Ever heard of the little green monster? That’s right, envy. Those awful, bitter feelings when someone else has something you want. If you struggle with envy, this article is for you.
Envy is the the discontentment, resentfulness, and longing that’s caused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or “luck”. I put luck in quotations here because usually what you find behind luck is a lot of hard work. However there are times when others do get lucky breaks you’ve never had.
Regardless of why you’re envious, it does not feel good. So much anger and resentment, that sometimes people will act maliciously because of it. Envy can go to a place of wanting to sabotage another person to make things fair again.
On top of it all, despite this being a near universal feeling, we don’t like to talk about it. We see it as an ugly, embarrassing, shameful emotion that doesn’t look good on anyone. Even though we’re comfortable talking about other negative emotions like sadness and anger, we tend to hide our envy. Burying this toxic emotion makes it fester.
If you didn’t think it was a good look before, let it simmer unmanaged under the surface for awhile — it won’t get better with age.
While we cannot kill our little green monster and be done with it forever, there are ways to manage that feeling when it comes up. The key is to recognize it, interrupt it, and change the way you think about the situation.
WHY DO WE FEEL ENVY?
The reasons that we feel envy are unique to each person. You might feel envy for a coworker who got a promotion that you didn’t, or you might feel it for Beyonce because she just “has it all”.
Regardless of what actually set us off, the underlying cause is the same. You are seeing another person have the very thing that you want. To make matters worse, you may feel like they don’t deserve what they have, whereas you do.
This thing that you want may have been your dream for forever, or you might not have even realized you care. Envy can be a wake up call to an unrealized dream staring you in the face.
Either way, envy is your mind telling you what you need to pay attention to. Even if you work on your feelings and changing the way you think, the envy will still pop up from time to time. You need to recognize the significance of this feeling and get clear on what you’re feeling it about and why.
If you can understand these underlying issues, you can begin to take actions that will help you reduce the amount of times the envy is rearing its ugly head.
WHAT IS ENVY TELLING YOU?
When you feel envious or jealous of another persons life, it’s your brain trying to tell you something. They have something you don’t. You feel like something is missing. It doesn’t matter how much you try to ignore it, the envy won’t just go away.
Let’s say you’re a lawyer, but you’ve always dreamed about acting. Every time you see an actor being successful or watch an awards show you feel envy rising up in your chest. That’s not just going to go away because awards season is over. The dream that you’ve had since you were 7 is unlikely to just disappear because you turn 41 this year.
While you may never truly want to just dump your job as a lawyer, head to LA, and start auditioning, your brain wants you to acknowledge your dream. It’s time to figure out if this is something you really want to do, or if it’s far more work than you really feel like putting in.Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own. - Harold Coffin Click To Tweet
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE UNREALIZED DREAM?
The biggest part of your envy isn’t what someone else is achieving, it’s what you’re not doing. Somewhere in your heart there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or be, or try. When you see someone else realizing your dream, it stings.
But let’s be realistic here, we can’t chase every dream we have in our hearts. Very few people have only ever wanted one thing, then made that one thing happen, and then were perfectly happy with it.
Most of us have conflicting dreams. You want to be a lawyer and a famous actor. You want to be an astronaut and a professional chef. You want to be a stay at home, work at home, entrepreneurial, homeschooling, crafting, wonder woman. Ahem, just spit balling here.
In order to squelch some of these negative feelings you need to get clear on what is really important to you. What are you willing to put the time and energy into in order to make it happen. As many have said it takes years to become an overnight success.I was an overnight success all right, but 30 years is a long, long night - Ray Kroc Click To Tweet
So while you may envy Beyonce’s voice, career, marriage, children, seemingly endless budget, you have to remember how long that’s taken her. How many hours she spends in rehearsals and fittings and hair and makeup just to do a concert tour that takes her on the road for months at a time.
When we get envious we tend to only see the fruits of the other persons labors. We don’t think about all the boiled chicken that girl ate so she could get down to 13% body fat and have a six pack. Or all the times she was up at 5am so she could workout before the kids got up.
When you get clear on what you think you want, take a look at the amount of work it would take to get you there. If it’s something relatively easy go get it done so you can enjoy it. And if it’s something more complicated, get really honest about whether you are really willing to make the effort to get there.
