Feeling Envy Can Be Good for You

Jessica Pedraza

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“Envy is just unexpressed admiration. It is respect holding its breath.” Glennon Doyle.

The concept of being envious has always carried with it a negative and even shameful emotion. “Thou shalt not covet your neighbor” is one of the Ten Commandments found in the book of Exodus. “You’re just jealous!” This phrase is said by almost every child, teen, and adult around the world. The green-eyed monster is an embarrassing emotion that is felt by everyone on this earth. We all carry that one belief that taints our life experience — the notion that envy is shameful.

But what if envy held the secret to our life passion or purpose? What if envy was the key to unveiling your deepest desires?

I can’t claim all the credit for coming up with this concept myself. The big revelation happened while reading Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed.” She described envy as “A red flashing arrow pointing [her] toward what to do next.” After reading her book I did what most people do when moved by a book (I hope) - I obsessively clicked on all her interviews. In one interview, she recalls looking at a book by a successful female writer and found herself unable to read it. She knew “a healthier, braver, better version of [herself]” could do the same. She was green with envy and it paralyzed her.

If you find yourself wrestling with the green-eyed monster, these 5 tips can help you redirect that energy into finding your own purpose.

Be mindful

“Envy blinds men and makes it impossible for them to think clearly.” Malcolm X

What is envy exactly? It’s simply wanting what another person has. When you find yourself feeling envious — that gut-wrenching negative energy in the pit of your stomach — take a step back and identify the feeling. Saying “I feel envy” to yourself is a simple and effective way to separate yourself from the feeling. Meditation is wonderful in helping you identify emotions. Embrace the feeling and know it’s normal for you to feel that way. We are, after all — just humans with an array of inexplicable emotions.

Once you’ve identified envy and labeled it, you are ready for step two. The master of mindfulness, Eckhart Tolle, gives the following advice:

If you have a strong ego [and] something good happens to an acquaintance of yours, [it] makes you feel bad. It’s called envy…The ego thinks something has been taken away from you because somebody else has received something good. It’s a complete illusion, but that’s the madness of the ego.

Now that we know exactly why we feel that way (silly ego) we regain some of the power envy has taken from us. We can center ourselves and become aware that the feeling of envy doesn’t have to dictate our actions. We are able to think clearly.

Be mindful

“Envy blinds men and makes it impossible for them to think clearly.” Malcolm X

What is envy exactly? It’s simply wanting what another person has. When you find yourself feeling envious — that gut-wrenching negative energy in the pit of your stomach — take a step back and identify the feeling. Saying “I feel envy” to yourself is a simple and effective way to separate yourself from the feeling. Meditation is wonderful in helping you identify emotions. Embrace the feeling and know it’s normal for you to feel that way. We are, after all — just humans with an array of inexplicable emotions.

Once you’ve identified envy and labeled it, you are ready for step two. The master of mindfulness, Eckhart Tolle, gives the following advice:

If you have a strong ego [and] something good happens to an acquaintance of yours, [it] makes you feel bad. It’s called envy…The ego thinks something has been taken away from you because somebody else has received something good. It’s a complete illusion, but that’s the madness of the ego.

Now that we know exactly why we feel that way (silly ego) we regain some of the power envy has taken from us. We can center ourselves and become aware that the feeling of envy doesn’t have to dictate our actions. We are able to think clearly.

Take a moment to wish that person success

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” Heraclitus

Once you identify that you are feeling envy, you can stop it from dictating your reactions. The next step is to wish that person continued success. I’m not talking about an off-the-bat — good for you — comment. I need you to genuinely wish the best for that person. You don’t even have to say it aloud, although that would be a nice gesture.

Anybody can fake congratulations — let’s face it — we have all done it in the past. What is most important is that you genuinely wish them the best. Think of all the hard work that person did to get to where they are. Think of what a beautiful moment this person is experiencing. We should all celebrate the milestones of our shared human experience.

Life is not linear. We all have highs and lows. Acknowledge that we live in a world of abundance and that happiness is not a limited resource. Being able to wish someone success will deescalate the emotions that usually follow envy. You know what I’m talking about. The wallowing, the anger, and the blues that usually accompany envy. Before we let emotions take over, genuinely wishing someone else success. This will free you of negativity and give you the space you need to take the next step.

Reevaluate your life choices

Ok, so you’ve identified envy and wished the person success — now what? This is when you dig deep within yourself. Perhaps there is something missing in your life. What is your envy trying to tell you? Are you on the wrong path?

Take for example your envy for someone who starts a business. This could be your secret desire to become a successful entrepreneur. Alternatively, you may have a secret desire for financial freedom. Or maybe you want to quit your 9–5 job. Take another example of envy towards a couple getting married. This can signal you have a deep desire for a romantic connection or you feel you haven’t had the courage to pursue a serious relationship.

Pinpointing exactly what you are envious about is a great exercise in finding out exactly what is missing in your life. Perhaps your envy is telling you to quit your job or end a relationship. Maybe your envy is telling you exactly what you want in life. According to Glennon Doyle:

“There’s nothing more painful than seeing someone doing what you were created to do.”

Maybe envy is telling you to take a different path in life. It is the push you need to catapult you into your true destiny. If Glennon Doyle can give you one word of advice on envy it’s this:

“What if instead of rejecting envy we sat from it and tried to learn from it. What if envy was a flashing error pointed us directly towards what we were meant to create on this earth.”

The feeling of envy can hold as much power as you give it. Instead of spiraling into negativity, let envy be a guidepost illuminating your destined path. Let it be a warning that life doesn’t just hand you happiness and success. You have to listen and take action.

Take Action

“The few who do are the envy of the many who only watch.” Jim Rohn.

See envy as a sign that you are not doing enough to live the life you want. If you were happy with what you have, you wouldn’t feel envy. Take for example a wealthy business owner who works 80 hours a week but seems content. Then imagine two groups of people. One group of people envy this business person. These people need to take steps to learn more, gain more experience, or perhaps take more risks. Perhaps their envy is telling them to work harder.

On the other hand, the second group doesn’t envy the business person at all. This is because this group doesn’t place a high value on money. Instead, they envy the artist who makes a decent living selling their art. This group values freedom over wealth. The second group’s envy is telling them to have the courage to express their art.

In the end, we are all complex humans with complex emotions. Envy can be the most revealing emotion of all. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of it. Instead, let envy show you the way.

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A mother, wife, traveler, writer, and lawyer — in that order. Contact me: jesszolt@gmail.com or follow my Instagram: @seekinggurustravel

Miami, FL
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