The Secret Hidden In Envy

L.A. Strucke

Why envy can be a good thing

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Have you ever been envious of someone? You check Facebook and see someone posting breathtaking photos of their trip to the Amalfi Coast. Other friends are showing off their new love like it’s the romance of the century. They're posting photos of the dozen red roses they received, while they dine on lobster and filet mignon at the poshest restaurant in town. And there's always someone in your life promoting their new music, or best-selling book. Every time you see them or hear their voice, you’re reminded of what you are missing in your own life. You wonder why some people are so lucky. After all, they grew up in the same area you did.

Ever wonder why you’re envious of them? This is where the secret resides.

Could it be that every time you see them, they remind you of all the things you’re not doing?

I’ve been there. I avoided taking risks because I didn’t feel like I was good enough. One slight criticism from anyone was enough to make me doubt my capabilities and trash my latest project. There were many wasted years doing things other people told me I was supposed to do, as I maintained low expectations for myself. Envious and miserable, I lived in the shadow of other people’s success, while suffering in my quiet despair.

For years, I dreamed of being a writer, yet fear paralyzed me. Other writers in my circle of friends, moved up in the world. They were living my dream. They sent their stories out. They published their articles in newspapers and magazines. Yet, I was too afraid to go for it. I suffered from imposter syndrome and thought I wasn’t good enough to invest in my talents. I convinced myself that I wasn’t in the same league as all those people who had achieved success.

Why risk the rejection and make a fool out of myself?

I went on with my life, raising four children to adulthood, and struggled to pay the bills by working unfulfilling jobs. When I look back on that time, it’s preposterous. The girl who dreamed of being a writer since the age of nine, and who was known in high school as the “girl who wrote stories,” had stopped composing anything except for a journal entry. And yet, whenever I met any aspiring writers, I envied them. I desperately wanted someone to ask me if I wrote too. And they never did.

Then one day it dawned on me, that we are given only one life. If I didn’t stop making excuses for my failures, and take my writing seriously, no one else ever would.

"Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief, in their own gifts." — Jean Vanier

It was a slow process. I took small steps and began writing essays, and sent them out to magazines. My heart sank as rejections piled up.

One magazine held my Christmas essay for six weeks. I prayed they would publish it. Then the dreaded rejection slip arrived in the mail.

Although discouraged, I refused to give up. I honed my skills and persisted. Then out of the blue, I won a prize! My flash fiction piece won an honorable mention in an online contest. I was overjoyed! It gave me the courage to keep on writing. I picked up that rejected Christmas essay, edited it, changed the title, and submitted it to a Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas book in development. I continued to write and submit my work to markets.

The following year some amazing news arrived on my doorstep. My Christmas story for Chicken Soup for the Soul had made it to the first round! It went on to become my first published essay in a book translated into other languages around the world.

When I started to take action, my world began to change. Yours can too.

  • List all the people you are envious of and think about why you feel that way. For example, are you envious of their new romance because you lack love in your life? Are you envious of your friend’s new career as a novelist because you haven’t pursued your lifelong dream of writing?
  • Write down the things you wish you could do, that will lead you to the life you always wanted to live. Anything your mind can conceive of belongs here. Dive into your imagination.
  • At this point, create a practical, doable plan for how you intend to achieve your goals and set a deadline. The deadline will help keep you motivated.
  • List the small steps you can take within your plan that will get you there. If writing is your goal, make a commitment to write something every day. Join writer’s clubs and network with people. Research markets for your story. Attend writer conferences. Enter contests and pitch to publications.

For example, if your goal is to meet someone, start reaching out more. Even during a pandemic, you can find safe ways to meet people. Social distance when you attend events and join online groups where you can meet new people. Set up a profile on a dating site. Accept invitations to Zoom events with friends. Ask your friends to introduce you to romantic prospects.

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Be persistent and don't give up.

It’s the small steps you take that add up to your big dreams coming true.

Do what you love in life, and stop caring about what other people think. You won’t feel a need to focus on what others have anymore when you are happy with your own life.

Don’t let fear or haters stop you. Not everyone will be a fan, and that’s fine. People have a right to their opinion, but you must not take their criticism to heart. Their criticism is often a reflection of the way they feel about themselves and has nothing at all to do with you.

By pushing past the fear of rejection, and joyfully following your calling, you will change your life and the lives of others who follow you. Even if your story inspires and encourages only one person, it will be worth it. There’s nothing more exciting than having someone tell you how your words made a difference and brightened their day.

If your goal was to bring love into your life, imagine after all your efforts to meet people, you finally meet the love of your life. All the daily effort and time you spent meeting up for dates, facing rejection, and putting yourself out there will be worth it in the end.

It’s time to start making envy work for you and turn that negative into something positive.

At this very moment, there are people living their life’s purpose. They are excited about showing up for work every day and creating their authentic life. Others settle for mediocrity, feel resentful, and watch everyone else pursuing their hopes and dreams, and wonder what happened.

Next time you’re envious of someone, realize it’s because they are doing exactly what you want to do.

That’s your soul giving you the wake-up call. It’s telling you it is time to make a change. And once you take the small steps towards following your dreams, your envy of others will disappear in a flash, and you may find yourself feeling truly happy for someone else’s success.

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