No matter how hard you try to cover it with a smile, Envy isn't something that goes away on its own. It can spiral out of control into destructive jealousy and even depression. So what can you do to curb envy before it consumes you? Learning to avoid comparing yourself to others, to feel more gratitude for what you have and practice tricks to reset your perspective can help overcome envy before it gets out of control. Keep reading to learn more about how to overcome envy.
- Know the difference between envy and jealousy. Envy and jealousy are not the same thing, but they are often confused. It is important to know the difference between envy and jealousy to determine which emotion you are feeling. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something you already possess. Envy is a reaction to a something you think you lack.
- For example, jealousy is what you feel when you see your girlfriend flirting with another guy. Envy is what you feel when you see a friend driving up in a brand new sports car.
- Think about how envy harms you. How has envy impacted your life in a negative way? Maybe a long-term friendship is on the verge of dissolving because you can't pretend to be happy for your friend anymore, so you avoid her calls. Maybe you check your ex's Facebook page obsessively to glare at pictures of him and his fiancée. Maybe you hate-read a classmate's photography blog, wishing you had anything close to his artistic ability. These are all examples of the way envy saps energy that could be better spent on something more positive. Envy might be harming you in the following ways:
- Taking up your time
- Consuming your thoughts
- Ruining your personal and professional relationships
- Warping your personality
- Creating negativity
- Identify the reason why you are envious. Before you can deal with your envy in a constructive way, you need to figure out what is causing it. If you feel envy over your friend’s new sport’s car, take some time to examine the reason why you feel envious. Ask yourself questions to identify the cause of your envy before dealing with your envy.
- For example, are you envious because you want a car like the one he has? Or are you envious of his ability to afford something so expensive?
- Write about your feelings. Journaling is a great way to express your feelings and deal with negative emotions. Journaling about your envy may help you to start to understand it better and begin to deal it. Start by writing down the reason that you feel envious. Describe the source of your envy in as much detail as you can. Try to determine why you are envious of this person.
- For example, you might write about your friend driving up in his new sports car and how that made you feel. What was your mood like at the time? How did you feel when he pulled up? What did you feel like doing/saying? What did you actually do/say? How did you feel after he left? How do you feel thinking back on it? What would you like to feel?
- Consider talking to a friend about your envious feelings. Telling a supportive friend or family member how you are feeling may help you feel better and help you to express your emotions. Choose someone who is not closely involved with the person you envy. Also, make sure to choose someone who will be supportive and who will listen to you. Choosing someone who will brush off your feelings or who will not offer good support may make you feel worse.
- Consider seeking help from a therapist if you can’t move past your envy on your own. For some people, envy can interfere with daily life and happiness. Without help, it may be hard to understand your envy and determine the best way to deal with those feelings. A licensed mental health professional can help you to understand these feelings and help you work through them.
EditTurning Envy into Something Positive
- Stop judging yourself so harshly. When you're envious of someone else, it often stems from feelings of personal inadequacy. You're focused on how someone else has the career, partner, possessions, or intelligence you want, and these desires are rooted in what you perceive to be your own shortcomings. Try to back down from judging yourself so harshly and you won't be as inclined to compare your situation unfavorably to someone else's.
- For example, maybe you're envious of your friend's amazing career, which has taken off while yours is still in its fledgling stage. Try to be more patient with yourself - you'll get your turn in the spotlight if you just keep working hard.
- Envy stems from being judgmental in general - thinking that this is better than that, and making your decisions based on getting what you don't have. Try to be more open minded instead of deciding that some qualities are good to have and some aren't.
- Forgive the person you envy and yourself. Forgiveness is an important part of moving past envy because resenting someone for their success will only weigh you down. One exercise that may help you to deal with envy is to declare your forgiveness for the person that you envy (not in their presence, of course) and for yourself as well. Simply take a moment when you are alone to verbalize your forgiveness.
- Remember that you are not forgiving the other person for wrongdoing. You are choosing to view their situation from their perspective. By considering their perspective, you can empathize with their pride and accomplishments in a compassionate way.
- For example, you might say something like, “I am proud with Sharon for having so much success in her career. I also forgive myself for being behind her on my path to success.”
- Turn your envy into appreciation. To overcome envy, it is important to appreciate what you already have as well as what the person you envy has earned. One way that you can start to change your perspective and overcome your envy is to find a way to appreciate the success or fortune of others. Work on developing a sense of happiness for the person who achieved or obtained what you envy them for. For example, try to be happy for a friend who can afford a sports car and change your envy into admiration.
