Show notes

If you can honestly say that you’ve never experienced jealousy or envy, I’d really love to talk to you.  I would also like to bottle whatever you’ve got, because I have yet to speak to a woman who hasn’t experienced jealousy or envy to one degree or another.  

It seems like wherever you turn, there’s someone that has something that you want, or you have something that you’re afraid they want.  Whether it’s that brand new car that your brother-in-law drove up in, or it’s the waitress who spent a little too much time addressing your spouse while taking your order, it’s pretty challenging to be a woman today and not have pangs of jealousy and envy.

If you have experienced, or are experiencing, jealousy and envy, I want to suggest that you not be so hard on yourself.  As women, we are socialized to feel envious of things like how other women look, what they do or don’t do, what their bodies look like, what they wear, etc.

We are taught to believe that our value, to a large extent, lies in our appearance, and that we need to look a certain way to get love and acceptance from others, especially from men.  We get the message, usually early on in life, that we are in competition with other women and that we need to be thinner, prettier, and nicer, than the competition in order to win the approval of others.

It’s no wonder we’re fixated on anti-wrinkle creams, Spanx, and spending a small fortune on our hair.  The irony though, is that although we’ve been taught to worry about these things, we’re also told that we’re shallow or superficial when we do.

This doesn’t just apply to your appearance either.  Jealousy and envy can apply to where you live, your intelligence, where you went to school, how successful your children are in school, where you go on vacation, how many friends you have; you name it and women are faced with a never ending barrage of competition, jealousy, and envy towards themselves and towards others.

If you think about it, young girls are also told “She’s just jealous of you” as a way to offer comfort and to say, this is why she treated you that way.  Unfortunately that can then send the message that you should think about shrinking or playing small, leading you to hide the things that disconnect you from others.   

Although you have no control over other people’s jealousy and envy, and should never feel like you have to diminish yourself for the sake of others, thankfully there is something you do have control over.  You can learn how to handle your own jealousy and envy, in a way that supports you and supports others at the same time.

This week I’m going to discuss the difference between jealousy and envy, the connection between self-confidence, jealousy and envy, and a better way to handle them both.

The difference between jealousy and envy

As I was researching this topic, I realized how interchangeably we often use the terms jealousy and envy, but that they aren’t actually the same thing.  What they do have in common is that they are negative emotions created by your thoughts, but that’s where the similarity ends.

The definition of jealousy that I’ll be using for this podcast is when you have something but you’re worried that it might be taken away from you.  Most often jealousy is used in the context of romantic relationships but the feeling of jealousy can come up in many different scenarios.

For example, you might feel jealous when you perceive someone flirting with your spouse or you may feel jealous when your best friend discusses plans she had over the weekend with a new acquaintance.  In both scenarios you have a relationship with that person that you’re worried might be taken away from you.

On the other hand, the definition of envy is when you don’t have something that someone else does, and you want it.  It’s the feeling you get when you lack something, whether it’s a relationship, more money, nicer things, a promotion, or a whole host of other possible wants.

When it comes to jealousy, the presumption is that you need this thing in order to be happy therefore, you need to be on the lookout for danger and feel jealous towards anyone who might take it away from you.  For example, you need your spouse in order to be happy therefore you must be on the lookout for anyone who might take them away from you, making you feel jealous.

When it comes to envy, the presumption is that you want and need to have that thing because if you had it, you would be happier.  For example, if you had that beautiful farmhouse like you saw that couple get on TV, you would be happier, but since you don’t have it, you feel envious.

Whether it’s dealing with jealousy or envy, there is the presumption that having or not having something will cause you to be happy or not.  Basically, with jealousy, if you get to keep the thing, you’ll be happier, and with envy, if you get the other thing, you’ll be happier.

If you’ve been following this podcast for awhile, it won’t be a surprise to you that the situations in your life are not the reason why you’re happy or unhappy.  The only reason you feel any positive or negative emotion is because you have a human brain, and that brain has thoughts that create your feelings.

The spouse you have or don’t have, where you live, the way you look, and what other people have, none of it creates your feelings.  You might believe that you’d be happier if your spouse didn’t leave you or if you had that farmhouse, but you’d only be happier because of what you’d be thinking, not because of any person, place or thing.

The key is knowing that circumstances don’t create feelings; only thoughts do.  Why is this so important?  Because it completely gives you your power back and doesn’t make you dependent on keeping what you have or having what you don’t.

Remember, the only reason you feel jealous is because you’re worried that something you have might be taken away from you and that you need that thing in order to feel happy.  Additionally, the only reason you feel envy is because you don’t have something and you believe that having it will make you feel happy.

As you can see, you are making yourself dependent on circumstances for your happiness, but consider this – there are people right now living in 3rd world conditions who are happier than you, and there are people who have everything you could ever want who are miserable and much less happier than you are.

The reason people can have such different life experiences is because their unique brains are offering them such different thoughts about their circumstances, but all thoughts are optional.  What you choose to think can create the feeling of jealousy or the feeling of trust, as well as the feeling of envy or the feeling of gratitude; it’s all up to you.

Jealousy and envy can get tricky though, when you have an issue with self-confidence which is why it’s even more important to understand how to handle both in the way I’m going to share.  A lack of self-confidence doesn’t need to be a fast-pass ticket to a life of jealousy and envy.    

