The Difference Between Jealousy and Envy

The Difference Between Jealousy and Envy - picture of woman with fingers of hands together giving jealous look

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During a long car ride last week, Greg and I found ourselves listening to Dave Ramsey’s talk radio show.  Since I don’t drive a lot and never listen to anything during the day, it was a rare treat.  Guests on the show included people who were in debt and didn’t know how to get out as well as a few people who had their financial lives together.

Then, later in the program, Ramsey got off-topic and started talking about the difference between jealousy and envy.

Envy, he said, “is when someone sees what you have and wishes they had it.”  However, jealousy “is when someone is envious of what you have, and doesn’t want you to have it either.”


Jealousy and Envy In Real Life

Do you know people in real life who exhibit these behaviors?  I feel fortunate that I know very few spiteful people in real life.  After all, most of my acquaintances are fairly successful at something – or at least trying to be – and every person I call a “friend” is genuinely happy for me.  The online world I write in, however, can be an ugly place.

For example, most of my writing falls into one of three categories- frugality, higher education, or personal finance.  However, I do write for three travel clients- Frugal Travel Guy, Richmond Savers, & U.S. News and World Report Travel.  One thing I’ve found is that travel writing is extremely competitive, and some of the key travel writers seem to hate each other.  This is especially true of a handful of people who write about points and miles, which seems especially sad to me.

I mean, seriously.  Travel hacking is a hobby built around planning free vacationsIt should be fun, right?  Whether you’re planning a holiday to Greece with airline miles or booking a local hotel on hotel loyalty points, the end result is supposed to be vacation and enjoyment for everyone.

But competing travel writers don’t necessarily see it that way.  Instead, a few want to turn it into a giant pissing contest.  In my opinion, this is mainly due to the competition for credit card affiliate commissions and the extreme jealousy coming from those who wish they had a bigger piece of the pie.

Note: Sadly, no one is jealous of my credit card affiliate income.  I typically sell 1-3 credit cards per month on my site!

How Winners Handle Jealousy

Still, winners handle envy and jealousy in a different way than everyone else.  For example, I recently went to a financial bloggers conference called FinCon and met the biggest group of winners I have ever seen gather in one place.  Even though blogging is a fairly competitive industry, the people I met are the kind of people who cheer you on, wish you the best, and actually want you to succeed. 

For example, everywhere I went, I saw people who were networking and trying to learn from each other- not tearing each other down.  They were collaborating, sharing ideas, and building friendships, fully aware that we all have something to teach and something to learn.

In other words, winners don’t cry and moan about how successful other people are; they try to emulate them.

Jealousy and Envy Are a Waste of Time

Although human emotions like jealousy and envy can be hard to control, we should all at least try to keep them in check.  Why?  Because jealousy and envy are a complete waste of time.  They not only get you nowhere in life, but they also leave you feeling bitter and can even lead to lifelong unhappiness.  And worst of all, jealousy and envy don’t look pretty at all.

But don’t take my word for it.  Look around at every envious, angry person you know and ask yourself if that’s how you want to end up.

Chances are, the answer will be no.

How would you describe jealousy and envy?  Have you been on the receiving end of jealousy or envy lately?

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  1. Ramsey has some great nuggets of wisdom. I really like that quote about jealousy vs. envy. I agree with you about jealousy being a waste of time. Envy, however, although not pretty, points out to people what it is they really want. If you can make a quick transition between envy and goal-setting, then it’s not a waste of time. But if it doesn’t change to something constructive and is left on its own, I think that envy becomes jealousy. Great food for thought! Thanks.

    1. I think that is an excellent point. I suppose envy can be powerful if harnessed in a productive way.

    2. I came down to post exactly this, you beat me to it! Very well said!

  2. Hah! I have this conversation sometimes with the hubby. I used to use it interchangeably. He however, has to learn English as a second language, so he uses it properly and is not afraid to call people out on it, which can make for some interesting conversations to say the least 🙂 . People do not expect that, and l have to say, l have shed some dead weight friends. It is not our fault if we set about our plans and accomplish them while people just nothing, but hate you for doing it. Envy, l feel can be a good thing if used well like Prudence says above. For instance, l envy a lot of bloggers like you that make $ online. It has made me want to do the same, but l don’t begrudge you your success. Nope! Not at all, in fact, l am proud of you guys!!! Continued success.

    1. Thanks, but I have a job as a writer- just like anyone else with a 9-5 job. I am paid for my labor. I wish that this blog made tons of money but it just doesn’t! =/ Maybe one day.

