Envy as a Messenger
Envy is often defined as a feeling of discontent when we lack what someone else possesses. Jealousy is often defined as a threatened feeling of losing something we possess to another person. Both, envy and jealousy, are the foundation for many a movie, novel, and therapy sessions!
We struggle as humans with comparison, discontent, and control. All things that can lead to feelings of envy and jealousy.
But, what if we looked at envy as a messenger of what we long for?
What if these feelings help us know what we really want or what we are willing to work for?
When you notice pangs of envy, pause and go deeper into that feeling...try the practice below and let me know what you find!
Envy as Messenger
Envy is helpful in recognizing what we long for or hope to achieve. Rather than beat yourself up for envy, as if it is a bad thing to feel, go deeper into what it might be messaging to you. Likely it is a feeling you long for, rather than a thing.
1. Get clear on the feeling you long for:
I'm envious of her promotion - I want to be externally recognized for my hard work and commitment.
I'm envious of their marriage - I want to be in a relationship that has the mutual respect I see in their marriage.
I'm envious of her home - I want the feeling of open space that a larger home would provide.
I'm envious of his new car - I want to drive around feeling successful and accomplished.
I'm envious of the body she has - I wish I felt strong, light, and confident in my body.
I'm envious that he is on stage speaking - I want to be an expert at something.
2. Affirm what you do have:
I have a job.
I have a relationship.
I have a home.
I have a car.
I have a body.
I am developing expertise.
3. Identify what you can do to move closer to the feeling you are longing for. What action can you take to move forward? What needs to happen to feel that way?
And remember, most of what we see is not an accurate depiction of the way things are behind the scenes. Social media captures the high points in life...often we see the successes, but not the work to get there. As publisher Reid Tracy said, "It takes 10 years to be an overnight success."
What do you long for?
Pay attention to who and what triggers a feeling of envy, and notice the messages of deeper longing. Then appreciate the clarity on what you desire.
Turning envy into an opportunity to recognize inner longing also diffuses feelings of competition and comparison, replacing it with a feeling of 'we are all in this together!' Envy as a messenger is practicing compassion for ourselves and others.
Conversation idea - At dinner, I told my family what I was writing about this week and we had a fun family discussion about what we each envy and the messages it might indicate for each of us. Then we looked at gratitude for what we already have and what we can do to work toward our longings. We learned more about each other and had a deeper conversation than usual.