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A Devastating Difference

Jealousy exposes fear of loss; envy hinges on feeling inferior.

Envy vs. Jealousy

Long lumped together by ordinary folks and scholars alike, envy and jealousy are not a single, formless "super emotion." On the contrary, they are distinct, with different components, and are in fact elicited by completely different situations and in completely different settings.

According to Georgetown University psychologist W. Gerrod Parrott, Ph.D., envy occurs when a person lacks another person's superior quality, achievement, or possession, and desires it—or wishes that the other person lacked it.

Jealousy, by contrast, occurs in the context of a close relationship when a person fears losing an important other to a rival—in particular, losing a relationship that is important to one's sense of self.

For all their distinctiveness, envy and jealousy sometimes occur together, Parrott reports in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 64, No. 4). For instance, when a romantic partner gives attention to an attractive rival, a person may feel both jealous of that attention and envious of the rival for being so attractive. And since jealousy involves the loss of a personal relationship, it's usually more intense than envy.

Here's how envy and jealousy stack up:


o Feelings of inferiority

o Longing

o Resentment of circumstances

o Ill will towards envied person often accompanied by guilt about these feelings

o Motivation to improve

o Desire to possess the attractive rival's qualities

o Disapproval of feelings


o Fear of loss

o Suspicion or anger about betrayal

o Low self-esteem and sadness over loss

o Uncertainty and loneliness

o Fear of losing an important person to an attractive other

o Distrust