Have you ever found yourself wanting what someone else has? It could be money, a glamorous career, and a big home, or you see them as being more attractive or admired. Maybe they have the kind of loving relationships you desire, or simply the uncanny ability to always be in the right place at the right time to enjoy the perks of life.
For most, these thoughts are generally little more than a passing impulse … picture a little gremlin on your shoulder gently whispering in your ear reminding you how unfair life can be at times.
It feeds on silence as it lurks and stalks in the dark alleys and bad neighborhoods of our minds. Nothing poisons as potently as unexpressed envy. ~Author Unknown
The Perils of Envy
We all experience occasional twinges of envy, although very few will openly admit it. After all, this can be embarrassing, especially if the focus of our envy happens to be a friend.
Just to be clear, while the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a significant difference between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is all about our fear of losing something (or someone) we already have to someone else, while envy is what we feel when we see ourselves lacking something enjoyed by someone else.
In other words, my life would be so much better if only I had the resources, abilities, and relationships that YOU have.
Some will insist that there is nothing wrong with envy, that it may even encourage you to take action to improve your own circumstances.
Unfortunately, there are a few cracks in that rationale. For one thing, there is a very real temptation to vastly underestimate (if not completely ignore) the time and effort undertaken by others to cultivate the traits or circumstances we covet.
Then there is the reality that comparing yourself to others is a battle you can never win.
Not only does it undermine your confidence and self-worth, it can cause you to ignore your own values and do things you normally wouldn’t, which can result in feelings of shame, frustration, and bitterness.
And for what?
There will always be someone else who is better off than you in at least some area.
Finally, there is the very real danger that following the impulse to have what you see as superior attributes in others will take you in a very different direction in life than you would have gone had you followed your own natural instincts and desires.
The most unhappy people are the ones who always undervalue what they have, and overvalue what others have. ~Author Unknown
Strategies to Overcome Envy
Envy thrives on secrecy and its ability to aggravate by repeatedly poking a sharp stick into your tender ego. So overcoming it begins by admitting envy exists and that you’re human enough to fall victim to its occasional temptation.
This is a self-esteem issue, but that doesn’t mean all areas of your life are vulnerable. For example, you may have confidence in skills associated with your work, but envy those able to build deep and lasting personal relationships.
You may not always catch the signs, but you can do a good job of rendering envy powerless by cultivating self-awareness, especially paying attention to self-talk and twinges of envy over other’s actions or accomplishments.
Here are a few additional strategies to prevent envy from holding you hostage.
If you identify an area in your life that needs some attention, try creating a small but meaningful challenge for yourself. Not merely another task to add to the list, or something you think you should do, but a goal that will stretch you in this area, maybe even scare you a little. This is a painless way to learn new skills, expand your capabilities, and gradually build self-esteem.
Learning to genuinely delight in your achievements, no matter how small, will go a long way toward building your confidence and sense of self-worth. But don’t stop there, when you can also learn to honestly be happy for the good fortune of others, you will have taken a huge step toward banishing envy once and for all.
Focus On All You Have To Be Grateful For
Your life is too valuable to be lived like everyone else. You have countless reasons to be grateful for the life you have been given. Find ways to remind yourself every day to value the people and things that matter most to you.
Learn to Genuinely Like Yourself
When you have a low opinion of yourself there is an even greater tendency to see the attributes of others as being far more impressive than they actually are. Learning to really like yourself means dealing with self-limiting beliefs and learning to honestly appreciate all of the quirky bits and pieces that make you the wonderfully unique person that you are.
Remember Nobody Has It All
It’s human nature to compare the worst of what we see in ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others.
But nobody has it all. You only need to check the latest news headlines for proof that no amount of money, resources or power can exempt one from experiencing problems, heartache, and adversity, just like the rest of us.
Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self-worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has. ~Elizabeth O’Connor
Envy is a wasted emotion that does little more than encourage you to focus on what you perceive to be your shortcomings.
It tries to convince you that all of life is a competition and there isn’t enough to go around. That if only you could possess the desirable attributes you see in another, you would have greater fulfillment, or at the very least fewer problems.
Don’t buy into this lie!
Instead of envying the lives of others, learn from their example and then use your own unique strengths and abilities to create a richer and more fulfilling life of your own.
Your turn: Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of envy? I plan to explore this side of the experience of envy in the future, so I’d love to hear from anyone who has some firsthand experience!
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.