- It might help you to state your admiration out loud. For example, you might say to your friend, “Congratulations on the new car! I am really happy for you and all of your success.”
- Use your envy to generate a goal. Once you have identified the cause of your envy, you can deal with it in a constructive way by turning it into something positive, such as a goal. Using your envy to form a realistic, achievable goal will help you to stop dwelling on your negative feelings and feel empowered to change something in your life for the better.
- For example, if you are envious of a friend’s new sports car because you wish you had the financial freedom to afford something like that, make it your goal to earn and/or save more money.
- Break larger goals into smaller, measurable goals. For example, if your goal is to earn and/or save more money. One of your smaller goals might be to look for a higher paying job or find out about opportunities for advancement at your current job. Another small goal might be to save $20 per week.
- Live by your own definition of success. Are you evaluating yourself and other people based on superficial ideas of what it means to be successful? Success does not necessarily mean having a big house, two cars and a high-powered job, or being so beautiful that people can't stop staring. Success is about finding out what life is best for you and living it to the very fullest. If you worry less about society's standards for success, and focus instead on what gets you going every day, you'll be less likely to fall into comparing yourself to other people so much.
- Remember that it's ok to be at a different stage in your life than other people. For instance, just because you might not have the job or partner you want yet, doesn't mean you're any less of a person than the person you're envious of. Life is not a serious of boxes we all check off on our way to happiness. Everyone travels a different path, and no one's is more meaningful or better than anyone else's.
- Realize you don't know the whole story. It might look like someone else has it all - the perfect boyfriend, great hair, straight As, you name it. However, there is always more to the story, because it's impossible for anyone to have a perfect life. If someone seems to have everything you want, chances are you have something they want, too. Don't put people up on a pedestal and grind your teeth thinking they must have been born under a lucky star. You may not ever know what their weakness is - after all, most people are adept at hiding their imperfections - but you can be sure it's there.
- Reflecting on the fact that everyone has a struggle, need, or want may be enough to remind you that everyone is in the same boat. It's not necessary to go digging to find out what soft spots the person has! Rest assure there is something you aren't seeing. Try to put aside your thoughts of envy and focus on yourself.
- Remember that others' success doesn't impact yours. Let's say that someone you know started a running regimen, lost 20 pounds and just completed her first marathon. Sure, the person made a great achievement, but there's nothing stopping you from doing the same thing! Your success in life does not hinge on someone else's. Whether it comes to finding love, getting a good job or anything else you want, you can have it, regardless of how successful someone else might be.
- Focus on your talents and assets. Now that you've stopped comparing yourself to other people, let's focus on what you have going for you. Channel your energy into your good qualities, so you become better and better at what you do and who you are. When you're focused on perfecting that cello song or writing an amazing thesis, there's not time to worry about what other people are doing.
- When you find your mind drifting to the realm of what you don't have, make a conscious effort to think about what you do have. Do this every single time you feel those pangs of envy. If you refuse to let your mind dwell, and focus instead on what makes you special and great, you'll start having a much more positive outlook.
- Realize that not everyone has what you have - in fact, your talents and assets might even be the source of others' envy.
- Be thankful for your loved ones. Imagine the people who care about you and would do anything for you, and think about what you'd do for them. Focusing on the people who make your life feel full is a positive way to cancel out feelings of envy. Instead of thinking that your life is lacking something, be thankful for the people who are there. Being grateful is a lot like being mindful. It's about focusing on the present and turning your thoughts to what is already good in your life, instead of thinking about what's lacking.
- Change what you can change, accept what you can't. It's important to know what you can change and what is beyond your control. Spend energy working to improve the former and don't waste your time on the latter, because there's nothing you can do about it. If you dwell on things you can't change, you'll end up feeling extremely negative, and maybe even becoming depressed. You have a finite amount of time to spend, and you don't want to waste it on something that's not going to budge.
- For example, if you wish you had your friend's musical talent, and you want nothing more than to be a singer-songwriter, try your best to become what you want to be. Pour your soul into making music, take voice lessons, perform at open mic nights - give it all you've got. If you think you have a shot at making it in the music scene, or you just feel so passionate about music that you want to spend your life singing, don't let anything stop you.
