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Jealousy Vs Envy: How to Tell Them Apart When They Feel the Same

Jealousy Vs Envy

What does jealousy vs envy really feel like? What are the differences? And, how can you overcome a bout of the green-eyed monster?

It seems like nobody these days is happy with what they have. We always want more. We’re always striving for the next big thing or to own the latest gadget. All of this go-getting is fine, but if you start to look at other people and feel a tinge of the green-eyed monster rearing up, it’s time to pull things in. Jealousy, envy, confused emotions of jealousy vs envy, flashes of green and social media bombarding you with new reasons to feel more of them? It’s a real mess!

In some ways, comparing your life to the lives of others means that you’re keen to improve. That’s a good thing. However, if you’re comparing and you’re always coming up short, you need to ask yourself why. What you then need to understand is what you’re feeling, and the real differences between jealousy vs envy. The two things are very different, but they’re both damaging in their own ways. 

[Read: Instagram envy – How to keep things real when all you see is green]

What does it mean to be jealous?

You’ll hear the ‘green-eyed monster’ attached to jealousy and it’s a phrase I’ve already used. Basically, you’re jealous when you look at something someone has, or someone in general, and you feel strong emotions that are negative. This isn’t just wishing you had what they have, it’s feeling upset that you don’t have it, and feeling resentful of that person through no fault of their own. 

For instance, if someone is more successful than you, it could be that they’ve worked harder to get where they are, they’ve sacrificed something, or maybe they just got lucky. Either way, it doesn’t matter because all you should do is focus on making things better for yourself. However, when jealousy enters the scene, you look at that person and you feel bitterness, resentment, and you might even simply decide that you don’t like them. 

It’s not the other person’s fault that they have something you don’t have. But jealousy doesn’t allow you to see things clearly. It clouds your judgement and makes you act in a way which is negative and bitter. Put simply, it’s not attractive. [Read: How to stop being jealous for no reason and start living envy-free]

What does it mean to be envious?

So, in the jealousy vs envy argument, we now need to talk about what it means when you’re envious, or feeling envy. This is when you wish you had something. For instance, you might look at a model on the TV and wish you had the clothes they’re wearing. You don’t necessary feel bitterness or resentment towards that model, you just wish you had what they have. It’s a desire more than a sense of dislike, but it’s negative all the same. 

Which is worse – Jealousy or Envy?

Which is worse? Neither is particularly positive, but jealousy probably just pips envy to the title. Someone who is jealous feels a whole host of negative feelings towards that person, yet someone who is envious just desires what they have. It doesn’t always have to be personal with envy, it can just be about the thing they have.

However, there is another definition to bear in mind, one which can often be a signal of something underlying. Envy can be coveting something, but jealousy can also be connected to fear. In that case, you would fear that the thing you have is going to be taken away from you by a situation or another person. 

As you can see, it’s complicated!

[Read: Why am I so jealous? How to see the hidden reasons and find a real fix]

Jealousy vs envy and the very clear differences between them 

The problem is that jealousy and envy are often confused and bundled together as the same thing. As you can see from the jealousy vs envy description above, they’re subtly different. So let’s look at the differences in a bit more detail and clear up this confusion. 

#1 Jealousy is driven by fear. At its very central point, jealousy is driven by a fear of having something taken away from you or being less than what you perceive to be about. You might not realize it at the time, and you might simply be clouded by what you think you want. But underneath it all, you’re scared of something and it’s time to figure out what that is and be more secure in yourself. [Read: How to tell if someone wants to hurt you because they don’t care]

#2 Envy doesn’t necessarily bear grudges. Whilst I don’t want to downplay envy in the jealousy vs envy argument, it doesn’t tend to bear the same level of grudge as jealousy does. You can envy someone or something and not particularly feel anything overly negative towards that person. You don’t always with jealousy either, but it’s much more prevalent. In many ways, jealousy tends to feel more overwhelmingly negative. 

#3 Jealousy can drive unpleasant reactions. At its strongest point, jealousy can completely cloud your judgement and cause you to say and do things that you’ll regret when you look back and see things more clearly. A bout of jealousy can literally be like the Incredible Hulk turning green; it’s that powerful and that overwhelming when it really hits and can be compared a little to anger in that sense. [Read: How to stop being jealous of someone else’s success]

#4 Envy is often more subtle. Whilst envy can be strong, it’s a little more subtle and under the radar than full-on jealousy is. You can be quietly envious of something or someone but you’re rarely quietly jealous – it usually bubbles up at some point.  

