy or jealousy to get what you want.
Remember, emotions exist, but we can control the actions that come from them. So, if you recognize these emotions inside you, you can use them to push you to do positive actions. For example, you can take the root of jealousy or envy and use it to get what you want. Instead of being jealous of someone, use that emotion to work on yourself to emulate that person’s character traits. Instead of wanting an object that someone has, work on being happy with your things and building a life you enjoy.
Harness this knowledge that now you have and use it to get to the root of what you want. Then, use this to spur you to better and greater things.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.
Robyn is a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. She has her MBA and has been studying Personal Finance on her own for as long as she can remember. She has always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start her blog after a period of extended unemployment. She says that experience really changed the way she viewed her relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education. Read more at A Dime Saved.