Oftentimes, people confuse their feelings of envy for jealousy, or vice versa. However, there is a difference between these two emotions. How do you define being jealous vs being envious? Generally speaking, envy is wanting something someone else has while jealousy is more about holding onto something you already have. Another way of looking at these two emotions, in the context of relationships, is that envy usually happens between two parties whereas jealousy implies there is a third party seen as a rival for affection or attention.
You may be wondering, why does it matter how envy and jealousy differ? It is important to be able to decipher if you, or someone else around you, is experiencing jealousy or envy because they are destructive in their own ways. To be able to effectively cope, you must first understand the emotion you are trying to deal with. Furthermore, understanding what emotions you are feeling can help you define the root cause, thus allowing you to see a solution more clearly. There are different steps you can take to cope with being jealous vs being envious, but first let’s explain the signs of jealousy vs the signs of envy.
Signs of Jealousy
Signs of jealousy within a relationship generally come down to a lack of trust or a fear of abandonment. Jealousy is often tied to romantic relationships, but it can occur in any type of human relationship. For example, siblings may experience jealousy when fighting for the attention of their parents, or perhaps your best friend has been hanging out with someone new, causing you to feel left out. Additionally, you may be jealous of how close your coworker and boss are getting, fearing it will ruin your ability to impress them. Jealousy can be a painful emotion to experience. Evolutionary psychologists believe jealousy is a natural emotion that acts as a signal or wake-up call when a valued relationship is in danger. Therefore, jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves special bonds and inspires people to take the steps to maintain important relationships.
Some common signs of jealousy within a romantic relationship include: not trusting your partner when you are not together, getting concerned when they mention other people, constantly checking your partner’s social media, attempting to control your partner’s behavior, and/or fearing that they are cheating on you. On the other hand, if you are a target of jealousy you may feel like your partner is trying to control your life. They may always check up on you, try to tell you what to do, or limit your contact with friends and family. Again, jealousy is usually motivated by insecurity or fear. Jealousy can quickly cross the line into controlling behavior. If you are heavily monitoring your partner’s whereabouts, making wild false accusations, trying to isolate your partner from people who trigger your jealousy, or you are experiencing these actions at the hands of your partner, friend, or family member, it is time to seek help.
Signs of Envy
Remember, envy is usually an emotion that happens between you and one other person. For example, you see your friend post an amazing vacation picture on her Instagram, you then envy her for being able to relax and travel while you have to work. Another tell-tale sign you are experiencing envy is if you struggle to feel happy for people when they achieve success or you feel like you constantly have to one-up everyone’s accomplishments. Not only do you lack happiness for people when they succeed, you feel actively unhappy about another’s success. In turn, you may feel the need to diminish someone’s success to make yourself feel better. You may also judge people negatively or feel happy when someone else faces a set-back. Essentially, the feeling of envy relies on someone having something – a possession, quality, or achievement – that we desire for ourselves.
How to Cope
The first major step in coping with jealousy or envy is defining the root cause of these feelings. This is, again, why it is important to be able to decipher between these two emotions.
If you are feeling jealous, try to accept and admit it. Indulging in this kind of self-reflection may help you ward off similar feelings of jealousy in the future. It may also be helpful to be honest with your partner when you are experiencing feelings of jealousy. Being upfront and honest about how you are feeling and why you are feeling jealous can spur important conversations about what your relationship might be missing and how you can repair the bond.
To cope with envy, you must evaluate your tendency to compare yourself to others. With social media and the internet, it seems feelings of envy are on the rise. It can be hard not to compare yourself in a society that seemingly encourages comparison. However, comparing yourself to others often does more harm than good.
Try to focus more on the here and now, the things you can control. You may find yourself caught up on the fairness of a promotion you missed out on at work. Maybe you feel like you deserved it more than your colleague. Perhaps this is true because honestly life isn’t fair. If you get too caught up in the fairness of everything, you will be disappointed. That is why it is important to focus more on what you can actually do to get to where you want to be. If you are going to compare yourself to anyone, compare yourself with yourself. Try to always keep improving instead of focusing on how others are doing “better” than you.
Speaking with a professional therapist can help you deal with both feelings of jealousy and feelings of envy. If you are experiencing toxic jealousy within your relationship, you may even consider couples counseling. Therapy can provide you with the tools to better understand your emotions and cope with them in healthy, productive ways. Chriselda Santos, licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, is passionate about helping her clients develop the skills to better manage their emotions and adopt healthy behaviors. She understands with so many demands placed on our lives, we sometimes suffer. However, she believes you do not have to suffer alone and together, she will help you get back to feeling hopeful again. For more information, or to book your first appointment, visit Chriselda’s website.