Much has been written about dealing with feelings of envy and how to overcome this painful emotion.
However, not as much has been written about how to tell if someone is envious of you.
Envy is ubiquitous and dealing with the detrimental, at times catastrophic actions of people who are envious of you is no walk in the park.
We may not consciously acknowledge it, but envy is a universally feared emotion, and it has the potential to decimate individuals as well as societies.
(Think political motives on a grand scale that are fuelled by nothing other than envy).
I don’t want to turn this into a political piece, but just as an example of political moves fuelled by envy, you can consider political parties appealing to the envious people in a population by promising to tax the rich more and the poor less (or not taxing them at all).
Is It Easy To Know When You’re The Target Of Envy?
Despite being a universally feared emotion, many people don’t even realize they’re the target of an envy attack, and this could be one reason why less is said and written about how to deal with people who envy you.
Interestingly, one study found that when confronted with other people’s envy, we humans universally go to one reaction first: concealment.
And when concealing your enviable advantages doesn’t work out, we go to denial.
That is, denial that we have something worthy of envying.
I believe this denial makes us naive and causes us to shut off to people’s true intent.
You have a friend named Jenny who keeps casually mentioning your flaws, but you tell yourself that she isn’t really feeling envious, she’s just a really “honest” kind of person.
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Denying Envious Feelings Comes Back To You
It would be difficult to find one single human on this earth who hasn’t felt envy.
However, envy is such a strong and burdensome emotion that it is mostly concealed, (even to ourselves) and described with words other than envy.
Most people feel much more comfortable describing themselves as jealous rather than envious, even though most of the time, what they really mean is that they feel envious.
What’s more is that there are some people who are extremely prone to envy.
These people are so secretly consumed by the emotion that a large chunk of their actions are quietly fuelled by it, and they spend their lives trying to avoid facing it.
But of course, what we resist, persists.
People who are prone to envy tend to compensate for being haunted by this crippling emotion by making other people pay for their envy, and painting themselves to look like the good guy.
Think narcissists for example.
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Envy Is NOT Jealousy
The first thing to remember when it comes to knowing how to tell if someone is envious of you, is that envy is such an onerous emotion that many people don’t even describe it correctly.
As I just mentioned, instead of admitting that they’re envious, they describe themselves as jealous.
But people describing envy as jealousy is really the best case scenario, because envy can also be described or “dressed up” as:
- Virtue (virtue signalling anyone?)
- Admiration; and
- Even self-aggrandizing behavior
So what’s the main difference between jealousy and envy? Because they are very different.
Envy is what you feel when someone else has an advantage in life that you feel you don’t have or cannot achieve.
Jealousy is the emotion you feel when you feel threatened that something you already have is about to be taken away.
Both are very difficult emotions with potentially destructive consequences, however, people have a lot of difficulty naming and admitting to envy.
Because admitting that you envy someone is to (potentially) expose yourself as:
- Low status
- Potentially a hater or someone who will target the envied person with evil intent
- Pathetic; or
- Harbouring low self esteem
Most of the time (but not always), it’s easier to say you’re jealous of someone, because you already technically ‘have’, or have access to, the thing you’re jealous of.
But to admit that you’re envious?
Not to mention, if you admit to having the emotion under the context of having done something shameful (like criticizing or hating on another person, or targeting another person with bad intent), you risk being judged harshly.
You also risk feeling another extremely difficult emotion: shame.
And very few people will ever admit to, or confront feelings of shame.
See how difficult envy is?
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Is Envy Related to Copycat Behavior?
When it comes to knowing how to tell if someone is envious of you, it can pay to look at copycat behavior.
Some women reading this may have a painful memory of a friend who kept copying their style, homework or even their way of talking.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it’s only flattery if the person isn’t trying to outright steal your identity or undermine your status or confidence.
Not every person who copies you is flattering you, far from it. Some of them actually want to hurt you in the process.
(Ie: if someone copies you so much that it feels as though they’re constantly leeching off your individualism and ideas, for example).
One of the many incidents that inspired me to examine and study this emotion of envy was an awkward and repulsive series of events that occurred over several years.
Believe it or not, after this series of events of which I was the target of some stranger’s envy, another atrocious story of an envy attack happened to my family, specifically my oldest son, my husband and lesser so, myself.
But let’s start (briefly) with the first event.
Beginning in about 2017, there was a woman who began obsessive copycat behavior, and it quickly became obvious that she was trying desperately to steal our individuality and undermine mine and my husband’s business.