  3. Wasted emotions and wastes of time for sure. I consider jealousy & envy to be in the same category as dwelling on the past–totally futile, sucks a lot of time and energy, and won’t help you progress.

  4. I’ve envied and very happy for my successful friends. I know it’s bad, we’ve been very blessed and I don’t want to take it for granted.

  5. LOVE that description of jealousy vs. envy – it’s perfect!!! One of the things I fell in love with the PF blogging world over is the fact that by and large they seem to have risen above that petty nastiness that circulates everywhere else in the blogging world. How cool. 🙂

    1. Oh, I agree 100%. You have to come to FinCon next year. People really do want you to succeed. It’s amazing.

  6. This is something that I’ve struggled with, especially while trying to get out of debt. I see my friends buying what they want, driving new fancy cars, or going to nice restaurants and I want that, too! Sometimes it turns into jealousy rather than envy, I’m sad to say. But, I’ve gotten better in recent years!

    1. Ha! I’m sure we have all experienced it. I tend to approach other people’s material wealth with more skepticism than envy these days.

  7. I’m largely unaware of jealousy and envy towards me (if there is any) because I don’t look or pay attention for it. I worry about me, and my family. I’d rather sink my energy into making sure everything in the Pizel household is running as smoothly as possible – I don’t need to worry about what others are up to. 🙂

    1. I think that sounds like an excellent strategy!

  8. I often find those I am envious of are not in the best situation in life. It appears on the outside that they are but just because they have the toys does not mean they have the finances…they usually have debt. I have had issues in the past with people who have had major accomplishments in life winning emmy’s, signing major book deals or retiring in their 30’s multi-millionaires and wondered why I haven’t achieved that yet and get more frustrated at myself than anything…, but at the same time I am so satisfied with what I have I know 99% of people would change spots with me in a heartbeat. There are always people who are exceptions in life that achieve great things early on, most of us do great things too, but we take the normal route which takes a little longer…and that is okay too.

    1. Yep, the road to success is super long for most of us, unfortunately! I know I will achieve what I set out to do one day if I keep at it. It won’t be overnight, but it will happen.

  9. I think people get trapped in this idea of success being limited. They think if someone else has it that means they can’t. And so, they become envious victims, placing blame on everything and everyone else for what they don’t have, rather than taking personal responsibility and figuring out what they need to do to succeed themselves.

    1. Good point, Stefanie! There is plenty of room for many people to be successful. One person’s success does not spell out your failure.

  10. When I look at some of the big time bloggers out there earning a full time income online, I admit I feel a bit of envy. But like you said, I try to emulate and learn from them rather than wishing ill will upon them.

  11. I think that’s a pretty good description from Dave. I probably fall in the envy trap every once in awhile, especially when it comes to seeing how well other freelancers do. I wonder what piece of the puzzle I’m missing. I’m not sure I still have it figured out. lol! But I’m aware of that emotion and try to nip it in the bud as soon as possible.

  12. I thought FinCon was unbelievable because of how helpful everyone is. One of my roommates was a really successful freelancer and when I mentioned I was interested in increasing my work in that area, she introduced me to a bunch of her employers at FinCon! I think I’m so used to entertainment, which is incredibly cutthroat, that it’s so refreshing and part of why I love the PF community so much. You can achieve so much more and such better outcomes together!

  13. I read lots of travel blogs as well and I’ve seen that animosity. I guess it makes sense if everyone is basically saying the same things and depends on people signing up for credit cards. I’ve also seen people get really angry over sharing the “secrets” of manufactured spending. It all seems kind of petty.

    I don’t believe I am envious of anyone at the moment. I learned a long time ago that wanting what others have and blaming them for why you don’t have what you want is just a huge waste of time. Ultimately, we have to make our own way and quit comparing ourselves to everyone else.

  14. I’m not sure I agree with Dave Ramsey that envy and jealousy are different. Or, perhaps, I’d reverse the definitions. I think about the class envy that exists in this country – and how this is promoted by our current administration – and realize that the occupy wall street movement is the perfect example of this. They don’t want people to have anything they don’t. In the past I’ve freely admitted to being jealous of someone but never wished that they didn’t have whatever it was I was jealous of. I simply wanted it also. Fortunately I got past that, perhaps because I finally matured, but also I now have the financial resources to have nearly everything I want.

  15. I loooove this post. This is what I love about FinCon. Everyone gets along so well and it is such a positive atmosphere. I’ve heard completely different stories about travel blogging conferences and it is sad.

  16. Wow, didn’t know travel writing was so cutthroat…wonder why it’s different with financial bloggers because aren’t they fighting over similar affiliate commissions? Do travel bloggers have a FinCon type conference?

