When you don’t get that promotion and your colleague does; when you work hard for a book publishing deal and your spouse, who is also a writer, nabs the book deal instead; when you cannot conceive and your best friend is on her fifth child…
At the playground, in the cubicle, within the confines of intimate relationships, the green-eyed monster of envy can find us anywhere.
Envy is a feeling that gnaws at us from the inside out and it can actually feel a lot like physical pain. This is the reason why we try as much as possible to hide and suppress it: it is a messy emotion.
But, messy as it is, envy is in fact an inevitable feeling brought on by the comparisons we all make, whether consciously or unconsciously. But, is envy inherently appalling?
Envy is seen as such a horrible vice that some psychologists are afraid to talk about it. However, others agree that envy can be either malignant or benign.
Malignant envy is outright malicious, a desire to tear down a person who has what you desire but do not have. This type of envy can contaminate friendships, poison acquaintances and end relationships.
Benign envy is sort of an aspirational coveting. This type of envy does not seek to shame the person whom you are envious of; instead, it spurs you to take deliberate steps to attain their kind of success.
At the end of the day, envy is always about wanting something we do not have. While it is very easy to want to demean those we are envious of, envy can inspire us to make important changes in our lives.
Envy can force us to come into terms with our own inadequacies and to do something about them. Sometimes, when somebody else gets what we believe should be ours, it is because they did something to get it.
For example, if your colleague attains tenure, something that you have been dreaming of for years, it could be time to look at what she is doing and what you are not. Perhaps you need to manage your time better to publish more articles. Or, you need to start building relationships with decision makers.
At the heart of envy is an inherent need to compare. Even the most confident will inevitably compare themselves with others. But, you can use this comparison instinct to identify your areas of weakness and to find ways to improve yourself.
Do you really want that?
A great way to avoid festering in envy is assessing the real cause of your emotions.
Say perhaps your colleague lands a job with a large multinational company. Even though she nabbed this job, you are happy at your present workplace and with your progress there. Yet, you may succumb to that first tinge of envy poking you inside.
To avoid drowning is such feelings, find out what is triggering your envy. If you are happy in your current situation, you will likely realize that there is no reason to agonize over your colleague’s newfound success.
What if you really want what someone else has?
Overcome envy but letting it spur you into productive action. Sometimes, we need to see someone succeed in something for us to take action to attain our own success.
Perhaps the most effective way to tame the green-eyed monster of envy is reminding ourselves that everyone has their own path. Your colleague’s promotion, your spouse’s book deal, and your best friend’s pregnancy could all be leading you to new possibilities in your own life.
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