Joe, a young business man, says: "Why can't I be like this buddy of mine? He's seems so careless even when he gets a stressful phone call, while I can't stop stressing myself to ruin". Jacqueline, a 55 year old woman from Florida, tells me: "I never liked my strong nose. Every time I looked in the mirror I felt horrible". Alexandra, a 5.8 ft. fashion model, complains: "My successful model friends can afford far better lifestyle and clothes. I wish I had what they got". And Sandra confesses: "I hate the girl who's always so brilliantly confident in our office meetings, she makes me crawl!"
While many would say that envy is a negative emotion,
I'd like to suggest that there are no negative emotions, but rather that every emotion is a resource; a window to our soul
Sometimes we think of emotions in terms of being 'positive' or 'negative'. While many would say that envy is a negative emotion, I'd like to suggest that there are no negative emotions, but rather that every emotion is a resource; a window to our soul, an unveiling of our most fundamental desires, and that they are all welcome.
Emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt, have an important role to play in a joyful life; they're flashing signs that something is coming up for change.
So why do we feel envy?
And, is there a healthy way to be envious?
When Alexandra complained that she couldn't afford the nice clothes that she wanted, I asked her how she would feel if she had the success that she wished for. She replied that she desires to project a look of success and prove to her family that her pursuit of modeling is worthwhile, and that she wasn't a failure. Sandra wants to be confident and have her voice heard in office meetings. She also wants to be taken seriously. Joe wants to stop worrying excessively. Jacqueline mentioned that she had never been told that she was pretty, and that she longing to hear that.
When we envy, we receive an opportunity to clarify what WE want.
The healthy way to be envious, is to turn our attention inward, and ask: "What can I do? How can I be, so that I have what I want?"
For all of us, envy begins by wanting something that we perceive others to have and ourselves to be lacking. It tends to rise up instantaneously and be outward facing. In many of us, our envy is rooted in experiences of not receiving confirmation from our role models and care takers (parents, mostly) that we are capable of the very thing that we desire to achieve, and that we too, have a valid stance to occupy in the world.
In other words, when we envy, we receive an opportunity to clarify what WE want. As mentioned previously in my article on Self-Efficacy: "Don't dig a pit for the people who rise to success, but make yourself a hill to climb". It's ok to want 'it' too. The healthy way to be envious, is to turn our attention inward, and ask: "What can I do? How can I be, so that I have what I want?" This means putting the focus on improving your own chances of getting what we want and taking steps such as taking a training course, saving up money, changing our habits or working with a coach.
See if you can find the FEELING that you are looking for,
rather than the 'THING' that you want.
Here are some things you can do:
Define what you want that the other has, and you don't.
Avert your attention to yourself. See if you can find the FEELING that you are looking for, rather than the 'thing' that you want. In Jacqueline's case, she simply wants to feel pretty, Sandra wants to feel that her voice matters, Alexandra is seeking a feeling of self-worth, and Joe wants to have peace.
Mind your inner talk - is it putting you down on other fronts?
See if you can notice things about yourself that you like, proud of, or think are really great. Write them down and read them out loud.
Speak to yourself the way you would want to hear others speak to you.
Avoid situations of imposed 'comparative' nature with others, such as a display or competition, until you take the edge off your emotions.
Take action toward fulfilling your desires.