I know there’s a potential here for some semantics debate, but to me, there’s a difference between envy and jealousy. And jealousy has been on my mind a lot lately, as has envy.
To me, jealousy is a negative emotion. It basically means that you want something (or someone) that another person has, and you don’t want that other person to have it. Jealousy in a relationship can be especially negative, because it causes partners to spy on each other, or make accusations, or just argue a lot. In a relationship, jealousy might mean you’re afraid another person wants someone *you* have, or that you want the time with your partner that another person is getting. For example, being jealous of your partner’s coworker because your partner spends ten hours a day at work and only four (awake) at home.
Jealousy pretty much closes doors. You sit there grumbling because someone else has what you want, but they don’t deserve it and you do, so how come you don’t have it but they have it…and on and on. It isn’t constructive. It just makes you feel like shit.
On the other hand, envy can be positive if taken and used in the right way. To me, envy means another person has something (or someone) you want, but you don’t want to take it away from them. You just wish you also had it. I have a friend who comes across as very confident and strong in her opinions, and she doesn’t take anyone’s shit. I *envy* those qualities, because I wish I also had them, but I don’t want to take them away from her. I just want to develop them in myself.
Which is why envy can be positive. I envy (massively, hugely, vastly envy) John Green. I would never wish to take away his success and fanbase, but damn, do I wish I had that many fans and that much success myself! And because I *envy* those things that John Green has, I have more motivation to take steps to steer my writing career in that direction. To aim for agents or bigger publishers. To try to put myself out there more on social media. To continue improving my craft as a writer so I can write better stories. And so on. Instead of wallowing in “he has it and I don’t,” envy lets me see what he has and figure out how I can have it *also*.
Take a look at someone you’re jealous of in your life. (And if you don’t have anyone, awesome.) See if you can turn that jealousy into envy. Try to change your mindset from “why do they get to have that and I don’t” to “how can I get the same thing they have”.