“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” ~ Harold Coffin
Connecting with others often brings warm, fuzzy feelings of affection, mutual understanding, and inclusion. But let’s face it, all that can go out the window quickly when someone you know gets something you want—like that promotion, that new home, or maybe even that smaller pants size. Envy can take a bite out of you, and suddenly you sense a twinge of resentment toward even your closest friends! Instead of becoming bitter, get better and put envy to work for you.
Merriam Webster defines envy as “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” The first two words that jump out at me here are “painful” and “resentful.” Neither of these adjectives sounds particularly fun or positive! So, let’s take a look at how you might reframe this a bit. In my experience, the most difficult attitudes and experiences, when confronted constructively, pay off in psychological, spiritual, and even material rewards!
Be Fair When You Compare
Let’s think about your tendency to compare yourself to others, which is the basis of envy. Granted, comparing yourself to others is part of human nature, but depending on your temperament, can lead to discouragement, depression, and giving up. Here’s why. Ever notice that the person you target tends to be the cream-of-the-crop, rather than the “crop” or average individual? By setting the benchmark this high, you pretty much guarantee you’ll come up short!
If you simply must compare, at least be fairer and more realistic in your evaluation. Use standards that take into account who YOU are, not someone else. After all, how much do you really know about them underneath their “stellar” exterior?
Wouldn’t it be a lot more reasonable and constructive to compare where you are now to where you started? This way, it’s easy to see how much growth and progress you’ve achieved, which will encourage you to keep working to get better and better.
Use Benign Envy as Motivation
Whereas malicious envy begrudges another’s gain to the point of wishing they would actually lose that thing or that harm would befall them, benign envy can stir your emotions toward positive action. Benign envy is when you wish you had something that someone else has, and you believe you’re capable of accomplishing the same thing, but so far you haven’t.
Rather than sit and stew, use others’ qualities or achievements as a sign of hope that these triumphs are possible and achievable. Seeing others succeed can inspire you to work harder and improve your performance. Combining this idea with the reality that you are unique and completely distinct from the person you envy, can bring tremendous joy as you work to become the best version of “you” possible!
When envy hits, you’re giving all your attention to what (or who) is outside you, rather than the harder task of looking at yourself. But remember that within you is an abundance of beauty, strength, and uniqueness. I promise you, concentrating on strengthening your own personal gifts and abilities will make you far happier and more peaceful than getting the biggest promotion and house, or even that “ideal” pant size.