My husband was far more immune to this than I was (and happy to ignore the behavior), but my suspicion became harder to ignore when this woman began to do the following over several years:
- Copy the content from my emails and blogs, and post them on her social platform, and she did it religiously.
Every new email and every new post of mine would end up (albeit with a lazy attempt to re-engineer my wording) in her social platforms.
- Rip off mine and my husband’s quote images and put her name on them
- Steal our new product names
- Leave comments on my blog under a fake name, telling readers to buy coaching from her
- And this is the most awkward part: she would even steal my expressions, the comments or posts I left on my own social platforms (my facebook group for example) and say some version of it herself…it was astonishing and predictable.
Some of you who have been to college/university would be familiar with the term “plagiarism”. Well, this was plagiarism at its best. Only, this was not college, it was the real world and in the real world, anything goes.
Plagiarism is not taking someone else’s ideas, but stealing someone’s expressions. Well, she did that with no shame.
- Strangely, she even stole my idea of an instagram handle
The craziest part (and the most disturbing part) of this woman’s copycat behavior was that it was done in serial stalker fashion.
Whenever I said or posted something new, she did too.
I’m no stranger to people copying our ideas, because that’s happened from the start.
It’s the internet! And it’s the real world, so I don’t expect anything to be fair.
But I’d never seen copycat behavior as godawful as this.
It’s one thing to copy an idea, it’s another to stalk someone and try to mimic their every move and word.
The same goes for someone copying your style. You may have a girlfriend who starts buying the same style of activewear tights that you buy.
That could be a compliment for sure. She’s indirectly saying you have good taste.
But if she starts copying your whole outfits and the way you talk…that’s obviously unnerving, right?
Envy Is The Cause Of A Lot Of Failed Friendships Or Alliances
This is the part that’s difficult for a lot of people to hear.
But we all need to hear it, because as I said, it’s not always easy to acknowledge the truth (much less to see it in the first place).
There are likely some friends who have left your life not just due to differences or conflicts as you may have thought, but due to envy.
Some people have slow-faded away from you because they could not handle how this envy towards your life made them feel about themselves.
Quite simply, it doesn’t matter how good of a friend you are to others, envious people couldn’t care less about that.
They care about not repeatedly being exposed to their own feelings of inferiority.
They’d rather protect their fragility by abandoning you.
And it doesn’t have to only be friends either. It can also be blood relatives.
When you look at how crippling envy can be, and couple that with the fact that many people find it difficult to take the high road and to be a bigger person, it all makes sense.
Why stay close to someone if their existence and their life is a constant reminder of what you can’t have?
Well, I’d argue that it’s important to stay friends with people who have more than you.
So that you can learn what they’ve done and be inspired by their hard work, but most people do not share my sentiment.
It’s important to keep a high value mindset when it comes to dealing with your own feelings of envy, especially as so much of the world is now beginning to suffer a lower standard of living.
The people you may envy are not immune to life’s problems, hurts or tragedies…
They just have an advantage you would like to have, just as you would have an advantage in another area of life that they may never have experienced!
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What’s The Purpose Of Envy?
So what’s the purpose of envy?
Surely all of this potential destruction has a purpose?
To understand the purpose of envy, you first have to understand the type of people who go to this emotion a lot.
Of course, everyone feels envy, but some people use it positively, while others use the emotion destructively.
So what kinds of people tend to feel and act (negatively) on their envy a lot?
- People with low self esteem
- People who are too lazy to use and channel their envy into improving their own lives
- People who were at the mercy of manipulative parents who would pull away love just to keep them hooked, or who would deliberately favour another child just to make this child feel envious of their sibling
- People who prefer to use politics, charm and brown nosing to get what they want in life (these people are highly suspicious of people who work hard, who create value in the world and who have a strong direction of their own)
- People who had parents who had a pattern of going to envy a lot, and so they adopt the same pattern themselves unknowingly
- People who are narcissistic
- And intellectuals. Not all intellectuals are envious, but quite a few are.
As someone who completed a degree in Law/Arts, and knowing that some would have considered me to be an intellectual at some point, it’s not easy to list this one down, but the truth is the truth:
A lot of intellectuals are envious of business people and people who win financially in the corporate world. They don’t like the disproportionate monetary rewards that capitalists achieve.
Perhaps this is because they feel like they are entitled to more money for having “studied harder”, and surely they couldn’t have sacrificed so many years of their life at school/college just to see some high school dropout make millions of dollars on a well executed business idea?!
