3 Reasons Why Envy Leads to Bullying

Discover how envy and bullying are connected

envious girl laying down
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All too often kids fall into the comparison trap. They see the successes and gifts of others as reminders of their own shortcomings. When this happens, it is easy for envy and jealousy to blossom.

Envy exists when people want something that another person has. They feel that it is not fair for that person to have what they want. For instance, kids feel envious when another is perceived to be more popular or well liked.

They also might feel envy when someone is elected class president or is acknowledged for getting good grades. Kids can even feel envious over clothes, electronics and relationships. Whatever the source of the envy, they covet what another person has and wish it was theirs.

For this reason, envy is sometimes at the root of bullying behaviors especially when it comes to mean girl behavior and relational aggression. Here are three reasons why envy can lead to bullying behavior.

The bully is measuring herself against another person’s talents, reputation or possessions.

Study after study indicates that envy increases with social media use. Part of this has to do with the fact that more comparisons occur when people use social media. They compare clothes, vacations, relationships, achievements and more. When people get caught up in comparisons, they feel like they do not measure up to the person they are envious of.

And when feelings of envy and jealousy are allowed to grow, they can lead to bullying. The reason is simple. Envious people want to take something away from the person they are envious of. And they use bullying as a tool.

This bullying can include everything from threatening behaviors to name-calling, spreading rumors and gossip and cyberbullying.

In these instances, envy becomes a form of power. The goal is to deprive others of what they have, whether it is a special talent, being popular or having nice clothes.

The bully struggles with self-esteem issues.

Sometimes envy rears its ugly head when a person feels a sense of inadequacy, emptiness or unworthiness. In these cases, kids want to close the gap between what others have and what they want. So the goal behind their bullying is to bolster their own feelings of self-esteem at the expense of another person.

But envy is a hunger that cannot be filled with bullying behavior. Bullies never develop a sense of self-worth or happiness at another’s expense. Although seeing the person they are envious of suffering may seem like what they want, it does little to make them feel better about who they are. At the end of the day, the bully still has the same self-esteem issues that need to be addressed.

The bully is competitive and a perfectionist.

Envy also can be related to competition. This is where bullying in sports often originates.

But envy that results from competition it is not limited to bullying on sports teams. Kids can be competitive in all areas of their lives including in relationships, with grades and with status.

Usually, competitive and perfectionistic kids envy others who seem to have some advantage or power that they want to have. They cannot tolerate the success of someone else because it makes them feel inferior or less than perfect so they resort to bullying.

The goal behind their bullying behavior is to eliminate the competition or find a way to possess the position or status their target has. They believe that by taking away another’s success they will in turn make themselves feel better. But it never works out that way.

If you see your child struggling with envy, it is important to address those feelings right away. Help her discover why she feels envious and then come up with some solutions for working through her envy.

For instance, turn her envy into a motivator to work harder on her goals. Instead of focusing on what she does not have, teach her to focus on how she can achieve what she wants in a healthy way. Also help her improve her self-esteem. And teach her that the success of others does not diminish who she is. 

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