“As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy.” – Antisthenes
Envy is the emotion that all of us experience from time to time. It is an emotional state we get into when others get what we want or it can stem from comparisons in belongings, personality traits, physical appearances, relationships and or achievements. Regardless of the personal or professional climate, people at all levels are vulnerable to envy. Feelings of envy can also happen in domains of work, family and friendship negatively impacting our emotional health, productivity levels, relationships, teamwork, and creative abilities.
So Why do we feel envy?
Envy is like most of our other emotions, it comes from within and causes lot of unhappiness and resentment. It’s important to remember, though, that you don’t feel envy when as much when someone achieves great success in a different life pursuit. But you feel envy when someone who is of roughly the same background, abilities, age, location, life situation or achieves something similar to your goal in your field of choice. When you compare yourself to others, you mostly compare in extrinsic qualities or things like fame, status or wealth rather than intrinsic values like meaning or purpose. This is the reason, your initial response will often be one of envy when you compare. Being surpassed by another’s ability makes you feel insecure about your concept of who you are.
Also, when you are constantly exposed to stories of success which makes them seem so close within your reach. This makes you crave for the same opportunities and achievement they appear to have. Feelings of envy also arise when someone achieves something that you have always wanted to achieve, or when someone you don’t like succeeds or when someone manages to get something and you think that he or she doesn’t deserve it.
Why is envy harmful to your productivity?
“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” – Franois de la Rochefoucauld
Even though enviousness makes you lead your life in constant hope to have more. It can never lead to better outcomes like the way you can with intrinsic motivation.
Envying others and worrying about others’ successes will make you blind to your own potential, strengths and to the weaknesses of rivals. Sometimes, we make ourselves feel better by belittling the accomplishments of the person we resent and tend to distance and disconnect ourselves. Such envious emotions leads to missed opportunities, unproductive behaviour and professional inefficiency. Ignoring other people’s ideas or dismissing the value of others’ qualities due to envy makes it difficult for you to learn and collaborate.
Envy also increases your insecurity, self-doubt, and lowers your self-esteem. Most of all, when you become so fixated on envy, you start to neglect or sabotage your own efforts or performance. When others successes bother you, you become ruminative and lose focus on your priorities. Envy interferes with your ability to think and act and instead of working on attaining what is important to you, it focuses your energy on what you lack.
Envious feelings are difficult to manage if you try to conceal and deny as the repressed feelings inevitably surface. Also with envy, the gap is between what you have and what the other person has or it may be that the other has something you want to have but don’t have thereby making you feel of inferior.
So, How to deal with your envy constructively?
You can recognise your potentially, destructive thoughts and behaviours by being honest with yourself when you feel envy and try to respond to it constructively. Instead of allowing the emotion to linger and derail, you can try and interpret it as a signal for what it is and what is that you actually want to achieve and can turn them into more positive and productive ones to set and achieve your goals. Envy is mostly about relative status compared with someone else’s, hence you need to know how to transform your envy to help you achieve what you want. And also freeing yourself from the control of envy liberates you from unrealistic and counterproductive desires. And you can make progress in the areas you want to grow.
Here are few ways to deal with your envy in a more productive and positive manner.
Understand your envy
When you identify with your envy, don’t ignore or conceal it but at the same time don’t continue feeding it. Instead try to understand what’s really behind the envy. Envy can tell you a lot about what you want. The key is to understand the circumstances and qualities in others that trigger your envy. Ask yourself what is that you are most insecure about. Witnessing someone else’s success can highlight your own insecurities and perceived failures. Once you understand the WHY, the feeling will have much less control over you. Not doing things that you want to be doing is when envy has a perfect breeding ground. Through understanding, you can use it as an opportunity to see the gap between what you are doing right now and what you still aspire to do in the future and what are the other areas you can improve.
Get to your core self-concept
Getting to the essence of your self-concept helps you connect to your core values, your needs, and things that are most important to you. Most often we include things such as money, abilities, physical appearance or status as part of our self-concept. When you evaluate yourself lower than how you evaluate those around you in comparison to these things, you may see it as a threat to who you are and experience envy. Gain clarity on your core values and instead of comparing yourself with others, measure your past self with present self. Reminding yourself of your strengths, past accomplishments and your core values, you can fix your mental self-image and thereby remove any feelings of insecurity you might be feeling. There is no reason for you to envy what others have when those things don’t align with your core values.
Shift your focus to gratitude
Being intentionally grateful can help you put greater emphasis on what you have rather than what you do not have that is causing you to be envious. Gratitude creates feelings of connectedness to a bigger purpose and increases feelings of empathy rather than envy. Make a list of things you are thankful for, no matter how small they are. Shifting your focus to positive life events or the small everyday occurrences can help you not to take what you have for granted. When you compare yourself with others and label the outcomes of your comparison as good or bad, you tend to lower your self-worth. Instead be grateful of your uniqueness, talents and abilities and remind yourself that no body has it all. Rather than fixating on what you don’t have, make gratitude your strategy to replace each envious thought with a moment of gratitude.
Be realistic in assessing others
We always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others. Be realistic in assessing others. Everyone experiences their own problems, trials and weaknesses. But if you place more value on others’ abilities, you tend to devalue your own. Constant exposure to social media creates a delusion that everyone else’s life is happier than yours, more productive and more valuable. When you fall prey to such delusion, you start feeding yourself with envy and begin to think that everything else is better and not yours. That friend or coworker or relative who seems to have an amazing life might be striving to put his or her best face forward. Correct your false assumptions about others and realise that everyone struggles with something or the other in their life.
Stop comparing yourself to others
We tend to judge ourselves by comparing with others. Comparison to people who are similar to you is a normal process to evaluate yourself and to improve your skills or abilities. But the judgment and value you place on your self-judgment can lead to envy. Comparing yourself to others is a great way to learn and comparing yourself to people who are sufficiently different or ahead of you can make you strive out of inspiration instead of envy. Focus on yourself to be better and stronger. Being able to applaud success of others without having negative reaction leads to more opportunities. When somebody receives something that you desire, be happy for them. If you wanted they too probably wanted the same. Stop judging yourself negatively by focusing on your strengths and knowing for certain that your are worthy can be enough to eliminate any feelings of envy.
While the feeling of envy may arise from time to time, we don’t have to respond to it counterproductively or try to repress it. Even though it is difficult, but it is always possible to prevent yourself from being consumed by it and you can even try and harness it to your advantage. Admitting that you are envious is not easy, but admitting it to yourself allows you to change your priorities so that you can redefine what is important to you and also helps you find other areas where you can excel. Be honest with yourself when you encounter feelings of envy within yourself and respond to them constructively by using the above strategies. Get interested in creating an environment that boosts productivity and work on your aspirations and work to improve yourself.