Is Envy Getting the Best of You? How to Tame the Green-Eyed Monster

While the holiday season is often filled with happiness and joy, this time of year can also bring out some undesirable feelings such as anxiety and depression. It’s also a time when many contracts are awarded, new job acquisitions are announced, and people get some fancy stuff. If you find yourself less pleased for your colleagues and more wishing what they had was yours, read on to see how you can tame the green-eyed monster: envy.

Merriam-Webster defines envy as a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” Envy creates an uncomfortable longing for that which someone else has, such as one’s possessions, qualities, good fortune, or job position.

I don’t know anyone that enjoys feeling envious, and yet we’ve all experienced it. Let’s examine how you can handle feelings of envy when they start to lurk about.

Think about the (much) bigger picture.
Isn’t this all really about creating art in the world and allowing others access to it? Creatives are a team, and since the value of almost all creative work is based on opinion, it’s really not competitive in the true sense of the word. There are a lot of people vying for the same positions, true, but whether one person is chosen over another comes down to many factors, and most of those are opinions. Your job is to find the people who like what you have to offer. You must seek out your own audience, which may be different than someone else’s.

Think about visual art. Monet and Van Gogh were both impressionist artists, both producing what is considered by the art world to be work of the highest quality for that era. Looking at paintings by both, you may prefer one over the other, and if you were to look at multiple paintings by the same artist, you would probably prefer certain works more than others. Even if you love all impressionism, you probably have favorites, or perhaps you don’t like impressionist paintings at all.

The point is that you are entitled to your opinion about the art. You might not like the art, but plenty of other people do. And it’s the same for every creative: there will be people who love your work and people who don’t really care for your work, just like you have your opinions about the art of others. And all of that is ok and as it should be. Which brings me to the following:

Not everyone is going to like your work.
Do you like everyone? I think I’ve made my point.

There is not one person in the world, regardless of an immense amount of talent or success, whose work is liked by everyone. Not one. So thinking everyone should (or even might) like your work is completely unrealistic. Just be your awesome self, and people will either be attracted to that or not. If so, great, and if not, that’s ok too. Just like it’s ok for you not to be attracted to everyone’s work.

If everyone was attracted to your talent, that would be…weird.

A colleague of mine placed third out of thirteen singers in a competition once. Her scores were a combination from three judges, who ranked her first, first, and last. Her voice was a full, lush soprano with a deep timbre and a large sound. The first two judges loved her voice. It was their idea of perfection. The third judge hated it. He loved the light, almost hooty sound voices could make, and she was the farthest thing from that.

To each their own.

Pay more attention to yourself.
If you’re busy looking at what other people are doing and what other people have and you’re not using that as an opportunity to ask them how they did it or to gather intel at the very least, you’re really wasting time. What purpose does it serve you to see what someone else has and just be envious of it? This should be inspirational – what are they doing? What was the process? Put the ol’ ego down and ask.

It should come as no surprise that the people who do this usually move ahead faster, while the people who sit around with others and create a cloud of envy (not-so-cleverly disguised as catty negativity) tend to go in circles.

Break yourself out of the misery-loves-company gang and be curious. Instead of the rhetorical “Why not me?” question, really probe for some answers to that. Seriously, why not you? Is there something you could be doing better? Or maybe you did a great job and you just weren’t a good match at that time?

Sometimes people love you but something at that particular time makes them take someone over you. Ironically, this is when people tend to quit, and it’s exactly when you should keep going. It’s kind of like the stock market – when the market starts going down, people who get scared might sell their shares, while others tend to buy more because they know they will most likely get a return when the market goes back up again. Those who sold their shares at the lower price just lose money though. Because of this, most financial advisors will tell you that when the market is down is a good time to invest more, not sell. Investing in building yourself works much the same way.

Appreciate what others have.
Envy and an overly-competitive nature can lead to undesirable behavior. Instead of comparing yourself to others or breaking them down in order to attempt to build yourself up, why not see what’s wonderful about them? Appreciate your differences rather than seeing them as better or worse. And since better and worse are based on opinion, isn’t that just an exercise to entertain your own ego?

Along with this is acknowledging that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Just because someone appears to be doing well doesn’t mean that everything is great. Compassion is a great tool, and it allows you to appreciate what someone else may have going on regardless of the situation.

If you want a challenge, start with someone you normally envy. Also: appreciate what you currently have, too. 😉

More than anything, it’s most important to be aware of the fact that envy has no useful purpose. After all, it’s not called one of the “seven deadly sins” for nothing: envy can plague your heart and mind, leaving you no good in return. So when those feelings start to stir, see if you can channel that energy into one or more of the above. You’ll be better off for it.

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