So when we look at what types of people are prone to envy, it’s easier to see how the emotion of envy serves them (yes, them, but not the people who are the targets of their envy).
The purpose of envy is, at the most basic level, to propel humans to gain a specific, coveted advantage in life for themselves.
However, researchers often separate benign envy and malicious envy.
Benign envy is something highly esteemed people feel. At least that’s what I believe.
They may feel envious, but their centre of gravity is not to destroy or hate the envied person, their center of gravity is to work harder to obtain the same advantage for themselves.
The purpose of benign envy is to help people solve adaptive problems in life, like:
- Not having enough money
- Not experiencing enough attention and love
- Not having enough status in life; and
- Not possessing the requisite advantages to achieve a certain aim
Of course, the purpose of malicious envy is much the same.
However, when someone feels and acts on malicious envy, what they do is not improve their own life, but rather, try to get a coveted advantage by making the envied person have less.
Simply put, their aim is to make the target of their envy incur a large and painful cost.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a woman of average attractiveness level, who has a crush on a guy at work.
This guy is high value, so you’re very aware that there are other women in the workplace who also desire this man for themselves.
However, there’s a problem.
One of these women who also share your admiration for this high value man is particularly beautiful, attractive and also has a likeable personality.
Because you know (or secretly believe) somewhere deep inside that your looks or personality don’t compare to this other woman’s, you feel deeply resentful of her seemingly undeserved advantage.
But instead of appreciating your own kindness or the good traits in your own looks or personality (so that they could grow, as everything we appreciate grows), you proceed to target this other female competitor.
But how, you may ask?
- By ruining her reputation (telling the guy you desire that she is a slut, even if you have no evidence to prove it)
- Making snide comments to her that attack her self esteem; and
- By turning everyone in the workplace against her, so that instead of spending the time wooing the guy you want, she spends valuable energy feeling sad and angry about being excluded at work.
Actually, like a lot of unsuspecting women, I’ve had the experience of being ostracized at work (although there was no guy I was after, I wrote about it here).
In the worst case scenario, envy kills, literally.
So let’s take a look at the signs of envy now, because the signs of envy will help you figure out how to tell if someone is envious of you.
12 Secretive Signs Of Envy
Sign #1: They Disappear Or Go Quiet Whenever You Experience Something They Want
Let’s say the most coveted experience in your friendship circle is travel and holidays.
Well, whenever you go on a holiday (but especially to a destination that is high value or popular), you find that your “friend” or relative mysteriously drops off and stops talking to you.
Until well after you’ve returned from your trip, of course.
And when you question them about why they were absent, they claim that they’ve been MIA for all of their friends and to everyone lately, not just you.
Likewise, when you achieve personal success in your life, such as getting engaged or married, getting promoted at work, publishing a book or starting a new business, this friend or family member seems to disappear.
Where are they when it comes time to celebrate your success?
Probably hiding under a rock, to avoid feeling too inferior or envious.
Sign #2: They’re Disloyal To You (And Side With Your Enemies)
When it comes to signs of envy, a lack of loyalty is a massive giveaway.
Some people are just disloyal by nature. They are the types of people who prefer to spread their eggs over many baskets.
But I’m not specifically referring to those people.
I’m referring to the friends who always seem more loyal to the person you’re having an argument with, or to someone who is hurting you.
If someone comes into your life and does something horrible, like stealing your property or saying bad things to you, this “friend” you have will never verbally express that what happened to you was wrong, or show loyalty and solidarity to you.
But rather, they may stay strangely silent or even perk up at the chance to defend your enemy.
These kinds of people are not your friend.
Sign #3: They Seem To Suck Up To You & Fawn Over You
Another strategy of someone who feels a lot of envy is to try to gain some of the advantages that you have.
So, in a bid to take some of the attention, love or resources you have, they’ll:
- Start to spend way more time with you
- Always compliment you
- Ask you probing questions
- Pretend to be your biggest supporter (when you haven’t earned their support or loyalty yet)
- Try to get close to your family; or
- Try to become your best friend
Envious people may compliment you and verbally flatter you a lot, especially your most outstanding achievements and skills, making you feel appreciated and to give you a false feeling of safety with them.
But some compliments are genuine and simply generous, so how do you tell the difference between an authentic compliment and a compliment driven by envy?
The thing to look for here is flattery before it’s due and before your relationship gets to a place where these compliments makes sense.
If the person seems to flatter you out of nowhere, or too much, you may have to ask yourself why!
Compliments are actually feared in some cultures as symbolic of envy.
