Unhealthy Envy and Healthy Envy

Another negative emotion in our series is unhealthy envy and healthy envy.  Unhealthy envy is generally provoked by holding unhealthy beliefs or attitudes (demands) about wanting something someone else has.  This can be anything like a possession, achievement, lifestyle, looks, intelligence etc.


Healthy envy is healthy counterpart and is experienced when healthy beliefs are held about wanting a something that someone else already has.


Envy can be beneficial when its healthy envy as it enables you to become aware of what you want; it can provoke aspirations, motivation and goal setting.


People may find themselves experiencing an overwhelming emotion of unhealthy envy due to someone else owning or possessing desirable items that they do not.  For example, your next door neighbour just bought a brand new car you’ve been wanting for ages but you can’t afford.  Feelings of envy in this situation can occur in the form of emotional pain, a lack of self-worth, and a lowered sense of well being.


How do you know if you are healthily or unhealthily envious?


When you feel unhealthy envy, for example, your thoughts may be preoccupied with ‘its not fair’ or “why shouldn’t I have that” or “Why should they have so much”.


When you are unhealthily envious you tend to disparage the value of what the other person has and try to convince yourself you are happy with what you have even though you know you are not.
You tend to think about how you can get what that other person has even though you don’t need or require it.  In extreme cases when you are feeling unhealthily envious you will think about how you can deprive the person of their possession, sometimes to the extent you imagine destroying it. You may feel like taking that desired object away either for you to have or at least deny the other person the pleasure of having the object.


Unhealthy envy leads us to feel like we want to put the person down who has that possession and try and belittle the possession.

When we are healthily envious we tend to feel a sympathetic joy for the other person’s good fortune and may seek out that desired possession for yourself if you really want it, making plans to see how you could acquire it in a rational healthy way.




  • Become more self aware by noticing your behaviours and listening to your thoughts so you can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy envy.
  • Act towards others in a way you would like to be treated yourself.  Remember you are not avoiding experiencing healthy envy.
  • Take time to set goals in your life and create your own aspirations, allowing other people’s lives to inform you in healthy helpful envious way.


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