Making Envy Work in Your Favor
Green may be a beautiful color, but seeing it is an ugly look. When most people hear the word “envy,” they struggle to find any positive connotations. After all, it’s one of the seven deadly sins, and in the wise words of the Buddha, “He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”
But is feeling envy really all bad? Whether positive or negative, there’s no denying that it can be a powerful force and motivator. While this sin may have earned its deadly reputation, we don’t have to let it hurt us. With a little smart thinking, we can harness the power of envy and make it work for us instead of against us.
Envy vs Jealousy: A Small but Important Difference
Envy and jealousy are used fairly interchangeably, and for good reason: they both describe the desire to have what another person already has. With the evolution of language, today both terms are essentially synonymous, but their original, true definitions have one important difference: specificity. Whereas envy is an abstract desire, jealousy knows exactly what it wants.
An example: my friend gets a new cat, and I am envious. For years I have wanted a pet, but living in an apartment with a no pet policy means it’s not in the cards for me. My envy means that, generally, I want what my friend has: a pet. If I were jealous, however, I wouldn’t want just any pet; I would want hers.
If you’re jealous, I’m afraid you’re out of luck when it comes to using your feelings as a force for good. The only way to solve jealousy is to obtain specific items, and the only way to obtain those specific items is to take them from whoever currently has them. Envy, though—envy you can use. Envy shows you a goal, one that you can achieve without hurting anyone else in the process.
Feeling lost or directionless? See someone successful and think, “God, I wish that were me?” Congratulations! You just found yourself a goal, and its all thanks to the power of envy. When you encounter another person whose life you admire and desire, listen to those feelings.
That envy can guide your path into the future. While you shouldn’t put others on pedestals, using the success of others as a model for what you want for yourself can give your life direction and purpose and start you down the path to a bright and fulfilling future.
From a New Perspective
Envy becomes a destructive emotion when we allow it to damage our self-confidence and make us believe that we cannot achieve the things we desire. What if, instead of giving up when we see the success of others, we used those chances as opportunities to make changes not only in our own lives, but in our perceptions?
When we get envious, we tend to glorify those who we wish to emulate. We see someone who has reached a measure of success we’ve yet to achieve and see only what we wish to see—a glimmering, flawless image of accomplishment. The reality is, no one exists without problems. If you can utilize a little self-awareness, you can prove to yourself that your goals are achievable, even if you have obstacles in your way. Nobody succeeds without hitting a few road blocks along the path; if someone else can make it, use your envy at their success to remind yourself that you can do it, too.
Learn from Predecessors
To take the last point a step further, envy can help you identify not only what you want out of your life, but also how to get it. That’s the nice thing about wanting what other people have—they’ve already done the hard work of getting their success, and you can learn from their choices, as well as their mistakes.
Let’s say you’re envious of a wealthy CEO. Chances are, they didn’t become successful overnight. Especially with today’s booming technology and start up industries, the rise and fall of economic empires are often quite public. You can easily see what decisions these companies made to overcome competitors and endure, and you can also see what poor choices caused other CEOs to fail. Envy means you can reap all the benefits of learning from experience without taking on any of the risk!
You might not think it, but honestly, there’s a whole lot of happiness that can be borne from envy, if we only let it into our hearts. To start with, as we’ve already covered, envy can offer you powerful learning opportunities that will, in turn, provide you with useful insight about your own desires and ambitions.
As for actually feeling envy as a joyful emotion, well, think of it this way: envy reveals your potential. When you envy someone for what they have, isn’t exciting to think of yourself in their position in the future? Personally, I love to daydream about the lofty goals I have and where I might be five, ten, twenty years from now. I wouldn’t have any goal to work towards or fantasize about if my envy of others hadn’t given me the direction to do so.
Accept and Move On
Feeling envy may not be a particularly pleasant experience, but it happens to literally everyone, so there’s no use in fighting it no matter how strong our instincts to do so are. Accepting envy as a natural part of your life is both the first and final steps in making use of its power to advance your goals rather than hold them back.
By acknowledging your envy, you can remove its toxicity and damage. You prevent it from dragging you down, and instead can use the other tips provided here to take you further towards your ambitions and desires than ever before.