For many, we seem to get easily threatened when we see other people doing better than us in some area in life. We find it hard to be happy for them, but instead we have feelings of jealousy and envy.
We live in a time where we inadvertently compare our own lives with our perception of the lives of others. In many ways this has only been compounded by the rise of social media and the sugar-coated perception that we have of other peoples’ activity through their photos and updates.
But what happens when we experience it? How do we respond when we look at what other people are doing and feel a deep desire that we were doing the same?
What if envy were actually good for you? It can be, if you use it properly.
Don’t Confuse Envy With Jealousy
Envy is not jealously. Understanding the difference between jealousy and envy is the first step to overcoming those feelings and achieving a more empowered sense of self.
Jealously is wanting the specific thing someone else has.
Such as wanting someone’s particular girl/boyfriend or position at work. In those cases, the only way for you to get what you want is to hurt/betray/kill the person who has that thing so that you can have exactly what he has.
But envy is wanting the general thing someone else has. If you envy a successful writer, that doesn’t mean you have to kill them off to be a successful author yourself. You just work on your writing, and in time you can have what they have as well. You can both be successful writers.
Envy is based on your perception that somebody has something that you don’t have, that you want or desire, for instance money, or success or an amazing relationship or social influence. Desiring is similar to envy; you want something that you believe another person has.
The difference is that jealousy is based on a perception of your potential loss to a rival, somebody, from the fear of having something taken away from you, whilst envy occurs when you simply desire something another person has.
Jealousy is always destructive. But used correctly, envy can be good for you.
How To Use Envy To Your Advantage
1. Turn envy into motivation
We all put off the things we should do. We even put off the things we want to do. For reasons we ourselves can’t fully understand. Let’s face it: Humans can be pretty lazy and distracted creatures.
Consider this: if you never felt envy, you may not feel the need to grow and expand. Instead, accept envy has benefits. It can help you achieve a greater version of yourself.
By keeping you on your toes you can use these emotions to strive to awaken to, or create, a greater you. If that means you want to upskill at work to ensure you beat your colleagues for the next round of promotions, you ensure you do what it takes to achieve that goal, or to realise that you already have something great to offer and finally honour it. When you value you, so does the world.
2. Listen to envy, it guides you to your desire
You can hear it pointing you in the direction that deep down you maybe want to explore. You are drawn by a desire towards something. Why do you want it? What would you do if you had it?
Envy is not a place to aim for, it’s not something to encourage but it’s important to listen to what it is telling you.
Once we process envy, a lot of the time we can simply disregard it as materialistic and frivolous. But there are other times when we find a sense of calling out within – a voice pushing us towards something that we truly connect with; things that will allow us to get closer to living a more authentic expression of who we are (hobbies, jobs, careers, people, worldviews, lifestyles etc).
3. Empower yourself
Envy can be used as a tool to awaken within you the awareness of the traits that you are currently denying that you have. As long as you play small by comparison and live in the shadows of others, you will negotiate away many of your greatest opportunities in life.
But once envy forces you to reflect and empower yourself, once you begin to stand on the shoulders of giants and recognise that whatever you perceive in others you have to the same degree, you can break through the limitations of playing small and use envy to your greatest advantage. Nothing is missing in you.
Envy shows you where you are playing underdog to someone and gives you an opportunity to empower that area of your life.
4. It’s about YOU, not them
When you’re browsing photos on social media and an envious thought comes to mind, what is it that you’re really feeling?
It’s speaking to you about your own life not theirs. If you wish you were in the pictures at the social gathering then maybe you’re telling yourself to give someone a call, invite them out for dinner, spend some time with other people.
The photos your friend posted of them travelling – do you really envy that person, or are you telling yourself that it might be nice to take a little trip of your own? What is your envy saying about YOUR own choices?
5. It is normal to compare
Once you’re self aware it is actually wise to compare your daily actions to your own specific prioritised goals and intentions more than constantly comparing yourself to others.
Others have different values and are not you. You won’t be the greatest other. You will only be the greatest you. The magnificence of who you truly are is greater than any fantasy you will ever impose on yourself.
Instead of putting people on pedestals or in pits, it is wiser to put them in your heart. Discover that whatever you unwisely admire in them, you already have. You only admire things in others that you already possess, but you are still too humble to admit it.
4. Now start your own journey
Envy happens. It’s a part of life. Do you allow it unthinkingly to dictate your actions, or do you pay attention and seek to understand what it’s saying?
Always make the most of those moments when the deep underlying voice comes up to communicate with you at the surface. Listen.
It can re-focus you when you are drifting and feel off course in life. You wish you had the clarity that someone else has? The focus? The success from the path they’re on? It’s time to make that change, listen to what your life is telling you about what it wants you to do. Now start your own journey.
5. Be mindful!
Envy is a story we tell ourselves about the life of another person. It’s not truth. It’s perception. Always remember that what we believe about the lives of others is rarely the reality.
Be careful with the aspects of someone else/their life that you envy. For example envy can lead us to believe that having what they have will make us happy. Or that doing what they do/knowing who they know is the key to contentment.
This is the perpetual lie of envy and why it can be a poison in our lives.
We must make the distinction: envy can lead us towards who we are deep down, but it can also lead us away from who we have the potential to be.
It is not your destination, it is not your motivation; it is the quiet voice inside us all that can provide clues to the reality of our deeper passions. Don’t dwell there. Accept it, understand it, and move on with an abundance mindset.
Spend Time With People You Envy
People like to avoid discomfort, so most of us tend to avoid being around the people we envy – because envy is an uncomfortable emotion. But actually, we should do the opposite.
We should deliberately try to spend time with those we envy. Why?
1. We can learn from them.
The best way to learn from someone is to get close to them. See what they are doing. See what is working and what isn’t.
Learn from what they are doing, apply it to your own life, and you can be as successful as they are – perhaps even more so.
2. We can love them.
If you don’t want to deal with the discomfort of envy, learn to love the person you envy. The more you love someone, the less you envy them.
You see, no matter how hard we try, all envy is laced with some jealousy.
That is, a part of you dislikes the person you envy. This is what causes the discomfort. Feeling negative feelings about another person always hurts you as well.
But when you love a person, there’s no more room for even that little bit of dislike.
Envy Can Be Good For You
But only if you use it, learn from it, and let it go. The key is to use it wisely.
Envy is a little like the opium poppy. When you indulge in it in for fun or rebellion’s sake, it will hurt you. But if you control your use, only applying it for specific situations, it can be helpful (just as opium can be used to relieve legitimate and excessive pain).
If you use envy wisely, you will be able to clarify your path and motivate yourself to keep working, achieving, succeeding. Then, when envy has outlived its usefulness, exchange it for love.