Practice ‘Benign Envy’ To Make Your Jealousy More Useful

Practice ‘Benign Envy’ To Make Your Jealousy More Useful

It’s normal to be a little jealous of someone else every once in a while. The big question is what you do with that feeling. If you’re jealous of someone, but know that you could achieve the same thing if you tried, practising “benign envy” could help. Photo by Antoine K.

As tips blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree explains, “benign envy” is when you see something that someone else has and know you could accomplish the same thing if you tried, but simply choose not to. Note, we’re not talking about belittling major accomplishments (“I could be President! It’s not that hard.”), but rather realistically saying “The only reason I don’t have that is because I choose to put my effort somewhere else.” This can do one of two things: it can either neutralise any negative effects of your jealousy, or it can motivate you to get to work.

I’m never going to be LeBron James. I’m not even going to try. And that’s ok. But research shows benign envy can give us the kick in the pants we need to get motivated. So next time you should feel good for someone but really don’t, ask yourself: Is this something I could achieve too? If it is, it might be a great motivator. And knowing you can get what they have kills the bad feelings.

Sometimes you might find that you really do want the thing that someone else has enough to go for it. Maybe other times you’ll decide it’s not worth replacing what you already have. You only have so many hours in the day, after all. However, envy isn’t always a bad motivator. It all depends on how you handle the feeling.

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  • I don’t think you can use jealousy and envy interchangeably. I thought envy was wanting something someone else has and jealousy is fear of losing something you have.

    Allow Homer Simpson to explain:

    • Exactly as Justin said. People commonly use the two interchangeably but the words refer to two quite different feelings.

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