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Jealousy & Envy Bias
By Juan Carlos
Jealousy is the desire to keep what you have, whereas envy is the desire to obtain what you do not have. These feelings are a biological survival mechanism built into the human condition, now less useful in modernity, that upend relationships, society, and the world.
- Fear of loss and distrust
- Fear of losing someone
- Uncertainty and loneliness
- Low self-esteem and sadness over perceived loss
- Being suspicious or angry regarding a perceived betrayal
- Feeling inferior
- Resenting your circumstances
- Dismay towards other’s achievements
- Yearning to possess another person’s attractive qualities
- Ill will towards another and often guilt concerning those feelings
- Motivation to improve yourself
Why Use It
Understanding how jealousy and envy impact life and decisions is essential for understanding human behavior.
Jealousy stems from fear, fear of loss, fear of not being adequate. The moment somebody feels this emotion, it can cast a relationship narrative in a completely different light. As a result, that person cannot discern between being protective versus unreasonable suspicion. The individual’s reaction usually includes negative emotions and behavior toward their significant other.
Envy stems from social comparison, which defines much of how an individual perceives themself. Without social comparison, it’s nearly impossible to know if someone is good or bad at something. The ability to compare themself to others is a form of measurement. But envy can subsume the comparison and reflect a negative self-image at the individual. So, in feeling inferior from the social comparison, people are suddenly aware of their lack.
At jealousy’s core is a human requirement to feel needed.
At envy’s core is a human requirement to be worthy.
When to Use It
Jealousy involves three people: yourself, your partner, and a rival. The emotion rears its head when you feel threatened by someone else. This triangular relationship between three parties is how jealousy exists, and it’s challenging to overcome because you cannot control others’ needs or perceptions.
On the other hand, envy exists when you compare yourself to others. Say you’re watching an NBA game, and a player wins MVP. It’s unlikely you’ll feel envy for their success because it’s not a part of your identity. However, if you happen to be a professional basketball player, you might be envious of their achievement.
There are two types of envy:
- A motivating kind that uses a feeling of inferiority to fuel improvement.
- A vicious kind that uses a feeling of inferiority to take something from someone else.
Your reaction is related to your perception of circumstances and whether you feel disadvantaged or unfairly treated. Observing your weaknesses from this vantage point becomes the basis to improve.
How to Use It
Recognizing where jealousy stems from and how to manage it positively improves relationships, professional aspirations, and goals. The emotion often relates to low self-esteem and manifests in self-criticism. Negative self-talk cultivates uncertainty, suspicion, and doubt, culminating in attacks on oneself and others.
When observing or feeling jealous, it is vital to:
- Understand where the emotion is rooted
- Remain vulnerable and acknowledge feelings with empathy
- Stay centered and focus on locating a sense of security
- Be committed to seeing or being one’s best self
- Have a hard discussion and express feelings
Jealousy is a complex emotion to handle and demands active listening. Feeling its rise and willingly challenging the inner voice requires emotional maturity. While the outcome may not be ideal, the ability to navigate a delicate situation is critical and increases self-awareness.
Similarly, envy can be a catalyst for personal growth or a destructive force. Learning how to utilize it best or help others steer themselves through it is valuable. One technique is to go beyond the immediate desire to have what someone else has and visualize trading your life with theirs. Instead of choosing one aspect of their life, you must accept it all, the good and the bad, and give up your life and choices. The exercise often illuminates negative aspects of the person’s life you’d assume while simultaneously highlighting the positive aspects of your own life.
Overcoming envy requires examination and reframing the situation:
- Notice how different the circumstances of someone else’s life are from your own
- Recognize that other’s success is not a reflection of you and does not detract from your efforts
- Use pre-conceived positive self-talk as a trigger to reset and stabilize your identity
- Discover their virtue, mind your shortcomings, align on what improvements can be made, and execute against a plan
Envy left to its own devices can lead to destructive actions and adverse outcomes in life. Moreover, it can eat at your purpose. Finding healthy ways to take what is seen as a negative emotion and repurpose it into something useful is a superpower.
How to Misuse It
Getting better at experiencing jealousy and envy will not stop them from existing in your life or others. It’s not easy to mitigate these powerful drivers of behavior, especially when one is vulnerable.
Jealousy and envy are at the root of many interactions when it comes to humans because people like to be seen as worthy and want to be loved.
It’s not about conquering these tough emotions forever but rather allowing them to exist when they arise. While seen negatively, they deliver self-awareness and motivation to change. By harnessing their power instead of denying or being crushed by jealousy or envy, one can find a firmer foundation for one’s own identity and ultimately use it to forge a path toward a better future.
Where it Came From
As a part of human nature, the etymology of these two emotions can be traced back to the myth about the Egyptian God Osiris. The stoics later wrote on the subject, and Seneca is known for saying that a wise man is “content with his lot, whatever it be, without wishing for what he has not.” Many years later, the color green became associated with jealousy and envy because William Shakespeare employed “the green-eyed monster.”
Unlock Clear Thinking
Fueled by a passion for storytelling and excitement for life design, I find joy in reframing narratives to illuminate paths toward fulfillment. My experience spans high-growth startups, filmmaking, and social impact, culminating in my authorship of “Mind Guide: 49 Mental Models for Effective Decision Making.” Through mentoring and coaching, I guide teams and individuals to discover purpose and cultivate a meaningful life.
I started in film, directing award-winning features such as ‘Know How’ and ‘Second Skin.’ These cinematic endeavors earned me recognition and allowed me to serve as a spokesperson for Adobe. I founded the White Roof Project, a grassroots climate activism campaign that mitigated the urban heat island effect and spurred community-led social change.
I carried my storytelling skills and passion for societal transformation as I transitioned into the startup ecosystem. Initially, I contributed to social impact apps, converting complex issues into accessible solutions. This early experience laid a foundation for my later work, where I led the development of groundbreaking products within high-growth startups. My work has underscored the potential of technology to innovate industries and amplify the quality of human life.