  17. Honestly, I really thought envy and jealousy is just the same! I envy some of my friends, especially when it comes to financial status BUT I always said to myself, we are not the same and we are born different.

  18. I have to agree with you on seeing what other people have with skepticism. In the past couple years I have learned some financial details from people I thought had things together but found out they had made less than smart financial choices to obtain the things they had.

  19. I think it helps tremendously when a common goal is in sight. With financial bloggers, people realize that if the entire niche is taken more seriously and develops a positive reputation, everybody wins.

  20. That’s why I still like to listen to the Ramsey show, you find these interest topics dropped in from time to time. Those definitions good ones. I hope no one I know has been having feeling of jealousy towards me that would be unhealthy to feel that way. I think we have felt a little envy directed towards us, reaching debt freedom and purchasing a new car. I just remind people you can have those things too if you have a plan.

  21. I do feel envy of people who have nice things I want. I think it was worse when I was a kid and did not have a lot. Money was always a big issue in our family growing up. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized money makes you feel secure, but it doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. So while it’s nice to see people with super fancy cars, I don’t want to pay for those super nice cars, etc. My hubby and I are extremely happy. We do get frustrated with our work. But that’s a different story. Work pays the bills.

  22. I don’t have much experience with other niches but PF is apparently one of the few where people are kind to each other.
    Maybe it will change if the nice becomes saturated…

  23. The fact that everyone is so nice is one of my favorite things about blogging! I also think that the internet is a pretty big place and there’s plenty of room for all of us, so that helps keep everyone nice I think. I had never stopped to think about the difference between jealousy and envy before, but that’s a pretty good definition!

  24. It’s interesting how definitions can vary so much. Not to drag politics into it, but in one of Ron Paul’s books he talked about envy being a huge issue because envy is wanting what someone has and not wanting that person to have it either. It’s basically reverse of what Ramsey defines them as. Anyway, I do think jealousy/envy is a problem and call me cynical but I’m not surprised the big travel writers hate each other. If you think about it, if one person could be the sole authority on points/miles/etc. they could make a boatload of cash every single day by selling credit cards and rewards programs. Every additional writer – especially bigger ones – takes away from that potential income. I think that’s one reason why I like that blogging and writing are just side gigs for me. I don’t depend on the income and if I did I could see how easy it would be to fall in the trap of disliking others you are “competing” with.

    1. I think that makes more sense. That envy is wanting what other people have not wanting them to have it either.

  25. That’s an interesting distinction to make. I agree with you, Holly – envy and jealousy are, for the most part, a complete waste. Wallowing in self-pity and wondering why everyone is doing better than you isn’t going to get you anywhere. However, it can ignite that fire and give you a push to start taking action!

  26. I agree. Jealousy is a waste of time. Successful people work hard for what they have. Seeing someone else’s success only lets me know that I can do the same thing.

    I’d much rather try to emulate the success of the people who inspire me rather than hate on them.

  27. Losers complain about others, Winners plan their next move. OK i’ll complain for a minute but then it’s back to figuring out how to Win!

  28. I will admit that once in a while I envy of what people have, but to be honest, I’m not ashamed of it. Why, because I take it as a motivation for me to be able to get the same thing if what they have is a tangible thing or to improve myself if what they have is an untangible thing or an awesome skill. I do think jealosy is bad, but envy, not necessarily. It depends on how you make out of it, and know the boundary when it’s starting to be unhealthy.

  29. I never really thought about the difference btw jealousy and envy before – I’ve been using the wrong term actually saying I was jealous, when really I was envious sometimes. I didn’t go to FinCon this year, but I can’t wait to go next year. I’ve already learned a lot from PF bloggers. Everyone is super helpful and willing to entertain my crazy questions and explain things for me whenever I’ve asked. It’s an amazing community!

  30. I am still new to the blogging world and I am glad that I only know about PF blogging. Everyone is just so positive and I enjoy reading what other people do. I experience envy and jealously on social networks, where my close friends usually are in, its sometimes hard not to feel that way, but thats why I try to keep off there

  31. I don’t always agree with Dave Ramsey but he was spot on with his definition of envy and jealousy. I’m human so there are days where I find myself envious of others and their success. However I am also genuinely happy for them because I know they worked hard for their success too. Typically when I feel envious it is because I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong, and even then I remind myself to find gratitude (including be grateful that I can ask them for pointers!). 🙂 But jealously is a different beast, especially if you get to that dark place where you don’t want them to have their good fortune either.

