“Staring at the light of another blinds the view of our own.” ~Charles F. Glassman
Your best friend is getting married and you haven’t had a date in months. Your coworker got the big promotion you wanted, complete with a fat raise and a company car, but you’re still in a cubicle. Your neighbor added a second story to their house and it makes you feel like yours is now inadequate.
Envy is a pain in the ass, but it’s a human emotion that most of us can admit to feeling at one time or another. It’s disturbing to feel like you’re missing out on something when a colleague receives a promotion you wanted or your best friend is planning her wedding while you’re trying to find a date. I get it.
On the other hand, if you can step back a little and look at this from a different perspective, envy may provide insights you can use to understand yourself better and even enhance your relationships. Learn how to face up to your true feelings so you can prevent and manage those nagging resentments.
Tips for Preventing Envy
1. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Envy crops up when you compare yourself to someone else. It’s a natural tendency, but it can cause a lot of unhappiness. Focus on your own growth and performance. Work at competing with yourself to beat your own past record.
2. Cultivate gratitude. Envy shines a spotlight on what you think you’re missing. Remind yourself of your blessings. List your talents and review your success stories. Be grateful for what you do have, and more of that kind of stuff will come your way.
3. See other people and their lives from a more realistic standpoint. You probably idealize the people you admire – at least a little. And, if you’re being honest, you might also find yourself idealizing those who make you feel envy. We all tend to do that, but in reality, each of us faces hardships and disappointments. You may feel more sympathetic toward your rivals when you realize they experience headaches and broken hearts just like you.
4. Teach someone something. Turn things around by connecting with someone who looks up to you. Share your marketing expertise with the summer interns. Volunteer to coach gymnastics at your children’s school or sign up to be a chemistry tutor. You get the idea.
5. Think long term. It’s reassuring to consider how resentments fade with time. Eventually, you may stop longing for your neighbor’s boat the same way you forgot about your sister’s Barbie dolls as a kid.
6. Step back. Similarly, we tend to compare ourselves to those close to us. If you seldom worry about how you stack up against Leonardo or Einstein, why care if someone at work codes faster than you? Perspective is everything.
7. Celebrate others’ victories. Most of all, take pleasure in the good things that happen to others. It’s one of the most effective ways to stave off envy. And when you celebrate someone else’s success with a genuine heart, you’re going to draw that same kind of energy into your life, too!
Tips for Managing Envy
1. Open up. Acknowledge your envy instead of trying to cover it up. Uncovering your secrets will loosen their hold on you.
2. Ask for advice. Forget about beating your competition. You’ll have more to show for your efforts if you concentrate on learning from them. If a former classmate launches a new business, invite her out to lunch to pick up some pointers.
3. Examine your friendships. Are you living vicariously through your friends? Coveting your friends’ exotic travels or adult education courses could reveal what you really want to be doing. Pursue your own dreams with a plan that fits your budget and schedule. It’s more satisfying to take action than sit on the sidelines.
4. Build on your strengths. Psychologists suggest that there are two forms of envy. When you feel inferior, you may be prone to depression. Cheer up by looking at the areas where you excel.
5. Accept injustice. The other form of envy is when you feel life is unfair and you deserve the good fortune that others experience. Adjusting your attitude will make you more resilient and content. Some events are beyond your control, but you can decide how you respond.
6. Spread good will. You can minimize the negative consequences of envy by resisting the urge to lash out at others. Dissolve tensions by being extra kind and generous. You’ll safeguard your relationships and your own peace of mind.
Bottom Line: You can stop envy from turning you into a green-eyed monster. Head off resentments before they begin and channel any competitive feelings in a positive direction. Doing so can literally change your whole life.