7 behaviors that indicate a person is secretly envious, according to psychology

Have you ever wondered why someone was giving off jealous vibes? 

For example, a friend who laughs at something that hurts, or perhaps they criticize something you bought online that you have wanted for a long time.

If so, you’re not alone in that strange feeling. 

It’s pretty normal for others to get jealous when you share your wins and your nice moments in life, including your friends. It doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose. 

Envy is a difficult emotion to identify and process, and it can ruin many good moments for everyone after an unfortunate comment or attitude.

People might not recognize what they’re feeling in the first place. 

Want to identify when someone is jealous and know how to deal with them?

These are the 7 behaviors that indicate a person is secretly envious, according to psychology. 

1) They show off their success all the time 

While some of us prefer not to brag or not to voice when things are going well, jealous people are often insecure, and they tend to show off their achievements even in inappropriate contexts. 

This will happen especially if you’re saying something good about your life. Since they’re always comparing themselves to others, they will feel the need to be better than you. 

Scientists say that this emotion plays a powerful role in how we relate to each other. 

They need the world to listen to them all the time, to validate themselves, and protect their ego. 

That’s why they’re always telling everyone how well they’re doing things, how successful they are, and how things are so much easier for them and others. 

Unfortunately, this insecurity can make them lose friendships. 

2) They’re competitive without reason

Being competitive isn’t synonymous with being envious because healthy competition is fun for everyone. 

The problem starts when someone is competitive without any reason at all.

If one person is always trying to outdo everyone, they might be showing envy. This shows up in diverse ways, and people might not be aware of how others perceive them or what they’re transmitting with their actions. 

For example, imagine that you have a close friend whom you share everything with, but every time you say something good about your life, they counter with something even better than you. 

If you saved enough money to buy a car, they got the latest model. If you built a swimming pool, they bought a house. If you recently had a makeover, they’ve been going to the gym for months. 

It doesn’t matter what it is; they’ll simply be better or try to seem better than you every step of the way. 

It can take a while to notice these behaviors, but don’t be fooled. 

They’re jealous, whether they know it or not, and they want what you have. This is because they’re insecure, and they need to feel like they’re doing better than you at every step of the way. 

When they take their competitiveness too far, they can try to sabotage you. 

3) They imitate everything you do 

This can be subtle, but it’s generally easy to spot. When someone copies everything you do, it’s normally because they spend a lot of time watching you and trying to imitate you. 

For whatever reason, I mean, not everything has to be because they’re jealous. 

However, it’s evident if you pair this behavior with other signs of envy. If they want to imitate you out of jealousy, they’ll be watching everything you do with close attention. 

In an attempt to level the playing field for themselves, they make the same choices that you do, or your hobbies, or your career. But let’s depict it better with a good example:

Imagine that one of your signature looks is a perfume or a bold lip color. 

And one day, out of the blue, someone who envies you starts copying your makeup or buying your perfume, claiming to be unique and trying to talk to the people you know. 

It’s a red flag, isn’t it?

4) They flatter you too much

A lot of people mask their envy with flattery, but not a normal amount. They will flatter you all the time for the strangest things. 

But how can getting genuine compliments be a sign of someone’s jealousy? 

It’s simply a way to hide their negative feelings, and perhaps it even helps them process it all better.

And it also helps them go unnoticed, especially if they’re insecure. 

So, when someone showers you with excessive compliments, it’s a red flag

5) They give you fake or backhanded compliments 

When they can’t contain their negative feelings, their compliments can turn passive-aggressive, destined to make you feel insecure or strange while sounding good– on the surface, at least. 

Of course, as will happen with each one of their behaviors, this stems from their insecurity around you. Here are a few examples of backhanded compliments:

  • You’re so brave for posting those pictures; I could never have done it! 
  • You’re so lucky to have good genetics. I thought I was good, too, but my body changed a lot after having kids. 
  • Your haircut is so original! I can’t pull it off like you do! 
  • Oh, I couldn’t travel the world like you do; I have goals, you know?

6) They will give you bad advice on purpose 

Envious people would rather not see you succeed and achieve your goals; they want to sabotage you, and the easiest way to do that is by giving you bad advice, especially if you trust them.

They want you to fail so they feel better about themselves. That’s why it’s dangerous to trust in anyone’s perspective; they might be trying to sabotage you.  They simply don’t want you to do better than them in life. 

If they’re especially vicious, they will discourage you from trying new things and going for new experiences. 

Every plan you tell them will have a failure, or something bad will always be waiting to happen. 

This brings us to our next point…

7) Jealous will spoil every plan you make

When people say that they don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, they aren’t envious of you. People who envy you will be happy to see you sad or upset.

For example, if you tell a friend that you will be going to a picnic in two days, they will tell you that it’s going to rain. 

Whatever makes you doubt yourself the most, that’s what they will say. 

If you tell them you’re going on a holiday to another country, they’ll list off the problems that country has. 

They will make you worry about the negatives instead of enjoying yourself. 

Setting boundaries with jealous people: how to do it?

Boundaries are something that most people need to work on, whether it is consciously or subconsciously. They’re super important to keep healthy relationships with the people we love, whether those are friends, family, or romantic relationships.

According to California Mental Health Advocacy for Children and Youth, these four steps will help you set healthy boundaries with your loved ones:

  • Identify situations that require you to create boundaries: when someone is doing something that bothers you, it’s time to think about the boundary you will need to set with them. If you’ve noticed their envy, it’s because it has already made you feel bad. 
  • Ask yourself what your boundaries will be: once you know what’s bothering you, you need to think about how to create and maintain that boundary and how to say this to the person. You have to be clear about your needs. 
  • Boundary communication: tell them why and how you’re setting up this new boundary. Don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers if necessary. 
  • Maintain those boundaries: if you’re a people pleaser, this will be the worst step for you. People will try to test how firm your boundaries are, and you will need to correct them with patience but without compromising. They require clear consequences. 

Regarding boundaries, it’s great to use “if/then” sentences. Besides, you need to focus on how you will react if they trespass the boundary, not on stopping the behavior. 

You’re not here to be anyone’s teacher; after all, it’s them who have to change their behavior. 

Here are a few examples:

  • A healthy boundary goes like this: “If you continue to mock my appearance, I will not be coming back for lunch with you on Sundays. 
  • An unhealthy boundary, on the contrary, is something like this: stop mocking my appearance every time you see me. 

Notice the difference? That’s how a healthy boundary is set. 

To sum up

Psychologists have concluded that insecure people tend to be jealous pretty often. 

When you spend your time questioning your worth, other people’s success can be perceived as an attack. 

If your friends display this behavior, especially around you, it’s a sign that they’re jealous of your success

Show them firmness in your boundaries, but don’t forget to also be compassionate.

Picture of Anna Dovbysh

Anna Dovbysh

With 8 years of writing experience and a deep interest in psychology, relationship advice, and spirituality, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting self-development topics and share some life advice. She's got a Master's Degree in International Information and is a life-long learner of writing and storytelling. In the past, she worked on a radio station and a TV channel as a journalist and even tought English in Cambodia to local kids. Currently, she's freelancing and traveling around the globe, exploring new places, and getting inspired by the people she meets and the stories they tell. Subscribe to her posts and get in touch with her on her social media: Facebook & LinkedIn

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