- On the other hand, there are some things in life that aren't affected by hard work and strong desire. If you're in love with your friend's wife, and they're happily married, you're going to have to accept that this is something you can't change. It's important to come to a place of acceptance before your envy turns into an extremely negative force.
- Spend time with grateful people. If your friends are the type to constantly compare jobs, partners and kids, complain about what they don't have and cut down people who do, you might want to start spending time with different people. If you spend enough time with people who aren't grateful for what they have, you're going to end up feeling that way, too. Be around people who are content - not rub-it-in-your-face content, but happy enough that they don't slam other people or constantly complain. Find friends who are nonjudgmental, generous, and kind, and you'll start feeling that way about yourself and others, too.
- Start a gratitude journal. If it has been awhile since you thought about the good things in your life, take out a pen and a piece of paper and start writing them down. A gratitude journal can be a great way of helping you change your perspective and appreciate what you have. If a journal isn’t your style, consider starting a video blog (aka vlog) or drawing in a sketchbook. Since envy is about your perception of what you lack, put some time and energy into reminding yourself of what you have. Here are a few ideas to include in your journal:
- Your talents
- Your favorite physical features
- Your best friend
- Your dog
- Your favorite foods
- Things that make you laugh
- Memories that make you smile
- Future occasions to which you're looking forward
- Favorite items you own
- Focus only on positive things for a day. If you're an envious person who keeps it completely to yourself, you might not need to try this trick. However, if envy has consumed your personality and made you more negative than you'd like to be, try going a full day without making one complaint. It's not something you could do forever - after all, it's OK to feel annoyed about things now and then! - but foregoing complaining for a day might show you just how often you open your mouth to say something negative. If you find yourself keeping quiet for most of the day, the experience could be quite telling.
- If you give this a try, consider all complaining off limits - even complaints about yourself. No cutting yourself down, comparing yourself unfavorably to someone else, or wishing things were different.
- You might realize that your complaining impacts those around you as well. It's really not fun to be around someone who is constantly seeing the glass as half empty. Changing your attitude could result in improved relationships.
- Stay away from negative input for a week. "Negative input" means anything that feeds your envy and makes you wish for something you don't or can't have. The more obsessive it makes you, the worse it is for your psyche, so try going without it for a week to see if you feel better. Here are a few examples of negative input:
- Advertisements. If you're constantly seeing ads for clothes you can't afford, for example, you might feel envious of those who have nice clothes. The ads are making your envy worse. You might have to stop watching TV and read a novel instead of fashion magazines for a week.
- Social media. If you feel stung by the "humble" braggarts when you log into Facebook, you aren't alone. In fact, studies show that envy increases with Facebook use. If you tend to lurk on Facebook and other social media a lot, turn it off for at least a week.
- Remind yourself that you are in control. If you often feel envious of things that people have, remind yourself that you could have those things too, but you choose not to. For example, if you really wanted a designer wardrobe, you could rack up a massive amount of credit card debt, but maybe you don't do that because you value your credit. If you are making wise choices for yourself (like avoiding credit card debt), you should feel proud of those decisions.
- Compliment five people per day. Try to make it five new people each day, so you aren't complimenting the same people over and over. Compliment each person on something you genuinely admire about that person - don't take the easy route and compliment on something too shallow. Taking the time to think about what you really like about people, and then expressing that out loud, will help your mind stay in a positive place. You won't be as worried about comparing yourself to others.
- Research has suggested that complimenting the person you envy can benefit you. Look for ways to compliment the person you envy on their hard work and other attributes that you value.
- Volunteer. If you can't wrench your mind away from thoughts of what you don't have, spend time helping people who don't have much at all. Sometimes we fall into mental ruts that make it all but impossible to see how good we have it. Give yourself a dose of reality by volunteering in a soup kitchen, hospital, or animal shelter for a day. Reflect on your experience afterward. Helping other people can enable you see how rich you really are, and how much positive energy you have to offer the world.
- Do your best to resist the urge to compare yourself with others. Focus on improving yourself, not being like other people.
- Try to think of envy as an opportunity to improve yourself, not as a reason to feel bad about yourself.
- Cope if Friends Are Being Mean
- Move Beyond Facebook Envy
- Handle Jealousy
- Be Envied
- Stop Envying Famous People
- Stop Being Jealous
- Stop Being Self Centered
- Be a Good Friend