The Way To Relating, Part 3: Envy Versus Jealousy

Heartbreak, Self

Recognize when your envy turns to jealousy.

Welcome to the third of a series of five articles in discussion of the natural and unnatural emotions. My recent articles examined sadness and anger. This article will analyze the natural emotion of envy and its fixed counterpart jealousy. Envy is a beautiful emotion. It arises naturally in all of us the minute we see something in someone else that we admire. The stunning thing about being human is there are always people we will observe that we feel possess some trait that we do not. This is the start of inspiration. When we see something we like in another we become inspired to posses that trait ourselves.

I hold the belief we are all capable of being everything we envy in the other. We can start by studying the person, the trait they possess and work on possessing it within ourselves. Because we are all unique we will express this new trait with a slightly different twist, but nonetheless we can possess it. We can emulate or practice what we see until it becomes our own natural state of being. It takes time, commitment and effort to make such changes. This is where most fall short. We can get locked into the perception that “they already possess that trait, so it is theirs” No one human being has ownership over any one trait or combination of traits. They are not built on quotas or limits. All things are all open to all of us. Envy leads to inspiration and inspiration leads to transformation. As we transform, we expand ourselves and we enter into the endless process of becoming a newer and newer form of who we already are. Expansion, liberation and endless creation.

For instance, I admire people who do not take no for an answer. To me they seem fearless. If they get a ‘no’ they seem to be inspired into an instant state of creativity. The brainstorming begins as they search for another way to get to their desired goal. Having envy for this trait in others, helps to give me a picture or a blueprint for how to not take no for an answer myself. Practicing this type of creativity and not allowing another to determine my fate has helped me to go beyond many personal boundaries in my own life. It is an on-going practice and continues to improve my life in every way. I realize that being a good rule-follower only made me a good rule-follower but not a maverick. I am much more interested in being maverick.

I search targets that seem fearless to me and I study and emulate these peopleL through my own idea of them. It is inspiring. The key, I have learned, is in working through the emotions that someone else has the ability to tell you that something about you or your life is absolute. If someone told me no I accepted it as truth and lived under that limit. I have found when I decide I do not want the limit all kinds of fears can surface. Can I do something even though I have been told I cannot? Can I be something even though I have been told I have not? Is this a limit I have to follow? If I don’t follow it what will happen? It is those fears which I have to examine and get through. I live by facing the fears and doing what I need to do. I have learned how fear can either stunt or inspire creativity. It all depends on how it is used.

Envy is that which makes us want to be better, have more, do more and fear less. It is designed to motivate us to become more and more of who we already are. Once we become more of who we would like to be, we will find something else in another to envy and we will have another and another opportunity to transform who we are. There are no limits. How beautiful is this? We can improve our form to any level we choose.

What happens then when we envy something in someone that we feel we can never possess no matter what we do? If we see something we envy in another and it makes us feel small or not good enough in ourselves, envy will shift from its natural form and turn into its unnatural counterpart, jealousy.

For example, I have a patient who is a super-model. This girl is gorgeous. She came into my practice depressed and with suicidal thoughts because she was severely bullied in her high school by less beautiful girls. What I shared with her was that her being as beautiful as she is silently bullied the bullies. They saw her beauty as something they could never have and so seeing her each day made them hate her with jealousy. Each viewing of her they would have to repress their envy and it turned into violent jealousy. The feeling of jealousy makes us feel we have no power or control over our worlds, and to compensate for that feeling we exert some type of force to alleviate the anxiety. We tend to project onto people that because they have a certain trait we do not have that somehow their lives are easier and this breeds hatred. The more unfair we feel life is, the more a victim we feel, the more jealous we become. So what do we do when we feel what we want is unobtainable?

The only thing you can do. Look at yourself.  Yes, my patient is a super-model but she also had a horrible childhood and is not confident in herself. Everyone has different things we want. If we cannot have supermodel looks for example, there are plenty of other ways for this bully to shine and make herself stand out. She could be the star of her class as far as intelligence, she could excel at a sport, and she could find a hobby like dance that she could excel at. We are all here to excel in one way or another. We are not all here to excel in the same ways for the same reasons. It is learning to be yourself and learning to improve and commit yourself to being a better and bigger version of who you already are. Jealousy is strongly tied into low self-esteem.

Jealousy is a secondary emotion, envy is the primary emotion. Jealousy contains a host of negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that a person places a high value on. Jealousy is the combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment and disgust. It gives an over all feeling of being out of control of one’s fate. So whether jealousy shows up due to feeling that someone is prettier than you are, or it shows up in a relationship where you feel threatened by an outside source to the relationship, jealousy is everywhere. 

The number one emotion that places people in prison is jealousy. A lot of men and or women will see another person that is outside the relationship as a threat to the relationship. This is caused by the low self-esteem of the jealous person. Often there is no threat but the jealous person cannot stop feeling that there is a threat. Jealousy is essentially immaturity. If we believe that something or someone we love could be so easily taken from us we can become controlling, obsessive and crippling to our partner. With jealousy there is no insight into the insecurity, there is only the need to control. There is no center in the person where the person could say “well if the leave me, then it is their loss.” It becomes an obsession with the jealous person exerting control over their partner’s responses to the outside world. It can become ‘neediness.’ Neediness, jealousy and expectation are the three relationship-enders. Why? Because they compromise the freedom of the other.

We are all going to have insecurities now and again in our relationships and within ourselves. We are going to feel certain levels of threat or fear, but jealousy becomes like a disease and it creates dis-ease in the relationship. It is a closed state of mind based around a distorted perception of the world that feels real to the jealous person. Jealousy is violent because it causes the jealous person to wish misfortune onto others, and to even act that misfortune out onto the target as in the example above with my super-model patient. Jealousy becomes malicious while envy can be a positive motivational force.

Low self-esteem comes from not believing in yourself. One thing I can say for sure is that no one has it any easier on this planet than another. We are exactly where we need to be, learning what we need to learn as individuals and taking our individualized life classes. We can all improve in ourselves whatever it is that we want to improve whether it is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. We have to see desired goals and go after those in our own unique way, either through modeling the behaviors of others we envy, losing weight, working on your appearance, or nurturing the places you excel and celebrating those.

Forward Moving Opportunities: If you are feeling jealous take a look at what feels threatening and examine how you can embody that trait in yourself. If you are feeling jealous that your partner may leave you for someone else, look at your insecurities and decide how to improve upon them. If you can scale back your jealousy and look at what you envy in the other, lets even say you envy that your partner is good at taking time for him/herself without needing you, how can you stop being jealous of this and learn to take time for yourself, to build your life more around you. Each emotional moment of jealousy can give you clear direction for what you can improve in yourself.

Little Life Message: Envy is a natural emotion. It is the emotion that inspires us to be better.