What Should You Do When You Feel Envy?

When you feel envy, an annoying feeling surrounds you, generating discomfort or even rejection towards the envied person. However, you can learn to overcome envy, turning it into something more positive for yourself.
What Should You Do When You Feel Envy?
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 28 November, 2022

Envy is a feeling that expresses the desire to be like another person or have what they possess. It’s often expressed through feelings of rejection, reproach, and criticism towards the envied person.

It could be said that, when you feel envious, you generate a negative attitude toward the envied person or situation. However, in reality, the deep feeling at the cause of your envy is the attraction of what the other person possesses and you don’t.

Why do you feel envy?

Feeling envy puts you in a situation of feeling contempt for yourself. In fact, it involves having an insufficient self-concept.

When your self-esteem is low, you don’t feel capable of getting what you want and you don’t feel satisfied with who you are. At the same time, you’re unable to change to become who you want to be.

Girl feeling envy of the other person for her ring

For this reason, when you meet people who have what you want and you don’t see any possibility of achieving it for yourself, this stir up feelings inside you. These are feelings of anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction that you feel toward yourself. However, they manifest themselves in the form of rejection, criticism, and reproaches toward the person you envy.

“You can’t be envious and happy at the same time.”

-Frank Tyger-

In 2017, Albero Acosta, professor of psychology at the University of Granada, stated that when we feel envy “We long for something that another person has and we believe that it is unfair that that person has it and we do not”. He added that the obsessive and self-destructive nature of envy can make the envious person suffer a lot and “not realize their good virtues or their magnificent personal qualities or their good situation”.

What can you learn from envy?

In order to learn from envy, you need to know how to identify it. Then, you can recognize the dissatisfaction you feel with yourself. From there, you can consider changing. You can search for that lost sense of satisfaction, find out about yourself, and discover your hidden abilities.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”

-Harold Coffin

You should try and channel your feelings of envy toward feelings of admiration. This feeling will allow you to learn from others, observing their positive and courageous attitudes which have got them where they want to be.

Admiring others means that you stop negatively comparing yourself to them. Instead, you recognize their virtues, talents, or abilities.

Furthermore, admiration allows you to feel good about yourself and to treat yourself with an attitude of self-improvement and personal growth, aiming to reach the places that those people you envied have already reached. In addition, you recognize in yourself all the skills and abilities necessary to improve yourself and learn.

“In man there are more things worthy of admiration than of contempt.”

-Albert Camus-

In Buddhist Psychology, one of the antidotes to combat envy is rejoicing in the success of others. Thus, instead of feeling frustrated and angry, learning to be genuinely happy for others will bring you a higher level of happiness. In Buddhism, the conception of love is to wish happiness and cause happiness to all beings. As a matter of fact, the latest scientific research demonstrates that meditating on love increases your levels of happiness.

Lama Rinchen, a Buddhist Master, lists some of the benefits of loving-kindness meditation and claims it:

  • Increases life satisfaction.
  • Reduces self-criticism.
  • Encourages social connection.
  • Cultivates concern for the needs of others.
  • Increases positive emotions.

Projecting your life

Admiration can mean personal projection through others. It’s an attitude that allows you to dream further than you would’ve been capable of doing alone. That’s because the observation and recognition of the achievements of others can enhance your personal motivation to go further, to improve yourself, and to continue growing.

Projecting your life is necessary. For this to be fulfilling, you need to look for models. People you can admire who’ve already managed to achieve their dreams and desires. In this way, you can follow their example and start working toward the best version of you.

Employee applauding his boss

With admiration, you achieve a harmonious balance with others. Because you admit and recognize their achievements and virtues, showing interest in learning from them and with them.

“Nothing is more worthy of admiration in a noble man than knowing how to accept and imitate the virtues of others.”


Making changes

Undoubtedly, to be able to admire, you need to feel comfortable with yourself, recognizing your abilities and your attitude to learn. You need to feel like a person capable of projecting and dreaming, and, of course, getting where you want to be. Work out where the person that you admire has got to in their life. Then, you’ll be able to follow their lead and become who you want to be, and achieve what you want.

In short, if you don’t like yourself and you want to change and to be inspired by the people you admire, first you have to recognize your possibilities for change. Then, you can project that change you want in yourself.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Salovey, P. (Ed.). (1991). The psychology of jealousy and envy. Guilford Press.
  • Quintanilla, L. y de López, KJ (2013). El nicho de la envidia: conceptualización, estrategias de afrontamiento y ontogénesis de la envidia en la psicología cultural. Cultura y Psicología , 19 (1), 76–94. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354067X12464980
  • Howell, J. L., Collisson, B., & King, K. M. (2014). Physics envy: Psychologists’ perceptions of psychology and agreement about core concepts. Teaching of Psychology41(4), 330-334.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.