Envy: The Emotion That Thrives In The Bad Neighborhoods Of Your Mind

Written by on November 28, 2016 in Emotional Mastery



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.

Challenge Yourself

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.

Celebrate Accomplishments

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 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.

Thank you for sharing!

Tags: , , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn Connect on YouTube

47 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. I have never seen this quote before, but I loved the part “… the dark alleys and bad neighborhoods of our minds.” Isn’t that delicious?

    Based on your great post, I guess I would say I have experienced envy more than jealousy in my life. Jealousy I can only remember specific events twice whereas envy came in and out of my life when I was younger. Thank you for your excellent explanation of both.

    These can be very powerful emotions that we need to get control over. You will know when jealousy and envy have been conquered when you no longer experience any fear of loss or when you can truly be happy for someone else’s success.

    Life is so much brighter when you can be honest with yourself and work on weaknesses and make them strengths, don’t you think so?

    Deborah A. Ten Brink recently posted…Childhood Memories And Tropical FishMy Profile

  2. Joyce Hansen

    You’re absolutely right, Marquita, Your statement that “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.”
    I think much of current media and advertising focuses on glamorous images and celebrity lifestyles. It’s easy to fall into the envy trap of trying to be someone else when you think that what they have will make you happy.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Is the Fear of Success In Your Future?My Profile

    • Well said Joyce! I’m always reluctant to point fingers at the media because we always have a choice what to pay attention to (or not), but there is no question that every day we are confronted by the ‘ideal’ lives and circumstances painted for us – if only we do this, or buy that, or become something else. We need to give ourselves credit for being able to stay connected to reality amidst all that! Thanks for sharing – always appreciate.

  3. Ikechi

    Hi Marquita

    I love your thoughts on this issue. Sometimes we belittle our accomplishments when we compare ourselves with others.

    As you shared, envy is indeed a waste of activity. There is no one that has it all and I have discovered that the things we crave for don’t necessarily give us happiness.

    Thanks so much for this post. Take care

  4. Sue Bride

    I lacked confidence and used to compare myself unfavorably with others (in general) but I felt any shortcomings were of my own doing so I don’t think I was envious of others. I do relate to Rosemary in that I wanted to be taller than 5″2″. These days that doesn’t bother me – the wrinkles take precedence 🙂
    Sue Bride recently posted…11 Practical Methods to Increase Creativity For BloggersMy Profile

    • Yep, the height thing is an issue for many people. When I was single and in my early 20s I envied my sister’s bigger boobs, but got over that as well. As I referenced in the article, few people are able to recognize envy for what it is and a big part of that is because it is often a fleeting thought rather than something that sticks around for any length of time. One really needs to be self-aware to recognize these thoughts and most people are too busy with other mental chatter to notice. Thanks so much for sharing and contributing to the conversation Sue!

  5. Edward Thorpe

    Hi Marquita-ville,

    Deep thoughts here. Loved them though!

    Amazed that I’ve never considered the difference between envy & jealousy. Your explanation rang a bell for me…

    If you’ve never had feelings of envy, then you’d probably lie about other things too.

    Yet, when such feelings attack, a quick look at the road taken to achieve what you envy, should settle us down to reality – ‘are we ready to pay the price of having what we envy’?

    Usually we aren’t. Good post and looking forward to your further thoughts upon the subject.
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…How To Live With Age Related Heart DiseaseMy Profile

    • Hehehe, well said Edward. For better or worse, it’s as much human nature to experience envy as it is to deny it. I’m sorely tempted to make my next article on “denial” but my purpose when writing articles like this is to encourage people to think and explore their level of self-awareness, not to judge. Sometimes it works and sometimes the ego wins out. Thanks so much for sharing Edward, always appreciate your thoughtful insights. 🙂

  6. Suzie Cheel

    Love the Elizabeth O’Connor quote sums the envy issue so well. yes such a wasted emotion and takes us back to the crucial issue of really loving and accepting ourself and the magic that we are- I know easier said than done- a continuing work in progress. Well this got me thinking about where I at with envy and my heart says i have it fairly well handled . Thank you such wisdom here xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…How to Stay Positive When Your Life Is Going Pear ShapedMy Profile

  7. Stella Chiu

    Hi, Mariquita

    I never can know the difference between jealous and envy until now.

    Envy is a “poison” to our life because it distorts our perceptions about ourselves and others. Indeed, I agree it can be removed by grateful attitude.

    I appreciate you listed out ways to combat envy.

    Have a nice weekend!

    Stella Chiu

  8. Sue Kearney

    It’s amazing, Marquita, how this process never ends, as long as we’re breathing anyway. I’ve been in this consciousness game for decades now, and I’m still unfolding, going deeper, and finding out more about myself.

