envy (n.) – a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to do away with envy, or at least diminish it as much as possible. I’ve never found envy to be a useful emotion, and I resented the way it made me feel. It was an ugly emotion. At best, envy was a reminder that I am still human, and at it’s worst envy could send me into a spiraling dark hole of doubt about my own life decisions. In short, envy was not useful in its most raw form, so I decided to make use of it instead of letting it control me.
In an age where everyone’s life reel can be viewed at the swipe of a screen, feelings of envy seem to be rampant. It’s understandable that people mostly only post about the good things happening in their lives on social media. I mean, who wants to be a downer and report on all the bad stuff all the time? And in all honesty, no one would really cares about the more mundane aspects of day-to-day life, so to share those moments seems a bit pointless. Whenever I find myself feeling a twinge of envy, I use it to my advantage. Envy is a reminder for me that, 1) I should probably lay off social media for a bit, 2) not everyone’s lives are perfect all the time, 3) I should be grateful for what I do have, and 4) I can attain any of the things I envy.
1) Envy says, “Lay off social media, and focus on your life.”
It’s almost unavoidable to be connected to a computer screen for any point in the day. Almost all correspondence is done digitally, and for someone like me who lives far away from people whom I love, it’s a necessity that I use social media at least in some fashion to stay connected. The problem comes when I’m wasting my precious minutes endlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram feeds. Of course the compilation of everyone’s travel photos together look beautiful, and these are experiences I want for myself, but in order to work for these things I want I have to lay off social media and focus on myself. When I find myself reaching for the phone the first thing when I wake up and when it’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed, I take it as a sign that I need to cool it. Nothing scares me more than when I think about all the time I waste on sites like Facebook and Instagram. To me, even 20 minutes a day is too much. Just 20 minutes a day spent on social media sites translates to over 120 hours a year! Yikes! That’s precious time I could be spending exercising, writing, creating, or doing other hobbies I love. When it comes to spending time on the Internet versus spending time doing things that I really love, my hobbies will win every time.
2) Envy says, “No one’s life is perfect. It’s just not.”
I had a strange thing happen to me once after posting some of my own travel photos to social media. I looked at them, remembering the great trip I had and I became envious of my own trip! While I definitely had a good time visiting with friends and exploring new places, it was strange looking at the compilation of my own travel photos and becoming envious of the life I seemed to construct online. Like everyone, I only post the highlights, so it’s understandable why people might think someone’s life is always picture perfect. But in recognizing my own feelings of envy and knowing the reality in between picture-perfect moments, I had to realize that no one’s life is like that all the time. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Everyone has to live life’s ups and downs and the in-between moments. Without the “down”, the “up” would be meaningless and boring. And after reflecting upon this, I now realize how absolutely ridiculous it is to be envious based upon everyone’s scripted highlight reels. Everyone has different things they deal with, and on some level, I think that maybe social media is a validation outlet for some. In recognizing this, I started to look at the stories social media portrays with more scrutiny.
3) Envy says, “Express gratitude.”
Once I become conscious of the fact that I am feeling envious of something or someone, I honor that feeling, but then I let it move through me. I don’t hold onto that emotion, otherwise it can wreak havoc. Instead, I take a moment to count my own blessings. Envy is a perfect reminder for me to thank the Universe for what I do have. Immediately, I visit the other end of the spectrum. I remember that there are so many things in my life that I am grateful for. I say thank you for everything, but especially the things I tend to take for granted: I have food to eat, I have a friends and family who love me, I have a roof over my head, I am safe and healthy, and I am in a secure and loving relationship. Some of these things are things that not everyone has, and I have to consciously remember that I am in a position to use the good things in my life to make other people’s lives better. Remembering that I have a lot to be grateful for puts things into perspective immediately. Someone else’s successes do not in any way detract from mine. And I can use my own successes and advantages to aid in the benefit of others.
4) Envy says, “You can have the things you want, and you can find joy in working toward those things.”
I once read a quote about envy that I really liked, but I can’t recall the exact quote or who said it. It was something along the lines of, “I don’t ever feel envious of other people. I feel happy for them, because it means that whatever they have that I also want is attainable.” When I read it, it really stuck with me, because it rang so true! From that moment on, envy seemed to me to be a ridiculous feeling. It’s so silly that I should be envious of anyone, because I could just as well have the same things in my life. From that point I learned I could use envy constructively. Whenever I find myself envious of someone else’s situation, I use it as a reminder that I can also have those things for myself. And after some reflection, sometimes I find that I already do have those things! Other times I find that those things I find myself envious of, I never really wanted in the first place. After a personal realization some years ago that my thoughts and feelings dictate my own reality, I made a point to stop simply reacting to my emotions and to try and use them constructively instead. Envy was no exception. When I see something that I want that someone else has, I use it as motivation to work harder towards my goals. As a firm believer in the power of emotions, I also realize that by feeling envy I’m scaring off those things I actually want in my life. By feeling that I lack something, the Universe will respond by giving me less or taking things away from me. The vibration or energy that one puts out is the same energy that one will receive. Envy is my reminder to think in abundance and to put myself in alignment with what I actually want.
So there you have it, those are the ways I learned to control envy and to make it my bitch! With practice and a dedication to being conscious of your feelings, you too can practice constructive envy and make it your bitch.