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All About Envy

Updated on June 19, 2013

Does someone else's fruit tree have more fruit than yours?


“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” Proverbs 14:30

“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people's luck.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Some folks rail against other folks, because other folks have what some folks would be glad of.” Henry Fielding

Are You Jealous or Just Envious?

Even though people tend to utilize the two terms as if they are the same, jealousy and envy are not the same. Jealousy is more about the fear of losing something or someone. As a result, jealousy is often associated with a love relationship or a close relationship in which one party feels threatened that he/she will lose a loved one to another person or interest. As a child, you might be jealous that your sibling is getting more attention from your mom than yourself and feel jealous. Married individuals might feel jealous when their spouses spend time with others.

Envy has to do with resentment towards someone else for having something or a quality that you wish to have for yourself. Envy often involves rivals and competition. A person might feel envious that their co-worker got a prime assignment or praise at a board meeting. You might feel envy at your neighbor’s new car and wish you were the one with a new car.

Jealousy has taken on broader meanings over time. Nowadays, people often speak of being jealous and wanting someone else’s things or life as well as in relation to protecting a relationship ~ using jealousy to mean both envy and actual jealousy. The word is not interchangeable in reverse ~ or it is a little awkward. You wouldn’t necessarily say that you were envious when referring to protecting your marriage. In general, an easy way to tell the difference is that you are jealous of something that you want to keep for yourself and envious of something you don’t have.

Dangers of Envy

  • You focus on others instead of yourself. As a result, you no longer have an appreciation of your own accomplishments and qualities. You can lose your own self-worth.
  • Constant comparisons cause us to lose our own unique qualities that make us who we are. You can lose sight of your true ambitions, passions and life mission.
  • You develop ungratefulness for what you have. Your life becomes a constant cycle of miserable unhappiness characterized by always labeling yourself as never good enough.
  • Envy is deep resentment. It ruins personal relationships and working relationships, because an envious person can never be happy for someone else’s accomplishments. Envious people might even lash out at the persons they are envious of with harsh criticisms or worse because they want so badly what the other person has and are so overcome with negativity that they want to inflict harm and cause suffering.

Create Your Own Story


Turn that Envy Upside Down

There is an up side to envy. Envy can be used as a positive motivator to success. You can use incidents when you are feeling envy as opportunities to find out how a particular person got so successful, find inspiration in their story and forge your own path. You can examine what you can do next time to do better on an assignment or project and ask advice from someone you admire. Competition doesn’t have to be negative. Competition can be a powerful motivator. Learn from those better than yourself, surround yourself with successful people so that you can improve your own craft and strive to be where you want to be in life.

An interesting thing happens when you stop being envious and start learning more from the people you are envious of and take the time to get to know them rather than judge. You might find out that these people you thought were so great have their own faults, troubles and struggles. You find out people aren’t good at everything. You might actually be better at something than someone else. You might have a unique talent and ability that can be a real asset to others. You start to find yourself when you stop comparing yourself to others.


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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi, I used to get so jealous of other people for various things, but as I got older I no longer feel that way, and its so darn liberating! lol! Envy? Yep sometimes, but then I think that whats the point, its not going to change anything, great insight truth, loved it, nell

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An excellent hub! I knew the difference between jealousy & envy thanks to Wikipedia and now I am further enlightened by this subject thanks to you. Yes, you are right that there are both positive and negative sides of envy.

      Jealousy+envy is human nature and there should be a limit to feeling jealous/envious. Being too jealous/envious proves detrimental to one's self as well as others known to them. I hardly envy anyone as I am happy with what I have and at the same time I admire others' success stories and get inspired by them. Once again, a wisely-written hub! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & shared

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thank you for reading. I like the idea of fighting with gratitude.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      Oh, I know the two devils called Envy and Jealousy too well. Staying in control of them, fighting them with Gratitude, is not always easy, but definitely possible. Excellent, insightful and inspiring hub!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I have a friend that has a good life but she is envious everyone else. Often the people we are envious of have lives we wouldn't want. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors. Interesting hub voted up.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks for your insightful comments @aviannovice and @rajan jolly

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      You did well to differentiate between the two, and rightly so, for jealousy can only bring negativity while envy has a chance to bring about a positive change.

      Great hub and well written and of course motivating one to get a positive outlook out of a negative emotion.

      Voted up/useful.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jealousy and envy both are two things to steer clear from, if you can. They can cause many problems without necessarily meaning to do so. Good job on defining the two.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Great points SandCastles. People can become big braggers just to make themselves feel good. I know someone who always puts others down to make herself feel good. It is the same principle. And, they both can get a bit tiring to be around.

    • profile image

      SandCastles 4 years ago

      Good hub! Everyone feels envy but it is what you do about it. Sometimes a person actually eggs others on to be envious. These people constantly brag, especially when you are down or feeling insecure. Some people are so focused on not giving into envy that they actually put up with these braggarts. Sometimes not giving into envy means refusing to be around people who try to make you envious. It is normal to be happy for someone's achievements but it is also normal to start feeling resentment when someone monopolizes the conversation as they talk about themselves and theirs constantly while ignoring your wins.

      The dangerous envious person is threatened by everything and they are usually the people who brag. The want you to envy them and want you in the dirt so they could never envy you. They teach you to never bring up your wins with them while they talk about themselves incessantly. It is best to stay away from these types.

      Some so-called friends are only happy with you when you don't threaten them. As long as they are the successful one or the good looking one, they like you. But if you challenge the status quo; they will ditch you. Let them ditch you. If you gain success or lose weight or whatever and the 'friend' stops taking your calls it is likely because you've stepped out of your role as second fiddle.

      Note: If jealousy means protecting your marriage, it is a good thing but it can get out of hand if the husband can't even talk to the opposite sex.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks the useful and added comments. Comparing ourselves to others is such a downfall.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      How interesting. Jealousy can have a positive side if it motivates us to protect something precious to us, such as our marriage. But envy is destructive. We need to stop making comparisons and see others and ourselves in a realistic light. Well-written and useful. Thanks!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent hub here of His truths. Comparing oneself to another is a waste of time. We are all made in His image and are beautiful in His eyes, and we all have are own unique gifts and we should really learn to love ourselves rather than compare ourselves to others, as that is an insult to God, our creator.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image

      Cat 4 years ago from New York


      You are so right. I think we are lead to believe that envy is okay, jealousy is not. I got a lot out of this hub and I am looking at envy differently now. It's funny because I always say, during the lowest points when I want to feel sorry for myself or my circumstances, to look at the positives and be grateful for what I do have... that is very much like this message. Stop waisting time being envious of things that are not our own and embrace what is!

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      Until I read your article, I don't think I ever thought about the difference between jealousy and envy. You are so right that we all need to leave envy behind. Constantly comparing ourselves to others is not healthy!

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Usually both envy and jealousy just chase people away from you, and they move on. It is the envious person that ends up suffering.

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image

      Cat 4 years ago from New York


      I love this; it's empowering! I am certainly guilty of being envious from time to time, but I'd like to think I'm rarely jealous... but I'm sure I do flirt with it :-) Jealousy is pitiful and very counterproductive. I like to think that moments of envy make me strive fore better things, usual relationships, even mothering. At the end of the day, having pride in ourselves and what we already have, while appreciating the positives of others, seems like the ideal combination. Excellent hub!

      Up, awesome and beautiful!


    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      People tend to use the word envy as a more 'cultured' or 'posh' way of saying jealous. Both conditions can be destructive if not kept in check. Good hub and full of salient points. Voted up