    Just now I’m owning how my fears and uncertainties have morphed into impatience and other forms of bad behavior — I’ve been impatient and downright mean to my housemate. No more. I’m reining it in and taking responsibility for it. It is truly a stretch and a challenge because I am programmed to be snarky and nasty. But I know I don’t have to behave consistent with my programming.

    Combining this commitment with the “gentle thoughts” that I learned from Reba Linker, I’m doing a lot of self-soothing and self-loving. Really helpful for me in the dark time (by which I usually mean the season around the Winter Solstice but this year it’s heightened by American politics).

    I tend to envy — especially in the darkness — and these gentle thoughts bring me back to appreciation and to gratitude.

    Thanks sister for your wise words.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…Wake up, stand up, show up — for yourself and for those you serveMy Profile

    • Wow, thank you so much for your insightful sharing Sue! I must admit I laughed a bit when I came to your comment about being naturally snarky and nasty. Just this morning something pushed my button and the claws came out, then I put myself in the corner for a time out. 🙂

  9. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! Wowsy Girlfriend! What a Title, what an Article! I don’t really think I am envious of anyone, I am happy when I see someone succeeding, this gives me gratification and makes me work harder then other to get to where I want to be.

    I agree with you 100% that Envy is a wasted emotion!

    Great Share As Aways
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…What Is Your Secret To Success Online?My Profile

  10. Vatsala Shukla

    I guess my philosophy of being happy for others because it means that my turn is coming up next has kept the gremlins of jealousy and envy at bay, Marquita with 1 exception.

    I remember when Bruno passed away, I used to look at people with dogs and feel strange, envious, really. I discussed it with a friend of mine who had lost her dog Bucky a few years earlier and she confirmed it was grief (she’s a psychologist). In her graciousness, she shared that when Bucky passed away, she too used to feel envious of people whose pets were around while hers had gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds and it was a sign of being human.

    I’ve kept that experience in mind and always allow people without furry friends to play with my current pal Miss Coco. Happiness has to be shared.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…How Are You Coping with Uncertainty in the Workplace?My Profile

    • What a perfect example Vatsala, thank you so much for sharing! I agree that it is natural within the grieving process to experience emotional moments of envy and it’s so nice that you’ve taken that insight to heart by sharing your Miss Coco with others. 🙂

  11. Sushmita

    It is said people who can’t stand to see the success of others will never experience their own!
    One must understand and learn from other rather than being jealous.
    But being envy is different if one desires it, having the desire is just not enough working for it is also required.
    Liked your post, Marquita time and we must check our grounds!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Sushmita recently posted…Need for Creativity & Innovation in EntrepreneurshipMy Profile

  12. William Rusho

    I do agree envy is very bad overall. It does bring up the bad parts of the human nature. the worst part is sometimes you get so focused on what others have, you miss the fact you have the same thing or better in your own life.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.
    William Rusho recently posted…I am dreaming of a Medieval ChristmasMy Profile

  13. Lea Bullen

    Hi Marquita,
    Thanks for explaining the difference between jealousy and envy. I now realize how many people use jealousy in the wrong context.
    I’ve been lucky enough not to have issues with feeling envious. I can just admire what other’s have without ill feelings. I guess I just always looked at it like you don’t know all that comes with it. Sometimes the things you envy dearly come at a cost you are oblivious to. I also don’t think from a place of lack. I think everyone can have it so no reason to be envious.
    Lea Bullen recently posted…The Real Reason You Always Feel Defeated and How to Get Over ItMy Profile

    • Congratulations Lea! Count yourself among the rare who never experience feelings of envy even in passing. Thanks for taking the time to share and contribute to the conversation. 🙂

  14. Your article seems to be God sent my way Marquita as I wasted about 3 hours of my day today undervaluing myself looking at the achievements of a friend.Although I was working on other chores of the day that I needed to take care off, I kept thinking why I didnt do what she did.Even though the choice that she has made is not something I want to do, I kept feeling that maybe I should do the samething to be successful in my life.Reading this article has given me many positive perspectives that I should use to work on myself to never ever feel this way again if I see someone doing better than me.
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Subtle experiment – Are some fonts better than others?My Profile

  15. Mark

    Another outstanding post M!

    And once I saw your headline for this particular post, I couldn’t wait to see how you would so eloquently connect the dots as usual!

    And I love your quote from the unknown author!

    It definitely cuts to the heart of the overall theme of your entire post!

    However, on the advice of counsel, I’m told not commit any further, on the grounds I may incriminate myself!LOL!

    Another outstanding post for sure M!Thanks!It’s a great read!
    Mark recently posted…Five Potential Problems Which Can Potentially Sabotage Even The Most Promising Partnerships!My Profile

  16. Back in the day, I’d say I succumbed to envy quite a bit. The only redhead in the clan, I envied my black & brunette haired siblings & cousins. Let’s not get into the other issues I had.

    I like your distinction between envy and jealousy and am glad to say that jealousy rarely rears its head. Whew.