Of course, a total lack of compliments can also symbolize envy and an unwillingness to pass credit or give attention where it’s due.
For example, a woman profusely complimenting the appearance of another woman they do not feel threatened by, whilst ignoring a woman she feels is extremely good looking.
And without demonising women, this is actually a common phenomenon.
Women also compliment women who are unusually stunning of course.
But it is much harder for most women to do so, given feelings of envy and/or a fear of their own inadequacy.
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Sign #4: You Just Feel It
Unsurprisingly, one of the most reliable signs of envy is that you feel it in your gut.
Remember I mentioned earlier that envy is a universally feared emotion?
This is because it comes with hostility and aggression.
Envious people tend to act aggressive and hostile towards you, and this hostility may even come out when they seem to be acting friendly and nice on the surface.
What I’ve noticed is that sometimes people don’t notice this hostility or want to pretend it’s not there (it’s scary to confront the fact that your friends may envy you, and we’d all rather keep more friends in our lives than get rid of them!)
But if you feel someone’s hostility in your gut, there’s a decent chance that what you’re sensing is envy.
Unless you’ve done them wrong or they’re going through something horrible, of course.
Sign #5: They Look And Act Uncomfortable When Talking About Your Successes/Advantages
…Or worse, they ignore your successes completely.
This is one of those signs of envy that most of us recognise pretty easily.
If you mention your success and they seem to want to take the attention away from it, or avoid discussing it, it could be envy for sure.
Provided, of course you’re not that person who brags all the time. People who brag a lot are annoying because they’re not doing it to make friends.
Instead they’re trying to raise their own self esteem, show off, or even deliberately trigger envy in others.
If you’re the constant bragger and give no attention to others, then you can’t really blame people wanting to take attention away from you and your success (because you’re annoying them!)
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Sign #6: They Leech Off Of You
One of the more disturbing signs of envy is when a person hates your advantages so much that they cosy up to you in order to suck the advantage away from you.
Mate poaching is one example of this, and I talk a lot more about it in my article: Women Who Date Married Men: 11 Hush Hush Reasons They Do It.
To explain what I mean, here’s a simple example:
Let’s say you have a particularly charming and lovely boyfriend. The kind of boyfriend/husband that other women want.
And a single (or even a taken) woman friend of yours seems to be getting quite close to you and your husband as a friend, albeit with the intent of either stealing him away, or just getting some of the valuable attention you have from him.
Another example is if you are quite popular, high status, have high self esteem and have the skills of making a lot of connections.
Sometimes people may want to spend extra time with you in order to leech off the connections and status you have built in your life.
If you sense that connecting with you isn’t someone’s only intent, beware, because no matter how nice they seem and no matter how much they seem to do for you, their feelings of envy will not likely become your advantage.
Sign #7: They Make Comments That Bring You Down
It’s the little comments, the small put downs scattered throughout the innocent conversations you have together.
The classic example is someone casually mentioning a minor perceived “flaw” of yours, when there’s absolutely no need to.
Like mentioning a freckle, a bent ear, a new clothing style or imperfectly placed lipstick in a negative light.
Sign #8: They Smile When You Lose
This is such a dead giveaway and it hurts to witness, but truly envious and narcissistic people cannot help it!
Their body language says it all for them, and there’s a name for it: schadenfreude smile.
Research has shown that people (but most especially, people with low self esteem), are biologically wired to respond with joy, happiness or glee when witnessing the suffering of someone they envy.
If you notice that your “friend” tends to lean in closer, or that the corners of their mouth turn upwards when you:
- Experience something traumatic or hurtful
- Lose a competition
- Lose attention from others
- A deal falls through
- Your relationship fails
- Your parent dies
- Your husband/boyfriend cheats on you
- You lose your job
- Your boyfriend/husband loses his job
….Then you need to know that they are not your friend, and they never considered themselves to be!
Sign #9: They Make Up Things To Tarnish Your Reputation
There’s nothing as malicious and low value as making up lies and negative stories to slander someone you are envious of, but there are people out there who delight in doing it.
If someone is desperate enough and has low enough self esteem, they will do this in an attempt to take any perceived advantages away from you.
Why build yourself or the envied person up, when you can easily bring them down?
It takes less energy and you have to face less fears and feelings of inadequacy.
Of course, people who do this are usually the people who aren’t vulnerable to feelings of shame or guilt.
In other words, they’re not quite normal in terms of their ability to connect with others and to empathize with others.
