Envy and Jealousy: Information on Overcoming the Effects of Envy and Jealousy
Laura cannot control her tongue. Whenever she hears the latest gossip about one of the girls on the cheer squad, she can’t resist the temptation to tell all of her friends.
Lindsay spends almost all of her free time shopping and looking at the latest fashions. Her boyfriend complains that they will never be able to save any money if she continues to constantly spend, but all Lindsay refuses to give it up. All she seems to care about is looking better than all of her friends.
Although Dan has graduated college and now has a great career, he finds himself resenting his brother’s good looks and charm around women. He thinks that he would ba much happier if only, he could be more attractive.
Kim was already jealous of all of the women in her husband’s life, and now she was jealous of his new female coworker. She was letting her jealousy consume her, and it was beginning to really affect their marriage. She was wallowing in self-pity and anger and her husband was getting frustrated. Kim was constantly saying that she knew her husband was going to have an affair or leave her completely (and saying so actually only increased the odds of it coming true). Kim’s husband was feeling smothered and wrongly accused.
DEFINITIONS & KEY THOUGHTS
Jealousy and envy are highly related. They are the result of the toxic combination of anxiety-based insecurity, anger, and an obsession with comparing oneself to others (often very poorly). Jealousy also has a very strong root in fear- especially of losing praise or love from the object of one’s affection, or that something that one has will be taken from them. It is also rooted in an individual’s longing for significance and security. Jealousy usually involves a triangle of three individuals- the jealous individual, their rival (often misperceived), and the person whose attention is being competed for.
Envy is the desire for what others have (i.e., status, lifestyle, possessions, characteristics, or relationships). If it is not controlled, it can develop into contempt, malice, and the destruction of others. It manifests it self through dislike for others and irritation over their prosperity. It is fueled by expectations that one deserves recognition and success over another individual and, as a result, is linked to greed and pride. Envy is the opposite of love because while love celebrates the good of another, envy seeks to destroy another in order benefit oneself.
The initial stage of jealousy and envy involves an individual having a desire for what another person has. When this feeling is not controlled or tended to, it develops into disdain or scorn for the other person simply because they remind the individual of what they are lacking. If uncontrolled, the feeling can also lead to malice, in which the individual wishes to destroy the good in the other person’s life. This is done with the idea that if the individual cannot experience the pleasure that the person has from that good, then that person shouldn’t be able to either.
When jealousy and envy are carried to extremes, they can seriously dominate an individual’s relationships. Chronically jealous individuals use threats, lies, self-pity, and other types of manipulations to control their relationships. If their partner resist to such manipulations, it only results in the jealous individual becoming more controlling.
Causes of jealousy and envy include:
- Dissatisfaction. Focusing on what one doesn’t have rather than what one does have.
- Comparison to others. Some individuals were conditioned at an early age to evaluate themselves only through comparison to others.
- Pride. The false idea that one deserves a life filled with personal gain and satisfaction.
- Seeking significance/Low self-esteem. An individual who do not feel good about their self often seeks significance in their circumstances rather than their true self.
- Desire for worldly gain. Seeking money, appearance, status, achievements, or talents that are of only temporary value.
Expressions of jealousy and envy include:
- Resentment toward others. Being highly judgmental and critical of others.
- Competition in relationships. An individual’s desire to be better than those around them. Exhibition of a tendency toward overachievement or a superior attitude to others.
- Depression. Being highly self-critical for not achieving what one wants to or others have achieved.
- Lack of contentment. A constant desire for greater material gain and the belief that it will bring greater happiness.
- Gossip about others. Constant verbal criticism of others.
- Idolizing others. Beginning thoughts with the expression “If only…”
- Be honest. While you may not feel as though you are experiencing jealousy or envy, your feelings may be disguised as contempt, criticism, self-pity, gossip, manipulation, etc. Do not deceive yourself; reveal your true feelings, attitudes, and motivations.
- Develop a lifestyle of gratitude. Think about what you do have and be grateful.
- Avoid activities that encourage comparison. Only go shopping if you have a specific purchase to make. Read books that encourage reflection on the beauty that is in your life. Limit your exposure to media or magazines that focus on material gain.
- Ask yourself why. When feeling envious, ask yourself what it is about someone else that you are envious of. If you find yourself envying another’s positive qualities such as their compassion or their social skills, think about forming those qualities in yourself- doing so will lead from envy to admiration.
- Take a step back. When feeling jealous, stop and realize it. Avoid making manipulative or controlling statements to others. Spend time with yourself and transform your feelings into positive ones. Doing something to show your love for another (i.e., sending an e-mail or making a call) can be helpful.
- Grow. Make a plan to develop your own positive qualities and unique gifts.
- Don’t give up. Jealousy and envy can be a constant struggle for some individuals and can be indicative of an unresolved past pain. You may be an individual who highly benefits from working with a professional therapist.
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(Portions of the above material is reprinted with permission from Thrive Boston Counseling in Boston, MA.)