Usually I hear people use the word “jealousy” for all kinds of resentment, but I’ve noticed that there are actually two kinds: jealousy, and envy. Although they feel similar, it is important to recognize the key differences between jealousy and envy, because each requires different actions and thought processes in order to alleviate them.
The Difference between Jealousy and Envy
Jealousy is resentment that comes from a fear of loss. You have something, and you fear that someone else will take it, and so you are jealous of that someone.
Envy is resentment that comes from a desire to gain. Someone else has something that you do not have, and you want that thing, and so you are envious of that someone.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell what exactly you are feeling, because the two feelings are very similar and sometimes come hand in hand. For example, if you notice that a friend of yours is spending more time with someone else than you, you might feel either jealous or envious. You’re jealous because you’re afraid of losing your status as “friend” to this other person, or you’re envious because you want to have as good of a relationship with your friend as this other person seems to. You might even be both jealous and envious at the same time.
It is vital that you identify whether you are feeling jealousy, envy, or both, so that you can handle your feelings in an appropriate way, one that will help you to feel better without hurting anyone else.
Dealing with Jealousy
If you are feeling jealous, take a moment to answer two questions: what exactly it is that you fear to lose, and why do you think that someone is in a position to take it from you? Take steps to assess the actual level of threat. How likely is it that you are going to lose the thing that you are afraid of losing?
If what you fear to lose is a person, it may help to communicate your concerns to them. You are not a mind reader, and you might be unaware of other factors in this person’s life that would explain why they are keeping a distance from you at the moment. It is also important to remind yourself that you cannot claim ownership of other people.
If what you fear to lose is a job, do some brainstorming. To help yourself feel more secure in your position, think about the things that you uniquely contribute to your role. Consider asking a coworker or leader for feedback on your performance and ways that you can improve.
You feel jealous because something matters to you and you don't want to lose it, but hurting or limiting other people will not help you to stop feeling jealous. Try to think about the people around you as trying to succeed in their own right instead of trying to take something from you. The world is large enough for both you and them to be happy in it!
Dealing with Envy
If you are feeling envious, here are the questions to answer: what exactly is it that you want, and is it in fact something that you could one day have?
If the answer to the latter question is no, then you have a new question to answer: why can you not have it? Is it a person with their own agency and ability to make decisions about who they interact with, or a lifestyle that you were not born into? Sometimes recognizing why you cannot “have” something can alleviate the stress of envy. It also helps to reframe the way you think about the person who has what you don’t. Try to turn “I envy you” into “I am happy for you.” It isn’t easy, but it does help.
If the answer to the “could I one day have it” question is yes, come up with a game plan for how you can get it, or something like it, without bringing other people down. It’s good to be an ambitious go-getter, but not so good to be a bully or a thief. If you want more friends, find events in your community that you can go to and meet people at. If you want a promotion, do some networking and learn what skills you need to develop.
You feel envious because you want something, and hurting other people who have that thing will not make you stop feeling envious. If you want something, work for it! Try to think about the people around you as sources of advice and aid instead of as obstacles in your way. You never know what you might learn from someone or from your experiences as you work towards a goal.