The Envious Narcissist: Understanding Jealousy and Envy
Jealousy is an emotion that many of us have experienced at some point in our lives. Whether it’s wanting something someone else has or desiring to visit a place we have yet to explore, jealousy is a natural response. In healthy individuals, jealousy might be expressed as a simple desire to attain what others possess or a longing to experience what they have. After all, it’s considered normal human behaviour to feel a tad envious from time to time.
Jealousy, at its core, involves harbouring feelings of resentment towards another person’s accomplishments, possessions, or even their attractiveness to a new partner. It can also manifest as a protective inclination towards our own possessions and rights. Similarly, resentment often emerges as a bitter feeling towards someone else. Envy, on the other hand, encompasses a sense of discontentment with someone else’s luck, qualities, or possessions, stemming from a deep desire to obtain what they possess.
In some cases, individuals with healthy self-esteem may experience jealousy due to underlying issues or low self-esteem. However, for narcissists, jealousy takes on a more destructive and pervasive form. Narcissists typically struggle with a profound lack of self-esteem, thus giving rise to extreme jealousy towards everything and everyone around them. Although they may not outwardly display these emotions to others, they constantly believe that those around them possess something they lack. Unbeknownst to them, true happiness stems from within, not from obtaining external possessions. This envy can even extend to their own children, particularly when they feel that their children are receiving more attention than they are. Consequently, when their children succeed at something, the narcissist will attempt to divert the attention back to themselves, feeling that they played a significant role in their children’s accomplishments.
While most individuals internally navigate their feelings of jealousy, often feeling embarrassed by them, narcissists tend to make snide remarks to those close to them. They might claim, for instance, that someone must have received an inheritance to afford a particular possession or that someone achieved success merely through external assistance. At the same time, they had to rely solely on their own efforts. It is important to note that these expressions alone do not necessarily indicate narcissism. Narcissistic personality disorder falls on a spectrum, and individuals may possess some, but not all, of the characteristic traits.
Because of their overwhelming envy and jealousy, narcissists will go to great lengths to sabotage anyone or any situation they perceive as surpassing their achievements. They view everything as a competition that they must win, considering it unfair for others to possess something they themselves lack. They do not believe others deserve to be happy. Narcissists fundamentally feel inadequate in every aspect of their lives, which is why they so vehemently envy others. Unable to attain or sustain self-worth, narcissists rely on extracting it from those around them. They seek attention directly or indirectly, often through contrived contests that they engineer to win. This serves as a coping mechanism to counteract their deeply ingrained self-hatred and shame. If they fail to win, these feelings of self-hatred intensify, compelling them to take action to cover it up and regain a sense of self-assurance.
Consequently, when narcissists feel envious of the attention, sympathy, or support others receive, they redirect the focus towards themselves. This is typically done through a smear campaign, in which they attempt to destroy others so that people no longer provide aid or comfort to the person they envy. In contrast, genuine individuals seek truth, assistance, and clarity from relevant authorities when faced with difficulties. They engage in open conversations to gain support and understanding. Narcissistic individuals, however, resort to smear campaigns to undermine and ruin others.
Most often, narcissistic smear campaigns consist of lies or manipulated truths. Their aim is to tarnish the reputation of individuals they envy, redirecting the sympathy, help, support, and attention back to themselves. They may resort to theft, sabotage, or the destruction of others’ possessions. Furthermore, they exhibit a strong desire to control those around them, particularly if these individuals hold differing opinions or fail to prioritise the narcissist’s needs above their own. By destroying those people or items they envy, narcissists attempt to compensate for their own feelings of inadequacy and ultimately make themselves feel better. However, these harmful actions primarily serve to convince the narcissists themselves that they are not good enough. They project their inner insecurities and feelings onto others as a defence mechanism, essentially shifting the blame onto someone else. This coping mechanism allows them to avoid addressing their own issues and evade responsibility for their actions. This behaviour can be pitiful to some, yet alarming to others. It’s worth noting that the lies they spread about you often reflect their own actions or omit their involvement. In many cases, the smear campaign is not actually about you—it’s all about validating themselves at the expense of others.
Attempting to prove a narcissist wrong or help them see reason is a fruitless endeavour. Their narcissistic traits are deeply ingrained and not a result of anything you have done. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to help or change them through acts of kindness or reassurance. They cannot be fixed in the conventional sense. It is crucial to understand that you did not cause their narcissism, nor can you alter it. When you attempt to help, they will twist your efforts and use them against you to reaffirm to themselves that they are not the problem, even if their logic eludes you. Defending oneself to a narcissist by explaining motives, events, or emotions is futile, as their interest lies solely in reinforcing their own beliefs. You will never be able to prove anything to someone who is unwilling or unable to believe it.
One method for addressing jealousy is self-improvement, a step that narcissists are unable to take as they do not perceive themselves as the problem. This inability to self-reflect can be both pitiful and dangerous.
In our own lives, we have likely experienced moments of envy or jealousy. However, most of us are capable of feeling genuinely happy for others’ achievements and simultaneously working toward our own goals. Jealousy merely serves as a sign that we desire something for ourselves, not as a justification for tearing others down. Remember, we are only in competition with ourselves, aiming for self-improvement and personal growth.
Being around narcissistic individuals can have a negative impact on our own well-being. Negativity breeds negativity, and when narcissists make grand promises without following through, whether with us, a new partner, a sibling, or a coworker, jealousy can easily be triggered. These manipulative tactics by narcissists can leave anyone feeling envious.
While we cannot control the arrival of jealousy and envy, we can utilise these emotions to benefit ourselves. With narcissistic individuals, it’s best to distance ourselves and allow them to be. However, with others, we can genuinely celebrate their achievements and feel proud of them. When we have children, for instance, we often experience pride rather than envy when observing their accomplishments—a stark contrast to narcissists who envy their own children and seek to undermine their success.
When envy starts to creep in, it can serve as an opportunity for introspection. What precisely triggered these feelings of envy or jealousy? What is it that you desire? How can you take steps to attain it for yourself?
At times, life may feel as though it’s happening to us, with one challenge following another. However, we have the power to shift our perspective and make life happen for us. Though it may not be easy, we can use our weaknesses as catalysts for personal growth.
By recognising and harnessing jealousy, we can channel it towards betterment. After all, each of us is unique, worthy, and capable of achieving our desires. It’s time to take control, make life work in our favour, and live with good intentions. There is no inherently wrong or right way to live your life; trust yourself and embrace the journey ahead.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.