close up of a green eye
Mental health

Are jealousy and envy always wrong?

Before researching this blog, I used jealousy and envy interchangeably but they have quite different meanings.
To feel envious is a feeling of lacking, a desire for something someone else has, whereas to feel jealous is about fearing to loss of something.

Jealousy may most commonly be felt as a fear of losing a partner or spouse – perhaps fearing their eyes are or may wander to someone other than you.

Envy may be felt about all sorts of things, from a young age, we may envy a school friend’s new set of colouring pens or someone with a disability may feel envious of someone’s ability to carry out tasks more easily.

I have said many-a-time that there are no such things as negative feelings. All feelings communicate messages to us – they tell us how important something is – for example, I wouldn’t bother getting angry about something I didn’t care about, once I realise it’s importance, through feeling angry, I do not have to act violently (as many fear when anger is out of control) but I can choose to act with appropriate passion.

female refusing to communicate

Both jealousy and envy can be ugly feelings is used inappropriately. For example, a jealous spouse may be irritable or spiteful with their words – the jealousy may turn into anger, acting as if they have already lost their partner, not realising their jealousy is a sign of the deep love they feel and a fear of losing that person. If jealousy, in this context, was used constructively, a more loving, nurturing relationship could flourish. It’s always important to talk about these feelings, it’s far easier and simpler to say “I feel concerned about how much time you’re spending with x, is there anything I need to be worried about?” or “I’m concerned the spark is going from our relationship, what could we do to re-light it?”, that to be eaten up with jealousy and risk losing what you feared losing in the first place!

Envy is unhelpful if it stops you being pleased for the person who has the thing you want! For example, if I was envious of my friend’s new set of pens and told her I thought they were brilliant and felt a bit envious, she may well let me use them! But if my envy got in the way and I acted annoyed and angry about the situation, I’m unlikely to get to use the new pens!

Telling someone you’re envious of them is a way of communicating that the thing they have is desirable. This does not need to be negative! If I feel envious, it tells me the importance of the desirable thing – it may spur me on, give me the motivation to strive for the desirable thing. For example, if someone has particularly luscious locks, my envy, channelled correctly, could motivate me to try a new style or generally look after my hair better!

Forcing ourselves not to feel envious or jealous, or denying the feelings, is just like any other feelings, when unexpressed it can fester – and they will come out somehow! If we don’t express them healthily (by talking about them or another way) they could out in another emotion such as anger or in an addiction, headaches or other physical symptoms or unhealthy behaviours – there’s no way of keeping unexpressed feelings hidden, it just doesn’t happen!

Some may fear “the green eyed monster”, since it has its origins in sickness we’re right to avoid the ugly side of jealousy or envy but fearing the extreme expression of an emotion shouldn’t prevent us experiencing the healthy emotion.

If you’re happy with your lot, and don’t feel worried about losing anything and never desire anything anyone else has, no probs! Enjoy it! But don’t deny natural feelings – it’s ok and perfectly healthy to feel jealous and envious, just put the feelings to good use!


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