Jealousy is the parking space; envy is the car.
Envy is what we feel when someone else has something that we think is out of our league, that they got it and there’s none left. Jealousy is when we feel that someone else has intruded on our turf or taken something that belongs to us, like cutting in front of us in line.
Jealousy is probably one of the most misused emotional terms out there. We tend to say it when envy is what we’re really feeling. Many people won’t cop to envy at all, and it seems to be the hardest of the “seven deadlies” to admit.
This is how it works.
My pets are totally capable of jealousy, and they act it out all the time, but I don’t think envy applies to them. Jealousy is when you believe that something belongs to you and that someone else is threatening something of yours. Example: ALL THE SCRITCHES.
If my parrot is getting a scalp massage, the dog will launch himself onto the couch and belly-crawl up to whoever is doling out this attention, then nudge for some of his own. It’s not like “You have a free hand, you can pet both of us.” It’s more like “stop paying attention to her! ME NOW!” And vice versa, of course. “Oh, anyone can pet a *dog*, but not just anyone gets to touch feathers. But you need to give it your full attention, so why not kick him onto the floor?” They’re constantly trying to bulldoze each other out of the way.
Does he wish he could fly? Does she wish she could catch a ball? Not really. Animals don’t feel envy - because they believe they are magnificent. They do feel jealousy because if there are scarce resources around, then they want it all for themselves. They don’t even feel guilty about it.
This is helpful as a demonstration of abundance mentality.
When am I going to feel rabid with jealousy?
When someone else takes the last slice of pie
When I see someone else in a restaurant or store that has locked its doors before I got in
When someone is sitting at “my” table
I don’t feel *envy* about pie, because I can either get the recipe and make my own, or I can order one. It’s just when I’ve got that hankering for yummy leftovers and someone else beats me to it. I also wouldn’t feel envy about someone else walking into a store or a restaurant, because I know they’ll serve me, too. I’m jealous when I feel entitled to a limited window of opportunity that has closed to me.
A few times, I have had the misfortune to meet a woman who is obsessively jealous over her boyfriend. (This is far less common with husbands, because the commitment has been made official in public). In the mind of one of these women, HER man is the BEST man and every other female in the world wants to steal him.
I don’t work this way, at all, and I’d venture that most people don’t. Why on earth would I want someone who was willing to cheat and lie?
Also, why would I want someone with fresh breakup cooties? Dealing with someone on the rebound leads to nothing but trouble, gossip, and drama. Ick.
The funniest part about the jealous lover is when the person they are clinging to so tightly is not a catch. Like, seriously, I got a man, and have you met him?? Off the top of my head, I can think of three instances when a specific jealous woman thought I was after her specific man.
Two of these women finally wound up marrying their man, which, good for them. The remaining one was finally presented with irrefutable evidence that he cheated, broke up with him after many years together, and wound up happily married to someone at least 3x better looking.
I would never feel either envy or jealousy about someone else’s relationship. It makes no sense. The way one person gets along with someone is no guarantee that they would get along in the same way with me! If two people are having what looks like a fascinating conversation, I might find that it’s a topic that doesn’t interest me at all. Dating and marriage are the same way. Hey, have fun talking Inside Baseball over there, or comparing your favorite craft breweries. Bye now!
Envy is an arrow pointing in a great direction to go.
If I envy someone’s house, vacation, or job, that’s my sign to figure out how they got to where they are. Worst case scenario, I could always hire an architect and copy their floor plan, maybe try to get their landscaper to come over and do my place. (I actually live in a small apartment). Whatever their job is, unless they are Beyonce then someone else out there is hiring for that job description.
Celebrity is the most widespread thing there is. If someone is singing then there’s a demand for that genre of music. If someone has a bestseller, then there’s a tested audience for that type of material.
Caveat: Only envy someone their fame, wealth, or number of downloads if you are 100% certain you have fully documented the number of hours/years they put in and that you know you are willing to work at least that hard.
I saw an extremely famous and very talented Hollywood actress in a bikini once. I sat up straighter, feeling great pride, because I knew I had better ab definition than she did. I have no interest in being an actress, but I liked how it felt to compare our gym ethics. I can’t even afford a trainer!
Envy and jealousy are both about social comparison, and social comparison is a killer of happiness. There is only one way to live comfortably with it, and that is to compare downward.
Nobody feels envy toward someone else’s quarrels, their veterinary emergencies, their mess, their debts, their low moods or poor self-esteem.
Personally I love comparing my life to what I read about celebrities, because fame seems to trap them at whatever emotional age they were when they got famous. They often act like bratty children or out-of-control teenagers. I’ve never wrecked a car, slapped a cop, thrown my phone in someone’s face, tried to get a gun through airport security, or been sent to rehab.
I might not be a multi-millionaire, but I can go to the grocery store in peace and there are no paparazzi following me. I know how to live my private life in quiet dignity. Envy that!
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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