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Week 11 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Jealousy & Envy

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!)

This Week’s Journal Topic: Jealousy & Envy

Last week the questions were about love. With love, naturally comes jealousy.  Therefore, this week the journal questions are about jealousy and the closely related emotion of envy.

affection beautiful blur couple

“It is better not to know, to think as little as possible, do not provide to jealousy any concrete detail.” – Proust, in Search of Lost Time


Jealousy starts in the body as an emotional response to external stimulation. This emotion is rooted in a desire to have exclusive possession of someone/something.  In an external situation, you perceive a threat of rivalry and fear that someone/something will take something away from you.  Within you, it’s a fear of being replaced that might cause you to act in a protective and possessive way.

For example, you see your significant other with an attractive person.  You believe that relationships only involve two people (i.e., you want exclusive possession). The other person appears as a rival appears capable of attracting your significant other’s affection.  You experience jealousy – a fear of losing something you value.

The physical signs of this intense emotion include dizziness, uneasiness, tension in the body, a knot in your stomach, accompanied by anger and feelings of inadequacy.

Positive Aspects of jealousy?

Some people like to make their partners jealous because a fear of loss can motivate the partner to pay attention. Other people like when their partner is jealous because they believe jealousy is an indication that their partner values them.  Children’s jealousy of parental love ensures that every child protects his own survival against competition from siblings.  In evolutionary biology, the function of jealousy is to preserve social bonds.


Envy is closely related to jealousy. Rather than being jealous of losing something to a rival, envy is coveting of someone else’s possession or attributes.  Envy is sometimes (not always) the beginning of a desire to sabotage, act passive aggressively, be resentful, or have negative feelings towards the other person.

For example, when a friend gets a new house, you feel resentment or anger for her because you covet what she has. Instead of being happy for her, feeling that her gain is your gain, you are bothered by it.  You experience a covetous feeling and start to begrudge her success.

Envy is accompanied by feelings of insecurity, uneasiness, feeling sick to the stomach, anxiety, inadequacy, shame, and powerlessness.

Positive Aspects of Envy?

Envy can make you aware that there is something you’d enjoy having – it makes you aware that someone else’s life is expressing a value that you want to express, too. It can be motivating and cause you to work hard against a variety of external pressures.  Instead of straining relationships with others, you can harness something good from a feeling of envy; notice what you’re envious of, create goals and work towards those goals.  Bonus: working towards a goal 1) distracts you and 2) makes you feel empowered.

Journal Questions

  1. When you’ve been jealous, what was it that you were afraid of losing and who was your rival?
  2. How do you describe jealousy as a physical feeling in your body? Imagine you’re describing it to a robot who has never “felt” jealousy.
  3. Is it morally wrong to be jealous – are you doing something “bad” simply be feeling jealous?
  4. Do you believe that jealousy is ever good in a relationship – yes, no, sometimes?
  5. About what aspects of life do you feel envious of others’ success – career, family, personal gain, money, travel?
  6. Make a list of things that you have that other people could by envious of and why they might be jealous of them.
  7. How can you use envy to motivate you to move towards new experiences?


How to Get the most out of Know Thyself 2019:

Don’t rush through the questions. Try to do only one question every morning, leaving space to add thoughts that might come up later during the day. The journal is designed to help you develop a consistent, daily practice of self-reflection.

If you liked this week’s post, please like or comment! I appreciate the feedback and use it to choose future topics. If you want to see more posts like this one, let me know!


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