In a society obsessed with success, being better than others is something that many strive for. So, what happens when those same people don’t have (or cannot achieve) what they want? They start looking at other people that they deem successful and start comparing themselves with them. What’s the problem behind this mindset? It gives room for unpleasant feelings like envy to thrive.
Before starting the real discussion, please read the following story first as it’s pertinent to today’s topic.
ENVY IS DANGEROUS
Nina is a passionate dancer who dreams of getting a leading role at her ballet company. When the director (Thomas) announced that he is looking for the next female lead in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Nina does not hesitate and auditions for the dual role of Odette (White Swan) and Odile (Black Swan).
While auditioning for the leading role, Nina excels as White Swan but fails to embody the qualities of the Black Swan. Despite of not being the perfect candidate, Thomas takes a liking to Nina and selects her to be the next Odette/Odile.
During rehearsals, Nina meets Lily, a fellow dancer. Thomas instructs Nina to learn more from Lily. The director wants Nina’s dance moves to become more natural, just like Lily’s. As time passes by, Nina’s mental heath begins to deteriorate. A lot her fears revolve around Lily becoming better than her and taking her leading role. The symptoms worsen as Nina gets closer to the opening night and finds out that Thomas has made Lily her alternate.
The big day has finally arrived, but Nina is late for the opening night. Therefore, Thomas replaces Nina for Lily. However, when Nina arrives, she manages to convince the director otherwise.
While dancing as White Swan, Nina starts to hallucinate again and loses stability during her performance. In the dressing room, Nina imagines Lily confronting her and trying to take her role, so out of rage, she stabs the latter. After hiding Lily’s body in a room, Nina returns to stage and dances flawlessly as Black Swan.
While changing her clothes back to White Swan, Nina hears a knock on her door: it’s Nina (alive). The fellow dancer congratulates Nina and then she leaves. Confused at what just happened, Nina realizes that she stabbed herself (not Lily). Despite of being heavily injured, Nina dances the last act. The ending scene consists in Odette throwing herself off a cliff, Nina does so and lands in a mattress. Thomas sees the blood in Nina’s abdomen and shouts for help.
Source: Black Swan (2010)
Although not everyone who envies other people will suffer the same fate as Nina, the story above is a perfectly example of why people shouldn’t obsess over what they don’t have.
To be honest, who hasn’t ever experience envy in their entire lives? Raise your hand if you never coveted other people’s material possessions, talents or even friends. Anyone?
If you think about it, envy is like that toxic friend, that sometimes we hang out with occasionally, but shouldn’t. She is always there, especially during our darkest moment. However, envy is not the type of friend that gives our support when we are at our lowest, quite the opposite. Envy makes us feel inferior to others, because technically, someone else has what we don’t.
So far, only bad things have been said about envy. Are there any positive sides to it? Sometimes, envy works as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can motivate us to become more proactive towards pursuing the things that we want. But on the other hand, it can be really destructive and deprive us from feeling joy for others, which is something that we want to avoid.
Occasional spurs of envy are normal but if you can’t feel happy for other people (especially your own friends), here is when envy becomes pathological.
Difference Between Envy And Jealousy
By the way, many think that envy and jealousy are interchangeable words but they are not. So what’s the difference between envy and jealousy?
Envy is a feeling of discontent that arises when we see someone else having something that we desire. Meanwhile, jealousy is about fearing or worrying that someone else is going to take what you already have.
In the story above, Nina is envious of Lily’s charisma and she feels jealous when Thomas (the director) compliments Lily’s dancing skills instead of hers. That’s the main difference between the two emotions.
How To Deal With Envy
The first step to treat envy is to acknowledge its existence. Many don’t like to admit that they envy someone because that somehow makes them feel inferior to the other person. However, it doesn’t have to be like that.
Most problems in life have a solution, but it requires a lot of will and effort to make change happen. Here are some tips to feel less “envious” about others.
Be Grateful For What You Have
Sometimes it’s hard to see how far you have come if you keep looking at someone else’s highlights. Though there are still many milestones that you want to conquer, do not forget to celebrate the ones that you already have achieved.
