The Good Kind of Jealousy—and How It Can Help Your Dancing

November 28, 2001
One time or another, we’ve all felt jealous of that dancer who seems to do no wrong: Her lines are perfect, she’s quick to pick up new combinations and the teacher loves her. Usually we’re told that feeling envious will only hurt us, and in many cases that’s exactly what happens—jealousy tends to bring us down. 

As it turns out, though, the science of envy may not be that clear-cut. A psychologist from Tilburg University in the Netherlands who’s studied the emotion identifies two types of envy:

1. Malicious envy is what we usually think of when the word comes to mind, and yes, it is often destructive and unproductive.
2. Benign envy, on the other hand, looks more similar to admiration—it involves fewer negative thoughts about the envied person, and is more likely to drive you to work harder towards your goals and change things for the better. In fact, the same psychologist found that benign envy is actually more motivating than admiration.

In a competitive world like ballet, sometimes you can’t help but feel a little envious. Next time you find yourself wishing you could execute a turn sequence like your talented classmate, try using that energy as fuel to think about how you can improve your own technique. And better yet: Why not ask her what her secret is? You might even make a new friend while you’re at it.