Envy, it tends not to bring the best out in people. It’s uncomfortable and if left unexplored can result in feelings of bitterness and resentment. However, as we mature emotionally we realise that the old ‘green-eyed monster’ can actually be a great friend, shining a light on the dreams you dare not dream and holding you accountable to them.
What is it really?
Envy is often our own unacknowledged potential, projected onto someone else.
It is the feeling we get when we covert or desire something someone else has or enjoys. In its mildest form it is a longing that bares no ill will to the person who has or does the thing you are coverting. It might create longing that spurs on positive action but can also cause self doubt or dissatisfaction. Advertising agencies, for example, rely on being able to inspire this in us on a daily basis, so that we feel dissatisfied or self-doubting and attempt to purchase our way out of those feelings.
In stronger forms it can produce grudges, ill will, undesirable, and in some cases even criminal, behaviour.
Envy Vs Jealousy
Envy is different from Jealousy, although the two are often used interchangeably. Jealousy is the emotion related to the fear of being replaced by someone or something. For example, being jealous that your best friend seems to have a new favourite aquaintant, or your boss is showing preference to another employee. Sibling rivalries have their roots in jealousy. If we imagine an emotional scale, we can think of jealousy being closer to fear and envy being closer to desire.
Both very useful to explore but the focus of this article is specifically envy. The kind that if left unexplored, might lower our emotional vibration and have an impact on our well being, thoughts or behaviour. It is also the type of envy that, if we’re paying attention, can lead us to our hidden potential and and subconscious goals.
When it shows up
We are usually envious of things that we would like to have or enjoy but don’t or think we can’t.
For it to be triggering some energy in us, it is usually an indication that there is some desire there. Our desires to experience something that we haven’t already, is where the motivation for growth and expansion lives. We are here to grow and expand. This is a good thing.
Now because many people will do more to move away from pain than they will to move towards pleasure, jealousy is our fail-safe. If we aren’t pursuing or achieving our goals through excited, self-motivational states, then jealousy will step in and poke us in the guts to help us along.
How to befriend it
The key to making it your friend is, as with many things, the way you talk about it to yourself in your own head.
Rather than coming up with excuses or bitterments (new word that describes the bitter mutterings under your breath about people that inspire the icky ‘well-jel’ feels) – get excited. Explore what it is that has you so activated, what are you really envious about?
Say you see someone performing, looking fabulous, confident, having the time of his or her life and you start to feel the icky stings of envy forming in your belly. Check in. Is it that you’d like to perform? Is it their confidence or just the fun they are having or something else? What specifically is it that you want more of in your own life, that is being shown to you right now?
Say it’s a business or brand you are comparing yourself to – what is it that you can borrow about that style, brand, or feel? Perhaps they just look more professional and it makes you feel ‘less’. Great! This is a call to skill up and up your game. It’s an area to grow and be better.
Whoever is stirring the feelings in you, it’s worth checking in with yourself honestly to see if there is something about your unclaimed potential or unrealised goals, that they are unwittingly representing to you?
Call it what it is and it shall disappear!
Once you’ve identified what it is that is triggering you. One possible way of dealing with it is owning up to it. Many negative emotions lose a bit of power when we get really honest and own them. Shame will amplfiy a negative emotion tenfold and keeping it a secret or not even admitting it to ourselves drives them underground to add to the pile of supressed emotions that jangle about our insides like loose change. However, if you can name it, own it and take positive action towards it (without shame, pride or ego getting in the way), you are well on the way to making it your friend and secret power.
Using EFT Tapping whilst naming and describing your undesired feelings is a great way to own them and take the power out of them.
Another is to tell someone else, especially if it can be the person who is the subject of the envy!
Going straight to the source
I remember being particluarly envious of something a friend in college appeared to be effortlessly good at. After stewing for a while feeling ‘less than’, irritated at my own ineptness, I decided to own it and ‘called it out’ by telling her about it. This did three unexpected things:
- As the words left my mouth they seemed to transform from a personal critisim of myself into an admiring compliment of her. She was surprised and flattered, it made her feel good, which made me feel good too.
- She let me in on her ‘secret’ and told me how I might achieve the same results as she had. I was thrilled! And suddenly the thing I envied was, with a bit of practice and upskilling, within my reach.
- She addmitted something she had envied of me. I was, likewise, surprised and flattered. We often undervalue the things that come easily to us. I of course happily shared my tips and we both felt closer as a result of our mutual vulnerability with eachother and empowered with new information.
This taught me a valuable lesson and started me off on my journey of seeing envy as the opportunity and learning experince that it is.
How envy can show us where we are out of balance
Sometimes it isn’t immediately obvious that an emotion has its roots in envy. It might just feel like we are irritated by someone. This is because what we deny in ourselves, we do not tolerate in others. And here is where it can also help show us where we are out of balance.
Perhaps the other person that is triggering you is super confident, loud and blows their own trumpet all the time and you, in contrast, are quite the opposite about your own achievements and capabilities.
Maybe they are quiet and self-contained, where as you feel you always need to be asserting yourself to be recognized and respected.
Maybe they are particluarly needy and people are always having to help them out. Where as you might never ask for help or share your struggles at all.
When we dig into our feelings and explore what is triggering disgruntlement or various shades of envy; we can start to illuminate the beliefs and self-limitations we hold that may be out of balance for us.
If that person represents one extreme and you are the other, is there an action or adjustment you can make that would make you feel more empowered and balanced about this? What can you ‘borrow’ about their style (in more subtle and moderate ways) that might serve you better than your current approach?
Someone can be the opposite of us and still not trigger negative emotional energy. It is only when they represent something that is not in balance, in a way that doesn’t serve us, do we get envy showing up and kicking our butt (like the good friend it is).
Being able to recognise and befriend it (in all its guises) also tends to make people kinder. This is because those that are bitter and don’t lean into their unexplored potential are more likely to try and bring others down to make themselves feel better. All they know is that ‘something’ has inspired discomfort in them and they want to squash it any way they can. Trolls and bullies are a good example of this. However, when you see it as the ‘message from your potential’ that it is, it inspires a completely different response.
It will usually be an area of true potential or an area of ‘self-work’ for you or it would not be triggering energy. It just requires some kind of step up and action.
An exception to this might be if the object of your envy is triggering a wound, such as loss. This requires a slightly different approach. However, wounds too can be transformed and the sting of loss can be processed and healed over time. The love that you are missing can find its way back into your life in many different ways when you are ready to let it do so. If it hurts, there is work to do and there is a new you waiting on the other side of that work. Nothing is too big or deep that it can’t be transformed with the right support.
Turning envy into rocket fuel
Whether it is loss, limiting beliefs, self-doubt or a host of other states that lie underneath envy, it is an opportunity for growth and you are presented with a choice – the discomfort of envy or the discomfort of growth. The latter transforms the former.
It takes some emotional self awareness and being prepared to sit with the feeling whilst exploring it. But when you master this and make envy your friend, you can transcend and transform these lower emotions into rocket fuel for your own potential.
You don’t need to be bitter, just be better!