The 4 differences between jealousy and envy

Jealousy and envy are natural emotions in the human being.

The first thing to understand is that we have all felt one or the other at some stage of our lives. There is no shame or guilt, but there is an understanding of what they are and why they appear.

There are substantial differences between jealousy and envy.. Although they seem to be the same, each of them actually defines a different feeling, circumstance and reaction. We explain what these differences are to help you identify the two emotions.

The differences between jealousy and envy

It’s not the same to be jealous as it is to be envious. Just as it is not the same to be a jealous person or to be an envious person. That is to say, both feelings can happen to all of us at specific moments, and that does not make us define ourselves as jealous and/or envious.

However, there are people who do present a repeated attitude of jealousy or envy towards those with whom they live on a daily basis. This can lead to pathologies, that’s why it’s important to understand the differences and characteristic traits of envy and jealousy..

Definition and concept

To understand the difference between jealousy and envy, one must know their respective definitions.

From the very meaning of the words that each one of these emotions has, we are giving light to the fact that each one of them expresses different situations, reactions and feelings, and therefore at the same time there is a particular context that defines them.

A. Envy

Envy refers to the negative reaction that one person has for not possessing something that another person does possess.. This reaction can be sadness, anger or frustration and manifests itself when we want for ourselves what someone else has. Although it does not only refer to the possession of material objects, there is also envy for accomplishments, relationships or friendship, or other intangible things.

B. Jealous

Jealousy is the feeling produced by the idea of losing something valuable for us in the hands of someone else.. It refers above all to losing the affection or love of those whom we love, but because a third person appears. Jealousy does not only occur in relationships, it also occurs with friends and family.

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2. Reactions and emotions

The reactions and emotions caused by jealousy or envy are usually different. Due to the very nature of these emotions, each produces a reaction as a consequence of the feeling. That is, while jealousy manifests itself with fear, envy often generates anger..

Behind jealousy there is insecurity, and this is based on the excessive fear of losing the loved one and reactions can range from sadness, anxiety, anguish or violent attitudes ranging from screams and complaints, to physical aggressions. When jealousy is experienced by children or teenagers, it is necessary to help them with the management of this emotion to make them recover the security of the love of their parents or family.

On the other hand, envy produces a sadness or anger for not having or believing that one cannot have what another person has and what we would want for us. Although the daily reaction to the feeling of envy is anger, there are also people who present depressive pictures.

In addition, this can lead to a decrease in self-confidence by feeling unable to get what you want.

3. What Causes Them

Another substantial difference between jealousy and envy is what causes them.i.e. the causes. As already mentioned, there are very specific characteristics that define in which cases the emotion is envy and in which other situations it is jealousy. Each is caused by different circumstances that are very easy to identify.

What causes jealousy is the uncertainty of losing the affection of someone we love because of the possibility of being replaced by another person. For example, children feel that they lose their parents’ love when a sibling arrives or if they are seen to be affectionate to someone else. It’s the same with a partner or friends. That is to say, jealousy is caused by the relationship or closeness of our loved ones to someone else and the insecurity we have in front of this.

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Envy, on the other hand, is caused by the frustration of seeing that someone has something we want. If a person obtains a triumph or recognition, is possessor of something material, or of a style of life that we desire, if he has a couple that we would like to have or has some physical attribute that we do not have, then a feeling of frustration is caused and later of sadness or anger in different levels.

4. Pathological

Jealousy and envy can lead to a pathological attitude. When any of these emotions exceed normal parameters and negatively take over people, there is a risk of developing pathological jealousy or envy that goes beyond a mere normal passing sensation in any human being.

This is a substantial difference between jealousy and envy. Sick” or pathological jealousy is more common than pathological envy. When a person’s security and self-esteem are deeply affected, the sense of jealousy is magnified and overreacted. That is to say, the feeling of jealousy does not remain in a sadness before the uncertainty, but that the person begins to take hostile and even violent actions.

Although envy can also develop unhealthy pathological attitudes, these rarely reach levels as harmful as in the case of jealousy. The person who feels envious may feel tormented by the feeling of frustration.and far from finding the right ways to achieve what he would like to have, he focuses his energies on taking away from someone else what he envies.

This dynamic becomes complex and undoubtedly affects the emotional stability of those who live with this constant feeling of envy.

Bibliographic references

  • Clanton, Gordon; Smith, Lynn G. (1977). Jealousy. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

  • Klein, Melanie. Envy and gratitude (1957). Buenos Aires, Paidos.

  • Mathes, Eugene (1991). “A Cognitive Theory of Jealousy.” The Psychology of Jealousy and Envy. New York: Guilford Press.

  • Parrott, W. G., & Smith, R. H. (1993). Distinguishing the experiences of envy and jealousy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.