Know your emotions: jealousy isn’t envy

June 5, 2014 by Joshua
in Freedom, Nature, Tips

If someone wins the lottery or gets something you wish you had, would you feel jealous of them?

No, you wouldn’t. If you wish you had something someone else did, you would envy them, which is different from jealousy. Today people use the terms interchangeably, but they describe distinct feelings. I only learned the difference a few years ago when someone pointed it out to me. Since then I’ve become more aware of both emotions and they create fewer problems. That’s the value of awareness.

The more accurately you understand your motivations and emotions, the greater your emotional awareness and the more you can manage your life.

I’m no expert on the emotions, but I’ve experienced them like anyone and I’ve developed skills to handle them.

What is envy?

Envy is what you feel when you wish you had something you don’t. For example, you envy someone who has something you don’t. Depending on your tastes, you might envy someone who drives a nicer car than yours.

What is jealousy?

Jealousy is what you feel when you have something and you’re afraid of losing it. For example, if you have a nice car, you might be jealous of it if you were afraid of losing it or of it getting scratched. A spouse can be jealous if they think their spouse might leave them.

Jealousy is a form of neediness that leads people to try to control people they feel jealous of, famously people they feel like they love. It’s close to the opposite of confidence.

Why does the difference matter?

If you only think of jealousy to mean envy, you won’t sense the different feelings and you won’t know how to solve jealousy-related problems.

If you think jealousy means envy, when you feel jealous of something, you might not realize your neediness, especially if you associate your jealousy with caring. If you’re worried your nice car might get scratched or stolen, that’s jealousy, and it leads to you not enjoying it. Feeling jealousy doesn’t mean you care about your car more than someone who doesn’t feel jealousy. It means you care for it and feel insecure and needy.

If you’re worried your partner might leave you, that’s jealousy too. As with the car, feeling jealous of someone doesn’t mean you care about your partner more than if you didn’t feel jealousy, it means you also feel insecure and needy. Since neediness repels people, your jealousy will tend to push that person away from you. Without your jealousy, they might not move away.

How do I feel less jealousy?

I’ve found awareness is the best starting point, so I consider distinguishing it from envy and learning more about the emotion the best start. Awareness alone will probably lead to many instances of jealousy to dissipate.

Next is to develop skills of resilience, which build confidence. The more you recover from losses and find that the loss wasn’t as bad as you expected, or that you could build from it to improve yourself, the less you’ll feel jealousy.

Next is to expand on those skills. Allow yourself to enjoy things you once feared you might lose. If the car gets scratched, how bad is that? Give your partner freedom to do what they want. They’ll be more likely to stay with you without your neediness. You’ll develop more confidence with each experience.


I don’t recommend protecting yourself from getting hurt as much as you can, or at least I found that strategy hurt my life. As I wrote in “Leadership, personal development, choosing to care, and emotional pain,” I’ve found choosing to care means you will get hurt. Avoiding getting hurt means choosing not to care as much as you would otherwise, which I find dulls life.

Again, I find developing skills of resilience—handling problems, not preventing every single one of them—achieves everything protecting yourself does without the loss of excitement, joy, caring, passion, and what we want.

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1 response to “Know your emotions: jealousy isn’t envy

  1. Pingback: Non-judgmental Ethics Sunday: Why Can’t I Clean My Boyfriend’s House for Pay? - Joshua Spodek

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