#5 Jealousy is usually of a person or their success. Jealousy can be about things but more often than not, it’s jealousy of a person and their connection with another person or their success. That means that you’re scared of your connection being taken away or your success being questioned. 

#6 Envy can be about things rather than people. Envy can be about people, which is what makes the whole jealousy vs envy thing quite confusing, but it’s more commonly about things. You can be envious of a person’s body, their clothes, their car, or their phone, for example. [Read: The signs of bad any to know if someone’s threatened by you]

#7 Jealousy and envy can happen at the same time. The reason why jealousy and envy are often confused is because they tend to happen at the same time, before jealousy burns greener and takes over. In some cases, it begins as envy and spirals into full-on jealousy, or they can exist at the same time. It’s confusing, I know, but you simply need to be aware that they’re two separate entities. 

#8 You can feel envious in the short-term, but jealousy can be a longer deal. Envy doesn’t tend to last over the years, but jealousy can. Envy tends to be a short-term thing which burns away in the end, unless it turns into jealousy. However, jealousy can last over the long-term and can cause deep divisions and resentments between people. [Read: 16 subtle signs of a jealous friend you may not always recognize]

#9 The green-eyed monster is most commonly connected to jealousy. People don’t tend to link the green-eyed monster analogy to envy, and it’s usually jealousy that they’re talking about when they use this phrase.  

#10 Both jealousy and envy can ruin relationships. This isn’t necessarily a difference but something to be aware of. Regardless of their degree of severity, both jealousy and envy have the potential to completely ruin relationships. Whilst we say that going green is a good thing, in terms of the environment, in this case, it’s not!

How to tell if someone is envious or jealous of you

We’ve talked about jealousy vs envy in terms of their differences and similarities, but how can you tell if someone is actually envious or jealous of you? 

#1 They compliment you in a fake and insincere way. When they give you a compliment, you can tell that it’s really not meant to be genuine. Perhaps it’s their body language or the way they say it, but it’s very clearly fake. [Read: How to instantly recognize fake people and stay away]

#2 They imitate you. They say that imitation is a form of flattery and in this case, it’s because they’re envious or jealous of you and they’re trying to copy you or what you have.  

#3 They may spread gossip about you. If you hear gossip being uttered behind your back, the chances are that person is the one who’s spreading it. If you find that to be true, it’s probably because they’re having an attack of the green-eyed monster and they want to make you look bad. 

#4 They try to go one better than you. If you’re feeling great, they’re feeling amazing. If you found a pair of shoes in the sale at half off, they got them for free. You can see the pattern here; a jealous or envious person tries to make themselves feel better by trying to do better than you, or at least saying they did. [Read: When and how to end a friendship if they’re toxic and holding you back]

#5 They talk about their successes to try and feel better about themselves. Someone who is constantly talking about how successful they are or what they’ve done well, is doing it for one reason – they’re trying to feel better about themselves, probably because they’re jealous or envious of you.  

#6 They act as though they don’t like you, but you’ve done nothing wrong. If you just get a vibe that they really dislike you, but you’ve no real reason for them to do so, it’s probably just because they’re jealous of you. Sad, but true. 

#7 They may give you bad advice. If advice is given and it’s deliberately bad, this is a very concerted attempt to trip you up. Why? Because when you look bad, they feel better. [Read: The 25 types of worst friends you can ever have in your life]

#8 They’re super-competitive around you. If someone is always trying to compete with you and it seems like they only act this way around you, it’s because they’re trying to win out. Why? Who knows!

#9 You find them to be quite critical, but only of you. Again, if someone is just critical of you and no one else, you have to ask why. If you’ve done something to upset them, that’s understandable, but if not, it could be that jealousy or envy is playing a part. 

#10 They love it when you fail or fall short. Do they celebrate when you fall short of the mark? Someone who is supposed to be a friend or even a decent person wouldn’t do that. The probable reason for their actions is because they’re jealous or envious. [Read: 13 truthful signs your friend doesn’t respect you or even care about you]

#11 They like to show you up in front of other people. Making you look a fool or less than you really are in front of others is a key habit for someone who is jealous or envious. They’re trying to pull you down so that they look better as a result. 

#12 They’re the epitome of fake. Jealous people tend to be quite fake around the people they’re jealous or envious of. If that’s something you can see, it’s probably the issue with this person. 

[Read: How to recognize a fake best friend before you get betrayed or hurt]

As you can see, the jealousy vs envy subject is a confusing one. But the way in which both emotions make people act can be extremely damaging and negative. If you can see that someone is acting this way around you, it might be worth asking them what it is that they’re so jealous or envious of! 

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...

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