These people tend to be low value, and I recommend you avoid them, as well as avoid such low value behavior yourself.
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Sign #10: They Stalk You Online Or In Person
One of the signs of envy is obsession.
Some people feel such a lack within themselves that they become obsessed with someone else who has the advantages or the success that they want.
Similar to leeching off someone, if someone’s friendly behavior starts bordering on obsession, it may not mean that they care about you per se, but rather, that they secretly want to harm you.
Because they’re consumed by envy and want to know your every move so that they can mimic you. Well, perhaps even become you.
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Sign #11: They Won’t Empathize With You
If you’ve worked your butt off and made countless sacrifices to get to where you are in your career, and all your friend can do is tell you that you “got lucky”, they’re probably envious of you.
They won’t care that you deserve the success because you worked hard for it.
They won’t even care that you were homeless for a while just to achieve your current success.
Instead, they will assume you don’t deserve your success, because it absolves them of the responsibility to work just as hard to be deserving of such success themselves!
This is similar to schadenfreude in that low esteemed people who are envious of you will enjoy it if you lose a lot of money on a bad investment.
Or if your successful children suddenly get into an accident and lose all the health and opportunity they previously had.
Sign #12: They Shame You
…For your success.
Envious people can’t stand it when others, especially others who are close to them, gain more:
Because they’re entitled to success without any effort, of course.
As twisted as it may sound to any intelligent person, envious people will actually shame you for your success.
Well, here’s an example…
Let’s say your kid is excelling at math in school, and is top of the class.
And Jo Blo’s kid is flunking all of his math tests, but Jo Blo doesn’t want to bother teaching or helping his kid.
He just wants to feel better about his own failure to teach his kid.
Instead of congratulating you and your kid on your mathematical skills, he may say something like:
“Wow, some parents have nothing better to do with their lives than to teach their kid math.”
How strange, and how backwards is such psychology?
Well, if I’ve learned anything about the modern world, at least here in Australia, it’s this:
Whilst there are plenty of people who will be happy for you to succeed, there’s also no shortage of people who are happy to shame you directly or indirectly for your success.
You can call it tall poppy syndrome.
Another example of envious people shaming others could be if you’re very fit and spend quite a bit of time in the gym, and you’re starting to look very good.
Someone who is envious of your diligence, or your body, may say something like:
“You got so lucky to have inherited such a nice body from your parents.”
“I have way more important things to do than to spend my days in the gym. I haven’t got time for things like that.”
What If I see Myself In These Signs Of Envy?
By now you might be wondering: “what if I’m the envious and jealous one? Does that make me a bad person?”
Every single person has felt envy before.
You’re only a bad person if you try to destroy, hurt or take something away from the person you feel envious of.
As far as I’m concerned, envy can be one of the healthiest fuels for your own success. Only if you’re willing to appreciate hard work.
If you choose to take the low road and be the small person, then just know that feelings of envy won’t go away just by trying to make someone else suffer, or by pretending the envy is not there.
Feelings of envy only go away once you feel resourceful enough to create advantages of your own.
And in my experience, the more you work hard to make the kind of life and relationships your heart desires, the less you will feel envy.
In fact, if you take this approach, it’s the closest you will ever come to eliminating envy.
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By now you should have a really good idea of how to tell if someone is envious of you.
Whilst people try to keep their envy under wraps, it always comes out somehow.
When looking for the signs of envy in your friends, acquaintances or sadly, even family, remember that it will always show up on their faces, in their comments or in their behavior somehow.
Envious people will never genuinely enjoy or celebrate your advantages, so you may witness them trying to deprive you of your advantages.
Or if you’re lucky, you may witness them working hard to try to replicate your success (hopefully in a respectful way of course), and that is something we can consider to be benign envy.
Envious behavior shows up in a myriad of ways.
There really is no limit to the behavior that betrays someone’s envy, because some behavior will initially look positive, and some will be clearly negative or even depraved from the start.
Your task is not to try to be politically correct and think the best of someone who has already seen you as a target of envy, but rather, to see them as they are.
Now over to you. What are some signs of envy that you have noticed in your own life? Share any stories that you have experienced with us below!
Renee is the founder of The Feminine Woman & co-founder of Shen Wade Media where we teach women how to show up as a high value high status woman whom easily inspires a deep sense of emotional commitment from her chosen man. Together with her husband D. Shen at Commitment Triggers blog, they have positively influenced the lives of over 15 million women through their free articles and videos as well as 10’s of thousands through paid programs through the Shen Wade Media platform.
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