The connection between self-confidence, jealousy, and envy

Have you ever known anyone who appears to be self-confident and therefore you assume they don’t grapple with jealousy or envy?  The interesting thing is that you might be right when it comes to them not having issues with jealousy, but on the other hand, you might be wrong when it comes to them having issues with envy.

Maybe you’ve been working on your self-confidence with the help of this podcast or by other means, and are noticing less issues with jealousy, but surprised that you might still be grappling with envy.  This is actually common because when you feel more confident with yourself, it means you have changed the thoughts you think about yourself and your worthiness.

The more valuable and worthy you feel, the less jealous you also feel because you’re less concerned about someone else taking away what you have.  As you increase your self-confidence and give yourself the love and appreciation you had originally thought you needed to come from others, the more you’ll notice a trust in yourself that, no matter what, you’ll be fine.

The issue though is the assumption that as self-confidence increases and jealousy decreases because you trust that if something is taken away from you that you’ll be fine, that the feeling of envy will also disappear.  Remember, envy is wanting something you don’t have because you believe you’ll be happier having it, therefore, it doesn’t have anything to do with having self-confidence. 

For example, you might be feeling self-confident and less jealous when someone flirts with your partner but that doesn’t preclude you from feeling envious of other people’s marriages.  You might not feel jealous because you feel confident in yourself to be okay if your partner ever did leave you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel envious because someone else seems happier than you and you want what you perceive they have.  

It can be tricky when you work on your self-confidence and then get caught up in some pangs of jealousy or find yourself still experiencing feelings of envy, the way you did before you worked on self-confidence.  The important thing to know is that although building self-confidence has incredible ripple effects in many aspects of your life, you still have a human brain that needs to be managed in order to handle feelings of jealousy and envy.  

How to better handle jealousy and envy

Now that you know the difference between jealousy and envy and you know that self-confidence doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t experience either one, it’s time to discuss a better way to handle them so you can have the life you really want.  If jealousy and envy have been getting in your way, there is something you can do to mitigate them.

The first step in handling jealousy is understanding that your protective brain is always on the lookout for danger.  When you feel jealousy, it’s because your brain is dramatically predicting that if something is taken away from you, that you might die.

Here’s the fascinating thing about your brain – it basically predicts the thoughts you will think, that will create some future unhappiness, and those thoughts then create the feeling of jealousy for you now.  The thing that your brain is afraid of isn’t actually happening right now, but it doesn’t know the difference between what’s imagined and what’s real.

For example, the waitress might be paying a little extra attention to your spouse, but your brain is saying, “Danger!  This is not good.  He’s going to leave you.  You’re going to be all alone.  You’ll never find someone else”.  It may seem overly dramatic, but that’s what your brain does.

In order to better handle jealousy, you need to recognize that this is what’s happening, and know that your thoughts are the only thing creating your feelings, not your circumstances.  Having a spouse isn’t what creates happiness for you, just like not having one doesn’t create unhappiness – your optional thoughts do.

Just knowing that you are 100% in control of those optional thoughts when you choose to be, is the antidote for jealousy.  Since the thoughts you think about the people and the circumstances in your life are the reason you feel happy, then that means your happiness isn’t dependent on them.   

When a thought like, “I can’t live without him” pops up as the waitress seems to be flirting with your spouse, just know that that’s your protective brain and question it.  Oftentimes, going to the worst case scenario can help you snap out of the firm grip that jealousy has on you.

For example, if you find yourself swept up in the feeling of jealousy, stop for a second and ask yourself, “Is it really true that I absolutely could not live without him?”  When you ask a powerful question, it gives you a chance to pause the protective part of the brain and face what’s true in this moment (ie, a woman is speaking to a man) and what could be true in the future (ie, I’ll be fine).

Whether your spouse does leave you or your BFF finds a new BFF, your happiness has never been because of them.  When you take control of your thoughts, and create your own happiness on purpose, you will definitely have a better handle on jealousy.

The same thing goes for envy – when you want something you don’t have, it’s because your brain predicts that you will feel better when you have it.  The pleasure seeking part of your brain is just predicting what you will think if you have that thing.

For example, if you are single and you’re envious of women who have a romantic partner, it’s because your brain predicts that you will be happy if you had one.  The truth though, is that the only reason you would be happy is because of the thoughts you were thinking, not because you have a romantic partner.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what it is that you’re feeling envious about.  Whether it’s someone’s job flexibility, the car someone drives, or the farmhouse you see a family raising their children in, none if it would create the feeling of happiness because circumstances don’t create feelings; optional thoughts do.   

So whether you’re dealing with feelings of jealousy or envy, or both, the better way to handle them is to know that it’s only ever your thoughts creating them, and that you always have the power to take control of your thoughts.  Happiness is available to you right now, based on what you choose to think right now.

You can choose to feel happy if something is taken away from you and you can choose to feel happy if things stay exactly the way they are.  That’s the beauty of having an amazing human brain.  

Summary  

  • It seems like wherever you turn, there’s someone that has something that you want, or you have something that you’re afraid they want.
  • Jealousy and envy can apply to where you live, your intelligence, where you went to school, how successful your children are in school, where you go on vacation, how many friends you have; you name it and women are faced with a never ending barrage of competition, jealousy, and envy towards themselves and towards others.
  • Remember, the only reason you feel jealous is because you’re worried that something you have might be taken away from you and that you need that thing in order to feel happy.  Additionally, the only reason you feel envy is because you don’t have something and you believe that having it will make you feel happy.
  • If jealousy and envy have been getting in your way, there is something you can do to mitigate them.