Witnessing Others Succeed
While these people have worked hard for what they’ve gotten, it shows you something amazing. If they did it, it can be done. Part of our nature as humans is to not believe something is even possible until we see it happen.
No one believed that Thomas Edison could create a light bulb. And the fact that he didn’t give up after failing at it thousands of times is amazing. But he finally did it and now look at all the different kinds of light bulbs we have today, let alone all the other amazing things we do with electricity.
So when you see someone succeed let that help motivate you. If they can do it, so can you. If you’re willing to put in the work.
HOW DO YOU GET ENVY UNDER CONTROL?
Let’s face it, life isn’t always fair. You might be sure about what you want, and be working your butt off to get it, but someone else still seems to edge you out in one way or another. The green monster rears her ugly head and no matter what you do you can’t seem to stop feeling like this.
Here are some ways to help get this feeling under control.
Get the bigger picture
This concept can work in two ways. There’s the bigger picture of your time on this planet, and there’s the bigger picture of your current work/social circles.
The bigger picture of time is seeing this part of your day/week/month for the blip it is on the entire timeline of your life. If you step back and realize that yes, it sucks to be working so hard and not have everything you want, but where could that hard work put you a year from now? Or look back and see how much further you are now than you were when you started. Try to take a 10,000 ft picture of your life and let that perspective change the way you’re thinking about your envy.Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts. - Jean Vanier Click To Tweet
The other option is to take a look at your circumstances. Does the accomplishment that you’re envious of mean anything to people outside your group. Will any of your friends think less of you because you didn’t get the top sales award this month? Will your family disown you because you didn’t get your article published?
Thinking about this helps you realize that you might just be absorbed in your own bubble and it’s taking a toll on your mental health. It’s unlikely the world is going to watch you lose that Oscar, again, on national television, so let that relieve you of some of those feelings. The people that love you will still love you even if you don’t have the status symbol you seek inside your bubble.
Embrace your uniqueness
Despite the fact that there’s over 7 billion people on the planet, there’s no other you. And what you’re destined for is far better for YOU than the destiny of someone else that was meant for them. The world needs who you are and your unique talents — not for you to try to be someone else.
When you are looking at the person of whom you are envious, consider what your differences are. What are you better or worse at than they are? Embrace being better and notice the areas you have for growth.
How might your plans and focus be different from theirs? Maybe the person you envy is content to work themselves 80 hours a week and have no family or social life. Would that be a fulfilling future for you? Would that sacrifice be worth it to get where they are?
While you’re probably not comparing apples to oranges if you’re envious of someone, you might be comparing lemons and limes. They are close in many respects, but not interchangeable. They both have their own place in the world, just as you and the person you envy do.
Flip your talk track
One of the hardest things about dealing with envy is all the things you might be telling yourself about what’s happening and why. Perhaps you see someone succeed at something you’ve been working on with little or no success.
Now not only are you envying them, you’ve got this whole negative talk track about why you haven’t succeeded. This leads to not only resenting them but can send you into a self loathing downward spiral.
The first step to breaking the spiral is to notice your thoughts. Realize that you’re envious and label all the emotions that it’s creating for you. The more specific you can be, the more mental distance you’ll be able to give yourself from your emotions.
Then it’s time to replace the talk track with something else. Instead of mentally bashing them or beating yourself up over why you’ve fallen short — flip it to celebrating that person’s wins. I’m not saying this is easy, but it works.As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy - Antisthenes Click To Tweet
I have been struggling a lot with envy lately. Time has been crunched the last couple of months and I have had fewer moments to work on my business. It’s been eating away at me to see other entrepreneurs that I admire succeed, and I’ve felt so much shame.
I realized that not only was I jealous about their success I was also bashing myself for being “there” yet. Wherever there is, I’m not even sure.
Since I’ve heard of this trick I’ve been trying to release the envy and replace it with a feeling of celebration. Instead of thinking I want that I think good for them and remember that there’s room for all of us.
It goes back to remembering your uniqueness. No, you can’t ever be them, but they can’t ever be you, either.
If you’re struggling to get control of your negative thought patterns, such as envy, contact me here. Coaching with me is a great way to get clear on what is causing your thoughts and how to get yourself back on track to a more positive you.