There is something that we often forget: our way of knowing ourselves is by comparing the experiences that happen to us with those that happen around us . Living in society is something that is indispensable for forming what we call self-concept, which is the set of ideas that we associate with the “I”. In order to judge and value those characteristics in which we stand out for good or for bad, we must see how life is going for the rest of us.
This, for some things, is positive, as it allows us to demand that injustices be corrected. But it also has its downside, since favours the appearance of envy .
The 5 signs of envy
Envy is what happens when a state of discomfort appears caused by comparison between oneself and others, and the result of this mental operation is not to our liking. It is a phenomenon closely related to self-esteem, because it appears when it is threatened by new information about others with whom we consider we can compare ourselves.
However, envy is not a negative thing just because it makes us feel bad. It is also negative because of how it interferes with the way we relate . On the one hand, as we will see, it gives us a reason to show some hostility to the person we envy. On the other hand, envy is something that is socially frowned upon, so the person who experiences it tries to hide the fact that he feels that way, even if he manages to make his passive-aggressive or directly aggressive attitude towards the other person seem rationally justified.
However, there are ways to roughly know when a person is acting out of envy . Whoever feels this way is not able to mask completely those causes that lead him to behave in a certain way, for different reasons. In the following lines we will review several signs that denote envy. The fact that one or two of them are present does not mean that what is happening is exactly a problem of wounded egos, but in general, they help to understand what is happening by probabilities.
1. Poorly justified animus
One of the characteristics of envy, as we have seen, is that it arises from a compromised or damaged self-esteem. This makes the emotional impact of these comparisons generate something that in psychology is known as cognitive dissonance .
This phenomenon has to do with the discomfort that appears when a piece of information comes into contradiction with a deep-rooted belief whose defense defines us as people. Paradoxically, what usually happens in these cases is not that we try to readjust our ideas to have a more realistic understanding of what is happening, but that we make the minimum changes necessary to assimilate these data.
In the case of envy, one of the ways in which cognitive dissonance is resolved is by assuming that the person with whom one compares oneself is someone despicable, so that what at first might seem a threat to our self-esteem ends up being a sign of vanity , a deception to have a good image in front of others, a trick, an illegitimate use of the efforts of others to take credit, etc.
2. Using jokes and sarcasm to attack
Under the effects of envy, the person feels in the dilemma of expressing his hostility while trying to show himself superior to the person with whom the comparison has arisen.
This means that ambiguous ways of attacking are used, such as through supposed jokes and sarcasm, since they allow one to have a dominant role (even if only for a few seconds) without there seeming to be a certain need to satisfy one’s ego in order to diminish cognitive dissonance.
So, what is really a way to alleviate the discomfort you feel, is disguised as displays of ingenuity or even affability. This is one of the most frequent signs of envy .
3. Unwarranted outbursts of anger
This is not something that occurs in all people who are envious, but only in some of a more impulsive nature. Because damage to self-esteem gives reason to feel hostility towards someone, you may find yourself looking for excuses to attack the person you consider better than yourself. In this sense, something that can be interpreted as a way of boasting about one’s own merits can be almost unbearable for someone who is going through one of those “envious stages”.
4. Replicas in the presence of more people
In envy, the fact that there are more people listening increases the discomfort with what is interpreted as signs of superiority of the other.
This is especially true if the personal characteristic in which one feels attacked is relatively unique or uncommon. For example, if there are two poets at a meeting who are recognized for their talent, the one who feels most threatened by the skills of the other will have more reason to feel attacked, because remaining silent would be like giving attention to the other person and making him or her “sell” himself or herself to others as he or she wishes.
This is quite typical, because talking badly about someone behind their back is seen as an easy way to undermine their public image from relative safety , without giving them the opportunity to show that they are really only looking to cause harm so that it is easier to think that person is not “a competitor”, since no one takes them seriously.
Conclusion: Jealousy heals at home
It must be clear that the basis of the problem of jealousy basically has to do with wounded self-esteem. That is, that the problem is of oneself, and not of the other .
It is possible that a mentality that is very focused on competitiveness and constant comparisons will make us more vulnerable to this psychological phenomenon. That is why it is good to change both our concept of ourselves and our philosophy of life.