People get jealousy and envy mixed up a lot. Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of each:
Envy is the emotion you get when you want something that someone else has. It’s a two-person thing: there’s you and the person you’re envious of. You could want beauty, wealth, socioeconomic status…whatever. Envy is wishing and wanting.
A good example of envy can be seen in Snow White. The evil queen envies how pretty and sweet her stepdaughter is and does the whole “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” routine. The film also portrays one of two types of envy. There is malicious envy (i.e. Snow White’s evil stepmother), and then there’s sort of everyday benign envy. When you are maliciously envious, you become vicious and try to hurt other people by trying to take things away from them. If you are feeling just benign envy, you are looking at other people and thinking, “Wow, I wish I had that,” or “I wish I could do that.” It’s more motivating than destructive.
Jealousy, on the other hand, is a three-person thing. It’s the emotion you get when you fear that someone or something is going to be taken away from you by someone else.
Jealousy was the main theme of the movie, Gladiator. Caesar’s son was very angry with Russell Crowe’s character because his dad admired this soldier guy more. So the son killed his dad, took over his position, killed the wife and kid of Russell Crowe’s character, and put him in “gladiator hell” because Daddy – just like in the “Cain and Abel” story – loved one of them more.
Envy and jealousy affect everyone’s life. I think, statistically speaking, we’re envious infinitely more than we are jealous. However, what really matters is what we do when we feel jealousy or envy: How do we experience it? How do we cope with it?
I have always rejoiced when someone who I perceive as having earned something has success. I have a tough time not resenting people who get things they haven’t earned. That, personally, is my struggle. But it’s not in my nature to do something evil to them because of it. I don’t wish to give into “the dark side.”
Here’s what you can do the next time you are feeling jealous or envious. Let’s say that one of your coworkers gets a promotion and you don’t feel like they deserve it. Or maybe you’re jealous that your spouse gets to be the breadwinner and you have to parent, or vice versa. Well, you can either say, “Oh gee, I wish I had ‘x’,” and spend your time being miserable, or you can be motivated by it. You have to choose between misery and motivation.
Ultimately, you have to put your I.Q. over your emotions. I talk about that dichotomy on my program on a daily basis. Emotions are irrational and powerful, and they can only be combated with your brain. You have to realize that although you may be 100 percent correct about something being unfair, there is not a damned thing you can do about it. You can tear yourself up or tear them down, but either way, you won’t be acting like the kind of person someone else would envy. Instead, use it as motivation to turn yourself into the kind of person everybody envies.
No matter if it is envy or jealousy you’re consumed by, it’s going to be difficult for you to enjoy others’ success if you continue to dwell on it. And furthermore, nobody’s going to envy you if you’re a bitter, frustrated, ugly, angry person.