Unless you’re among the Warren Buffetts and Usain Bolts of the world at the very pinnacle of the global pyramid of achievement, no matter how much you and your business flourish, they’ll always be others out there doing better than you. You can have an impressive degree, a huge pay check, even a yacht, but if you’re inclined to compare they’ll always be someone with better qualifications, more money or a bigger boat. If you can’t stop comparing, you’ll never be satisfied.
Plus, envy not only makes you miserable, it also makes it harder to get ahead in your career and reach your goals, according to Forbes’ Glenn Llopis. So how can you step off the envy treadmill and enjoy your success?
Juliana Brienes, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley, thinks she can help. Having studied how we are kind or unkind to ourselves for her PhD research, Brienes recently laid out the current wisdom on disarming envy on her blog, Psych Your Mind. Counteracting the effects of "the green-eyed" monster, she claims, comes down to five relatively simple steps:
Acknowledge envy. Admitting that we are experiencing envy can be very threatening, because it means acknowledging our own weakness and insecurity. The first clue that envy is lurking may be irrational feelings of hostility towards the object of our envy.
Recognize that pride is just the flip side of the envy coin. It is tempting but generally unhelpful to try to counteract envy with pride. "Sure, he has a nice car, but I'm better looking" is not going to get you very far. You might feel vindicated in the moment, but sooner or later someone is going to come along who has a nicer car than you and is better looking. In other words, reassuring ourselves about our own enviable traits is unlikely to be sustainable.
Replace envy with compassion. Although envy seems almost like a compliment, it can be quite dehumanizing. It reduces the object of envy to something very narrow and masks the full picture of who they are and what their life is like. Have you ever envied someone who seemed to to have the perfect life, only to find out later that they were in fact suffering in a very major way? These cases are more common than we might think--we just don't have the opportunity to learn about someone's difficulties when we're mired in envy of their seemingly charmed life (Facebook does not help things, by the way).
Let envy fuel self-improvement--when appropriate. When our envy is rooted in things we cannot change about ourselves, such as a difficult childhood, a traumatic event, or certain health conditions and disabilities, using envy to motivate self-improvement is more likely to dig us deeper into frustration and self-blame. But sometimes envy alerts us to things that we want in life that are potentially attainable.
Don't forget to count your own blessings. As the saying goes, envy is counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own. Counting our blessings isn't the same as boosting our ego by reminding ourselves how we're better than others... It's more about refocusing on what is really important in life.
This is just a sample of what Brienes has to say in the post, so if you want more details on her envy-busting program, check out the complete post.
How do you fight back when you start to feel twinges of envy?