Another way to look at gratitude, is to think that there is always someone else in this world doing worse than you. Now, should that thought make you happy? No. However, it’s definitely something that gives you perspective.
Focus On Your Own Marathon
Do not run against other people. If life was a marathon, then people should be running against themselves. Sometimes you might be an orange trying to comparing itself to an apple. But, who’s to say that apples are better oranges?
If you always compare your success to others, then you might end up running into a completely different direction, because you are distracted with things that don’t really matter. Each individual should be their own benchmark, not other people.
Re-evaluate Your Life Priorities
Envy stems from you wanting something that don’t you have, which is causing you to feel anger or resentment towards the people that have it. However, are those things really that important?
What on Earth is that desirable and worthy of the envy of many? One could say money, status, beauty or even talent. Now, can you take those things to your grave? Another way to ask this question: are those things going to matter when you die? If not, then they are not worthy of all the fuss.
Be Happy About Other People’s Success
As previously mentioned, envy can work as a double edge-sword: it can motivate you or it can break you. Nonetheless, you are still the one who’s going to decide what do with envy. Do you want to feel envious of other people’s success? Or do you want to use it as a motivation tool to do better (and achieve what you want)?
At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your feelings, whether you like it or not. Therefore, try to build a better mindset and celebrate other people’s success. Don’t be bitter about it, learn from it.
Stay Away From Other Envious People
You are who hang out with. Therefore, if you already suffering from pathological “envy”, the worst thing that you can do is to hang around with other envious people. No good can grow from darkness. Having said that, choose your company wisely.
So far all the talk has been around feeling envious of other people and what can be done to shake those bitter thoughts away. However, what should one do when they are the “target” of envy?
How To Deal With Envious People
Sometimes, the best way to avoid toxicity is to stay away from it. However, what happens when you have to deal with toxic people on constant basis (i.e. work peers or relatives)? Although, it’s hard to cut-off certain people in our lives, there are still a couple of things that one can do when it comes to dealing with envious people.
Keep A Safe Distance
When cutting off envious people is not an option, keep a safe distance from them. Be cordial and do not engage with their negativity nor drama. However, stand your ground and assert yourself when necessary. Being respectful towards others doesn’t mean that you have to let people walk over you.
Stop Trying To Please Everyone
People that envy you are not your friends, so why would you even care? Don’t let these “haters” bother you. By the way, it’s impossible to please everyone around us. Therefore, do yourself a favour and stop trying to make people like you.
Address The Issue
If ignoring the envious voices is not an option, then address the issue. Just reach out to these people and let them know what they are doing is not right. However, be prepared in case they don’t acknowledge your feelings. Just let them know, then let it go.
Live Life To The Fullest
Take control of your life and live it to the fullest. There’s no bigger slap in the face to your haters than your own happiness. Just because they are miserable, why should you be? At the end of day, we are responsible for our emotions. That said, it’s up to us to accept or reject the negativity around us.
Envy is a very taboo subject: many feel it, but no one wants to talk about it or admit. However, just because envy is deemed as a negative emotion, that does not mean it should not exist.
People are complicated and so are their emotions. Envy is not an healthy emotion, but it’s part of human nature. For instance, the girl (Nina) from story above, she is not a bad person, but she developed an unhealthy obsession for another girl (Lily) because part of her wanted what she had.
The key to dealing with envy is not to ban it from our emotions, but learning how to cope with it in a constructive way. You see, envy itself is not the real problem, it’s a symptom. One should be looking at what is causing the envy: why are we feeling this way about another person?
Sometimes, perception is the thing that messes with people’s head. The person that we envy might not have more than us, we just perceive it that way. Although learning how to deal with envy is not easy, it’s a treat that we gift to ourselves. When we are consumed by envy, it’s our self-esteem that gets hurt the most. Therefore, do yourself a favour and be kind to yourself (and others). Don’t become part of the problem, be part of the solution.