With the economy in turmoil, folks losing their jobs, bankruptcies and foreclosures on the increase, relationships seeming to disintegrate more rapidly and so many struggling to "be somebody", it's no surprise that a many people are caught up in a spiral of envy.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines envy as "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage."
While some experts believe envy is a positive motivator (and it can be in some cases), mental health statistics point in a different direction, suggesting that envy is a catalyst that leads to depression, anger, resentment, malice, violence and deep-seated negativity. When our "bones rot" they don't rot alone. Our mind, our heart and our body follow.
You're afraid about losing your job and one colleague lands a plumb position in a new company while another receives a promotion. You're a sole proprietor whose client base is drying up and your competitor seems to have clients beating her door down. You have trouble making your mortgage payments and your closest friend has just purchased a new home. Cue envy.
You've just taken your car in for repairs and your neighbor drives up in a new expensive sports car. You're experiencing conflict in your relationship and the fellow next door, newly divorced, brings home a new "trophy wife." You're putting on weight while your partner has just shed 40 pounds. Your child is struggling academically and your brother's son has just made the honor roll. Cue envy.
In the throes of envy, we become mired in a sense of deficiency. Like an ulcer, envy eats away at you, consciously and subconsciously. It seems to be the energy that is running your life - a life of frustration - feeling like you're being decimated from the inside out.
Envy drives our perspective - and not in a positive way. It make us want to "get even", but in the process, we usually end up doing things that are self-destructive. We either obsess about inflating our egos or denigrating others for what they have or who they are. Either way, it's a lose-lose proposition.
The honest reality with envy is that it's never - repeat never - about the other person. Envy can be a blind spot. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Few folks realize they are their own worst enemy when it comes to envy.
The road to hate can be quite overt or very subtle. We find ourselves overtly attacking others, gossiping or bullying. We can be abusive or spiteful, or quietly revel in others' mistakes while we seethe inside. Envy erodes relationships, camaraderie and collegiality. It eats away at intimacy, openness and connection.
The underlying energy around envy is wanting what others have. But while focusing on this, the envious one is also dwelling on "what's wrong with me." In this place of self-loathing, where we feel "less than", we tend to focus on what we don't have. And we know the Law of Attraction says that we attract to ourselves that which we dwell on. Lack attracts lack. And caught up in a downward spiral of envy, you're moving backwards, sowing seeds of doubt and limiting your potential.
The antidote to envy
The way out of envy is first to admit your envy. See it for what it is without judging yourself. The next step is to choose to eliminate or reduce your concern with what others have.
That's a choice. When we fill our mind with thoughts of lack, there's no room to focus on a "way out". It suffocates feelings of self-worth and self-value (they're there – but covered over and veiled). So rather than being caught up in feelings of depression and worthlessness, the choice is to move towards letting go of the doubt and self-criticism.
- Who are the people that you envy? (hint: think of people that you privately criticize, judge, make fun of or resent).
- Do you often find yourself throwing "pity parties" for yourself? Why?
- Do you find it hard to acknowledge, compliment or praise others? How does this make you feel?
- Do you constantly put yourself down? How does this make you feel?
- Do you feel folks are better than you? Why?
- Do you make up stories to justify your envy and your envious behavior?
- Did anyone ever tell you they were envious of you? How did that make you feel?
- Do you ever collude to support others' envious feelings? Why?
- What was your experience around envy as you were growing up?
- Do you ever feel fake, that your life is a facade? Why?
- Do you have a strong need to be seen, appreciated and admired?
- Is it easy or challenging for you to empathize with others?
- Can you visualize a life without envy?
The antidote to envy is to make an honest effort to explore your intrinsic self-worth. When you stop beating yourself up and take time consistently to relax and self-reflect, you can often access your sense of inner self-worth - an sense that is not connected to anything or anyone "external." This can promote energies of positivity, strength, courage and compassion for one's self.
So you can decide to not be envious or jealous. It is a choice. The choice to be free of envy also allows an opening to possibility. Why? Because the control that your negative feelings had on you is released.
When your mind does start to flirt with judgments and criticisms, recognize them and allow them to float by like the clouds in the sky on a windy day. Return to your choice to explore your potential and possibility and see what arises. Allow your heart and your body (not your "logical" mind) to inform your reflection. Focus on your self and be curious about what arises. Don't judge or rule anything out.
When a nugget of information that seems important arises, write it down and return to your deep reflection. When you feel complete with this session, explore what you saw, what you discovered and, objectively, look at the potential inside of what arose.
Then, make a list of "baby steps", small discrete tasks you can undertake to make the potential reality. What might you need to do next? Who might you need to talk with? What skill might you need to develop? What knowledge or information might you need to gather? Then, organize the small action steps, prioritize them, schedule them and execute them. And begin your journey.
As you spend time creating or re-creating your self, your feelings of envy will begin to dissipate, replaced with feelings of hope, optimism and self-worth. From this place of well be-ing and positive esteem, you can begin to move your life forward with a sense of power, control and freedom, unencumbered by the weight of envy.
"There are many roads to hate, but envy is the shortest of them all." – Anonymous