    Although I will say, I’m pretty much always going to envy the world of people taller than 5’2″. 🙂
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Travel Adventures Don’t Have to Be RiskyMy Profile

    • I hear you Rose Mary! There was a time I envied women with pretty much any other color hair except red, and to top it off I died my hair dark brown. Man, the first look in the mirror told me what a disaster that was and I never did anything like that again! 🙂

  17. I love this quote you used: The most unhappy people are the ones who always undervalue what they have, and overvalue what others have.
    I think we tend to go through this feeling of envy from time to time. I think many times we see the success people have without really seeing all the hard work that went in to it. So we are jealous of what they have when in reality they put in years and years of work that we don’t see.
    Thanks for the post!

  18. Ramona McKean

    “Remember Nobody Has It All”–how true– and, I tell myself, we can never truly know another person’s reality. What may seem to be a wonderful life or possession or whatever that another has is, in fact, what seems to be. I have strengths that others may envy, but I also have a fair share of the flip side of those strengths too. At the bottom of envy is a lack of self-worth, which you’ve alluded to. Oh, we human beings can be so hard on ourselves!
    Ramona McKean recently posted…If It be Your Will, a Tribute to Leonard CohenMy Profile

  19. Jeri

    I’ve tried practicing stating things I am grateful for, and it still feels weird at times. Really though, there is so much about any of our given lives that is wonderful, and envy takes energy I’d rather put into other things.
    Jeri recently posted…#AuthorInterview: Craig A. HartMy Profile

  20. Marquita — it’s easy to fall into the habit of being envious of others. But that just leads to feelings of inadequacy which leads to being unhappy. There is a reason why older people are referred to as living in their golden years. I think it’s because we finally accept and embrace who we are now. At least I have. Whenever I slip into “woe is me” I remember the famous words of John F. Kennedy, “Life is unfair.” The reality is that some people will get the bread while others will get the crust. But if you get the crust once that doesn’t mean you never get the bread. Next time.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Be Thankful to Our Veterans by Giving Them JobsMy Profile

  21. I must say that envy is not an emotion that enters my psyche. I am blessed with a sincere wish for everyone to succeed. (Other than those who have a wish to harm someone.) I occasionally get frustrated with myself when I cannot reach goals or make the achievements I desire, but I can honestly say that I only think of it in terms of myself not trying hard enough, or having bad luck, and not being envious of someone who does better.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…meet me in MontreuxMy Profile

  22. Phoenicia

    A great post as always Marquita! I can imagine having some great conversations with you about these subjects and others.

    You are right – not many people admit to being envious and why would they as it brings an element of negativity. It is always best to acknowledge your feelings and identify why. It is always more about you than the other person who is busy getting on with their life.

    Envy can encourage you to push forward in life but it is a close cousin of competition and could easily turn into a secret one upmanship. The other person may not even realise they are part of your “game”.

    Self esteem is a major factor. The more at ease you are with yourself, the less likely you are to idolise the lifestyle of another.

    As a teen I suffered with tremendous self esteem to the extent I disliked who I was and how I looked. I assumed everyone was in a much better place than me and secretly yearned to have their life.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Pensions; what is your take?My Profile

    • Well said Phoenicia, and to be honest I struggled a bit with whether or not to bring up the topic of competition. I enjoy good natured competition. In fact, I used to be a runner and always tried to run with a partner because I ran longer and faster when I could pace myself against someone else. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  23. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    I love the title of this as well as how you explained envy. I think I have it here and there, but it doesn’t last long. It is like a thought that may pop up in my head coupled with an uncomfortable emotion.

    I do find that gratefulness is the enemy of envy and can wash it away. It is a great way to diminish envious thoughts.

    Thanks so much for a wonderful article.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…How Do You Spend Money Blogging?My Profile

    • So glad you enjoyed the article Donna! I really think it’s normal to experience brief moments of envy, but as you said it usually doesn’t last long. It’s only when it digs in for the long-haul that we begin having problems. Thanks for contributing to the conversation, always appreciated. 🙂

  24. lenie

    Marquita, your definition of jealousy and envy is one I’ve never heard and yet it was right on.
    I have never been a jealous person but have mostly been confident in myself.
    I have however been envious of others at times, mostly if they’ve had opportunities to accomplish things that I felt I had never been given the chance for, which leads to ‘if only I had known’.
    Now I’m at the stage where I am quite content with myself and my situation in life. A grateful mindset helps.
    lenie recently posted…Tis the Season for…CHARITY SCAMSMy Profile

    • Envy and jealousy are just two of the many words in the English language that we’ve come to blur together so I wanted to make sure and be clear about the distinction so I took that definition directly from a research study on these emotions. 🙂 You brought up a good point Lenie. While I never came across anything about this in my research, I have a feeling that in general envy is something we experience less and less as we mature. Thanks for sharing with us!

%d bloggers like this: