Jealousy, Envy and Expectations. Oh. My.

A few nights ago, fueled by the company of some cool women and cold beer, I got to participate in an interesting discussion. As can happen, when a group of like-minded moms get to sit around and discuss their feelings without 42,000 interruptions, we went pretty deep.

We talked about how jealousy, envy and expectations seem overwhelmingly to be the thieves that steal our joy. Sometimes jealousy and envy are used interchangeably, but they are opposite sides of the same destructive coin. I honestly have spent a lot of time studying the differences to keep them straight in my head.

Jealousy is the uncomfortable feeling that someone wants what we "have." The knot in your stomach when a woman gets too friendly with your man. The heat that rushes to your cheeks when a new employee seems to be hustling for your job. Your husband's snide remarks when a man likes too many of your pictures. All generated from the same place: You can't have what's mine. OH. Hell. No.

Envy, on the other hand, is our desire to have what someone else has. It's the sinking in your stomach when dropping your baby off at daycare and you see another mom walking her baby in a stroller. The tightening of your jaw when you have to say no to a vacation all your friends will enjoy but you can't afford it. It's the sideward glance at the skinny woman eating a ginormous piece of cheesecake. Envy comes from: Why can't I have that? Hmph.

And expectations. I used to be the QUEEN of expectations. If I had a nickel for every time I was let down because someone didn't live up to what I wanted from them, I'd take a fabulous vacation. And beyond that, I'd love to have a dollar for each time Brad didn't make the "grand gesture" I had conjured up in my head. Brad never knew what the grand gesture was nor has he ever been a grand gesture kind of guy so it wasn't fair, realistic, good for our relationship or my mental health for that matter to continuously--usually subconsciously--expect him to do something that was only in my mind.

Although I did learn that he wants very much to make me happy, and when I tell him what I want, most of the time he does it. Also, now that he knows how much I love grand gestures, he occasionally makes them. Huh. Expectations met.

When you take all that into consideration, it's pretty clear how these things can quickly and efficiently snuff out your joy. So what do you do?


You didn't think I knew ... did you? Have you ever read this blog? I don't know anything. I just overthink and ruminate and share my musings in the hopes that one of you will message me and say, "Hey, here is what you need to do." Sometimes, that happens too because some of you are SUPER smart, and I love you and appreciate your sharing of knowledge. And I adore every single one of you who simply says, "Me too, sister."

In the meantime, here's my game plan. I do not feel much jealousy anymore as I am secure in my relationships--and myself. I was a hellcat for sure, but at this point in my life, I like and accept myself, and shockingly, when you are happy and satisfied with yourself, you don't feel crazy possessive about your man or relationships or anything else. Because you no longer feel secretly unworthy or undeserving of what you have*, you no longer worry that someone else is going to swipe it from you.

This carries over to the envy side of the coin as well. Being okay with myself keeps me from wanting what others have. There have been times in my life when I felt things turned out better for other people, whereas a metaphorical dark cloud seemed planted over me. I realize now that despite some misfortune, our life continues to turn out pretty fantastically. And like the meme says: Happiness isn't having what you want; it's wanting what you have. I wouldn't want anything other than what we have.

I'm still working on the expectations part. I'm way better with most of my people, but every once in awhile, I let myself expect something from someone outside my circle, often with hurtful results. But I learn or relearn a painful lesson. That's a really cool thing about life: We keep getting chances to make different choices, learn new lessons and get it right--or at least right for us. How about you? How do you manage expectations? Do you harbor any secret jealousy or envy? Are you the object of someone else's--you know that's about them, not you; right?

I hope that wherever you are and whatever you feel today, you can stop for a moment and remind yourself that you are loved, accepted, worthy and deserving just exactly as you are.


*My sister in law posted this article and Ted Talk earlier re: feeling like an imposter. It's freaking awesome if you have a moment. Technically the Ted Talk is 15 minutes, but it's worth every minute.


  1. I have to post this as anonymous. Sorry Mary! I dont have an account here. :)
    I was just curious. I can hear what you are saying in there, but what are some personal experiences you have had with jealousy vs. envy? Personally, I need to work on unrealistic, and sometimes, realistic expectations of others. I cannot control others and only live my life for me. If I continue to allow others to disappoint me, I will never be happy. Just random thoughts from me. :)

    1. Heather, most of my jealousy episodes happened when I was younger. With Brad. If I even perceived someone was looking at him, I went crazy. My dad told me one time, "If you don't want anyone to look at your boyfriend, then you should date an ugly boy." :) Envy is more intricate...I've felt envious of relationships...sister relationships mostly. I don't have that idealized relationship with my sister and have envied it in others. I've learned--especially the last few years--that most of what I perceive as "perfect" is just as fraught with issues as my own life. I'm just pretty forthcoming with my issues. And you're right about managing expectations. Have you read The Four Agreements? It has helped me so much in dealing with all of this. Thanks for commenting...I always love to hear from you. Miss you!!

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