Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Envy and Jealousy

Query submitted on Feelings of Envy/Jealousy
"Hi David
I have been struggling for years with feelings of envy/jealousy I feel deeply ashamed to admit to. Usually this focuses on social life and standing, academic success, career success and achievements etc. It's mainly of a few of the people I know well but not my own immediate family (husband or children) - but I end up feeling envious FOR them sometimes which I feel is a bit sick and twisted … I am all too aware of my shortcomings and don't want them to affect other people - it's my problem and not theirs and stems from deep self doubt and low self confidence and self esteem.

I had hoped that, as I grew older it would recede, but the opposite has happened and it's making me very unhappy and depressed and it's not something I can easily talk about to friends. I don’t know how to change or fight these feelings and it's even affected a close friendship I had for many years, which is very sad…

Is there anything I can do to overcome my painful feelings or am I stuck with myself as I am for keeps?”


Pauline "
(A pseudonym has been used to protect the writer’s identity)

Response from Life Coach David:

Hi Pauline & thank you for submitting your query,

From the examples you give of the things that give rise to your feelings of jealousy/envy, such as social standing and different types of success or status, I think your feelings may be more about envy more than jealousy, although the two can be closely related. Envy is usually when you wish you could have a quality or status or possession that someone else has and your wish may include an element of resentment towards the person. Jealousy by contrast tends to involve a fear that you may in some way lose (or have lost) someone you love to a third party.

There are a number of things you might try out to help you deal with potential feelings of envy:

1. Write out a ‘Gratitude List’ - a list of things that you are grateful for in your life – read through this on a daily basis to remind yourself of those things that are good in your life. You mention that you are sometimes envious on behalf of your family too, so you might include on the list things that your family as a whole can be grateful for or the good points about the family that you can all be proud of.
2. When you are tempted to feel envious of others for something they possess or have achieved, remind yourself of the items on your gratitude list that you do have (these may actually be things of more lasting importance than the things you are jealous of – but even if they are not, they are still things you can be happy to have).
3. If there are certain times or situations where you find that you are particularly likely to feel envious, then create a simple a plan for how you might change your reaction at those times or in those situations to avoid reacting in a way that you might regret – your plan might be as simple as reminding yourself to count to 10 or pause before you respond to something someone says.
4. Give yourself credit when you carry out your plan – perhaps keep a record of successes.
5. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t always achieve what you are aiming for. Change sometimes comes in a 2 steps forward-1 step back way, rather than in a linear progression.
6. If you are envious of someone you are close to (such as the friend you mention), then consider whether it might be helpful to find an appropriate calm time & place to try to explain to that person how you feel, and to explain to them what you are trying to do to prevent the feelings damaging your relationship, letting the person know that the relationship is important to you.

You also mention that some of your feelings stem from low self esteem. A useful book with ideas for helping with self esteem is Hetty de Haan’s eBook on boosting self esteem. You can find information about it at the link below:
eBook on Boosting Self Esteem

Best wishes

David Bonham-Carter
Life Coach
Blog Item Written by Life Coach David on 26 August 2008


  1. Hi Pauline

    I agree with David in that it's worth sorting out what is jealousy and what is envy. Regarding envy, I think a little 'reframing' could be useful!! Ask yourself where you learned that envy is a BAD or UNDESIREABLE emotion? Emotions are neither good nor bad (although the behaviour they trigger may well be unhelpful or uncomfortable for sure!!) Emotions are just sources of information which set our ENERGY in MOTION (get it...E - motion!!) Envy in particular can be hugely helpful in assisting you to identify what it is you'd like out of life and also in helping motivate you towards setting goals which move you towards acquiring these things for yourself!! My guidance would be to stop beating yourself up and take action towards acquiring what you desire...but be prepared to discover that having got them you don't value them as much as you thought you would!! Indeed some of the people you are currently envying if questioned might have things they envy about YOUR life!!

    As for jealousy, yes it does tend to be more about relationships with people (than about status or material wealth) and is often underpinned by low self-esteem and a lack of self-belief that anyone could value YOU at least as much as and perhaps even more than other people. Start listening to positive things people say about you - and HEARING them rather than dismissing them!!

    Best wishes
    Pam Daniels
    AKUTAQ Coaching Services

  2. Pam, thanks for your comments but you're talking about 'healthy envy' and I know that this is far from healthy. It is damaging to me and to others and I'm only too aware of that. I find the thoughts are with me most of the time which isn't helpful or healthy. I'm hypersensitive to what others think of me but I also tend to 'get in there' before they do and do my own beating up - maybe because it would be less painful that way, I don't know. I wonder if there is any hope for change. I'm not exactly young!

  3. Hi again Pauline,

    If these feeling truly are as damaging and all pervasive as you describe I would consider seeking help from an EFT therapist (Emotional Freedom Techniques)...their techniques often work where nothing else will in releasing once and for all very stubborn and difficult and unnecessarily intense emotional responses. A Net search should point you towards EFT therapists in your area...they're not cheap but measured against longer term forms of help they can be very cost effective...and age is no barrier!! Change is always possible where there is motivation! Good luck and best wishes!

    Pam Daniels
    AKUTAQ Coaching Services