jealousy & envy



Sound Familiar?

Ariana ran her own catering company and was doing everything within her power to be number one in Poway.   Her focus was typically on everything business.  However, from time to  time, when she saw another catering company excel, especially one run by another woman, she was flooded with envy. One time she went so far as to post an anonymous bad review on Yelp so that her competitor’s ratings would go down. Afterwards she felt horribly and took the review down, but her jealousy never came down with it.

Jason had a guilty pleasure — it always gave him a little boost when Mark, his husband, got a little jealous when they were out on the town together. He took it as a sign that Mark thought he was such a catch, and it boosted his ego.  More recently though, Mark’s jealousy seems to be inching toward getting out of control. Anytime Jason meets up with another male friend, gay or straight, Mark texts him incessantly, sometimes directly about the person he’s spending time with.  And by all means, Mark requires a play by play when Jason gets home, which often ends up in both of them feeling worse.  Jason feels smothered.  And lately, he almost feels frightened.

Isaac grew up in a family of three boys. Being the youngest of three, he has always watched his older two brothers excel in both sports and relationships. Isaac, a self-identified “computer geek,” seemed to end up alone a lot, but to hear him tell it, it wasn’t because he preferred it that way — he just didn’t have as easy of a time talking to girls.  In jest, his father, also an athelte and socially gregarious, would often make comments about how Issac must have been the “milk man’s son.” Not only did Isaac feel embarrssed at this kind of commentary, but he felt intense jealousy toward his brothers.

What is Jealousy?  Is it the same thing as envy?

On the surface, jealousy is a powerful, often unpleasant emotional response, typically to a perceived advantage, success, qualities, relationships, etc. found outside one’s self that is deemed inaccessible to the person feeling it. For example, a student might feel jealous because a classmate seems to have an easier time taking tests.  Sometimes the advantage, success, qualities, relationships, etc. are not just perceived — in fact, there may be a real advantage.  For example, a person who makes a middle-class income might be jeaolous of a millionaire’s wealth.

Perhaps ironically, one perspective is that jealousy is ultimately is ultimately born of negative thoughts about one’s own self-worth, relative to whatever or whomever is being compared.  From another, some jealous persons seem to have an inflated sense of self-worth leading to feelings of entitlement, from which jealousy for those who have the things the jealous person feels entitlted to springs forth.  But even from that point of view, one can’t help but notice that the comparative “lesser than” factor that seems to always be deeper than just the surface advantage/disadvantage perceptions or realities — again, jealous people seem to actually feel inferior.  For example, whether or not they say it aloud, jealous persons may rehearse phrases like “I’m not good enough” or feel a sense of some fundamental flaw.

It’s possible that what we call jealous is actually the experience of a combination of feelings which we label as jealousy: for example, jealousy often has elements of insecurity, fear, anxiety, and anticipated or actual loss (e.g. of a possession, status, relationship, etc.).  Severe jealousy can also include feelings of anger or rage.

Envy is another word that is often used interchangeably with jealousy, and while they are very similar, envy is typically and technically thought to represent a sort of one-to-one desire for what someone else has — the emphasis is on that desire to possess, whereas jealousy is a more global and hostile feeling based on an appraisal — the emphasis is on the perceived or feared slight.

While jealousy can be a normal reaction, especially if something has been taken from you or you physically can’t attain what you want, (e.g. experiencing a miscarriage and watching a friend easily become pregnant) when it goes unchecked jealousy can be quite hazardous.

Do I have unhealthy jealous tendencies?

Here are some common signs that you are experiencing an unhealthy level of jealousy and may need professional help to feel more confident, at ease, and self-assured.

  • Experiencing resentment when other people excel
  • Feeling extremely competitive with other’s (sometimes even with people you’ve never met)
  • Struggling to feel happy for other people
  • Feeling depressed when you see someone else attain what you want
  • Discontentedness with your life and firmly holding a belief that you have to have a certain life circumstance to be happy (e.g. money, partner, type of house, etc.)
  • Spreading gossip regularly and with anyone

But, why am I so jealous?

There are many different reasons you may be experiencing intense jealousy. It is possible that something from your childhood is being triggered or a negative belief that you hold about yourself could be keeping you from feeling confident in who you are. Ultimately, jealousy is a symptom of deeper insecurity and an attempt to try and protect yourself from experiencing lack be that in relationships, career, financially, etc.

Here are some tips for managing your jealousy so it doesn’t manage you:

  1. Focus on you – As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. Remember that just because someone has something you’d like it doesn’t mean that they directly took it from you. Trust that there is enough to go around be that eligible partners, jobs, or the type of house that you want.
  2. Practice gratitude – There is nothing wrong with wanting something, but to focus solely on only what you don’t have will drive you to an unhealthy place. Practice focusing on what you do have to be grateful for and see what shifts for you emotionally.
  3. Take action – If there is something you truly want and you see other’s getting, take an honest look at your life. Assess how dedicated have you been to taking action toward what you really want. Are you sitting on the sidelines or are you really going for it? Maybe there is something more you could be doing.
  4. Build your self-esteem – You may be experiencing jealousy because you fear that you aren’t good enough to have what you truly want. Focus on believing in yourself and building your confidence rather than just focusing on what you don’t have.
  5. Talk to someone – If you feel you’ve done all you can do and no amount of gratitude seems to work then you may need to speak with a professional counselor to help you learn to manage your jealousy in a healthy way. A counselor can help you to identify more about the root of your jealousy and develop more confidence so the envy doesn’t take you down.

But, what if I really have reason to be jealous?  

You might!  Most of us find that there is a thing or two over the course of our lives about which feelings of jealousy are a common or normal reaction.  But even understandable jealousy is still rather unpleasant for the person who feels it and can nonetheless be an impediment.  Also, jealousy can be felt even when most people might disagree that it is appropriate.  For example, someone’s partner may spend time with their ex quite a lot, and so the impulse to jealousy might be understandable and the circumstances real, but if the partner is not cheating, jealousy is a nontheless unhelpful and unsubstantiated feeling.  Part of the difficulty here is that central to jealousy is the appraisal of the jealous person, and often, the jealous person’s appraisal it itself the source of the problem, particularly when it is negatively filtered and skewed by the negative feelings about one’s slef we mentioned above.

Merited jealousy.

That said, if your jealousy is merited, it is likely important to directly address this situation and seek help in finding the best way to do it to.  Not only are you feeling jealous, but most likely hurt, betrayed, and distrustful, and with good cause.  You have every right to feel all that you are feeling in experiences like this.  At the same time, what you do with the feelings is also very important — merited, legitimate jealousy has still caused negative outcomes for countless people.

Here are some things you can do if you feel your jealousy is justified:

  1. Reach out for support – Being hurt and feeling betrayed can cause deep emotional pain. Seek the support of a trusted friend or counselor to work through what is coming up for you.
  2. Take care of yourself – This may be a time where you want to numb the pain. It is important to find coping skills that are constructive such as a support group, exercise, or making time for hobbies you enjoy.
  3. Know this too shall pass – Right now things are really hurtful and it feels like you’ll never be yourself again. Know that while this is hard and you don’t deserve to be hurt, you will be okay and can find help.

Need some guidance with all of these?  We can help!

At Juxta, California counseling, we are aren’t just expert counselors – we’re people too, which means you can expect us to be genuinely interested in you, your story, and your life.  We want to get to know the real you.  In our work together, honesty with yourself and us comes to characterize the entire healing endeavor. Thus, our relationship itself — that is the work.


There’s nothing else you need to do to prepare.  There’s no reason to wait any longer.

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