  32. I think about these definitions every time I hear someone say “jealous,” because they usually mean envious! (And no, I don’t correct anyone 😉 )

  33. It’s hard to become successful when spending all of one’s time focused on what other people have. Also, what’s gained by tearing down someone else? Other people will notice that habit of yours and want to steer clear! I am very lucky that the people in my life are cheering me on and wanting me to be happy, healthy, and successful at whatever I am working towards. It’s a very humbling and wonderful feeling to have so many people in my corner. There was a time when I didn’t have that kind of support. I should mention that I also reciprocate this in my friendships and want only the best for my friends and family.

  34. Maybe another way of looking at envy would be to describe it as “motivation” but I suppose it depends on how you use the emotion. If you sit on your behind and whine about how unfair the world is because someone else has more than you, then envy is a destructive force. But if you use that desire as your inspiration to try harder, it’s positive. Jealousy, on the other hand, is something I just don’t understand. Why would someone else’s happiness make you unhappy?

  35. Interesting quote…I’ve never really thought about the difference. I have never been a jealous person, if there’s something I want bad enough I find a way to make it happen.

  36. I love Dave’s definition. I agree with it completely. That’s what I love about blogging. Of course, when it comes to freelance writing, people can be brutal, but blogging in general is more about helping each other to succeed yourself. I try to catch myself when I’m being envious or jealous, though there is a time a place for it.

  37. I’ve always considered envy to be a sin so try to steer myself away from it, but doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I feel it less these days since I’m accountable for my debt repayment.

  38. I just figure if someone has something that I’d like or getting the results I would like to see, I can try to the same and learn from those who are more successful than I am. I was also pleasantly surprised at how many people at FinCon were willing to help each other out.

  39. Very true. The points/miles hobby wasn’t always this way, though in the past two years people have gotten particularly petty. Not just bloggers – hobbyists are nasty to each other, to the bloggers, to any new person who dares to join in and, god forbid, ask a question. I think it’s because the points/miles world is aspirational to a degree. Sure, there are regular folks who just want to take their kids to Disneyland, but there are others who just want to fly around the world in first class so they can one-up each other on social media. Zero interest in the destination itself. So when these people see bloggers giving away “secrets” they feel entitled to or newbies joining in and asking for help, they get territorial and jealous. “If I can’t have it, nobody can!” It’s absurd and I have yet to see any other niche were people get this riled up over nothing.

    1. Great point!

      Part of the negativity surrounding the hobby is the people who participate and comment on blogs and in the forums. It’s just a largely negative hobby in general for some reason. Other people suck the fun out of it.

  40. In the past I’ve had some constant bashers of the Yakezie Network and Financial Samurai, which was kinda entertaining.
    One admitted to being an alcoholic and a drunk in a post, another couldn’t keep up and quit blogging altogether, another has let his site die, and another is on better behavior since she’s back in grad school and needs to find a job or else her two years of time and money are for not.

    I find criticism very motivating. If there was never any criticism, I don’t think I’d try as hard. It feels good in the blogging world at least to have your work dissed. Is that weird? 🙂

    My friend yesterday told me he is spending $5 million for his remodel alone. I’m amazed, not envious. I told him I can’t wait to go to his house party.

    I think we naturally get less envious as we get older and wealthier.


    1. I like your strategy. Criticism should be motivating!

  41. I tend to think that jealousy and envy are just time consuming feelings. I am guilty of having them, but I try and get myself back to reality.

  42. I agree with you about travel hacking blogging industry turning into an ugly place. So true! The competition is insane, and everyone wants to get a slice of the pie. If they can’t convert, they start tearing down other bloggers. Many times, there is merit to what they say, but it’s taken out of context.
    Oh BTW, I plan to beat up on Dave Ramsey in my blog next week. Sorry!

  43. I always thought envy was wanting what someone else had, but jealousy was a fear of losing what is yours. Usually (not always) envy is related to material things, looks, etcetera, but jealousy is related to emotions. That is why we speak of a toddler being jealous of a newborn sibling rather than envious. Also, I might be envious of your new car or your weight loss. I would be jealous if my husband fell in love with you!

    1. I actually looked up definitions before I posted this. Unfortunately, I found all kinds! I think that was just Ramsey’s take on the two words, not necessarily a textbook definition.

  44. That makes sense. I now know more about the difference between envy and jealousy. Jealousy is worse! I accept I envy but I will never be jealous. But, I’ll try to eliminate these two in my life. 😀

  45. Jealousy and envy both distract you from focusing on your own goals. Admiration and inspiration are things I try to focus on when I see people who are successful.

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