“Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.” ~Unknown
Throughout this year, I’ve noticed myself feeling envious of other people. Particularly, I would feel envious of the famous people that I would see on television, read about in magazines, and follow on social media.
I wouldn’t even be envious of them for the things one might expect. It wasn’t because they were famous or wealthy. It wasn’t because they had millions of followers on social media. And it wasn’t because they were good looking.
Still, I would find myself feeling envious of an actress if she had a better personality than I did. I would feel bad about myself for not being as outgoing or bubbly or expressive. I would feel like I wasn’t as likeable for being quiet and an introvert.
I would feel envious of another celebrity for her ability to live a fun and impulsive life. I would see the way someone else could take risks and not seem to worry about the future. This made me feel like I was too cautious, and that it would keep me from having an exciting life.
I would feel envious of a musician for the level of success she achieved. This would be especially true if the singer was close to my age. I would feel as though I was wasting my life away, while other people my age already had careers.
Whenever I felt this way, I always wanted to try to understand these feelings. Not only did I want to understand them, I wanted to make them go away.
I didn’t want to feel envious of the people that I looked up to. I wanted to feel happy for them.
So, I would think about the person that made me feel this way, and I would try to figure out what specifically made me feel envious. I would try to list my own strengths. I would try to see that this person wasn’t so different from me.
When that didn’t work, I would try to ignore the feelings. When that didn’t work, I just hoped these feelings would just fade over time. But I couldn’t seem to get the results I wanted.
It became clear to me that I would have to learn to embrace my feelings instead. One thing I’ve come to realize is that you can’t really control how you feel. Feelings are not inherently bad. But you need to look within to understand what is causing them.
By embracing my feelings, I realized that I would become envious of different people for similar reasons. I was envious of the person with a more outgoing personality because I wanted people to notice me.
When I thought I was envious of someone’s success, I realized I was envious jealous of the friends she made along the way.
Most of my envy came from a desire to make more friends and have more fun.
On this path toward understanding envy, I remembered a time when I was younger when I would always get envious of my friends when they won trophies. I didn’t participate in sports, so there wasn’t any chance of me getting a trophy of my own.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that trophies and awards don’t matter all that much. They can certainly help a person to feel good about his or her hard work. But what really matters is the journey.
What matters is playing the sport, or playing the music, or performing in the plays, or solving the equations. What matters is growing and becoming better than you once were. What matters is doing something you love to do. The trophy is really just a symbol of the journey.
If a person had a trophy, I would feel like she was better than me. I didn’t have one, so I would feel worthless. I didn’t realize that it represented something deeper. I didn’t understand the hard work or the journey.
Now that I’m older, I realize that I don’t get envious of people who win trophies or awards anymore. Coming to this realization gave me hope. It made me realize that envy is something we can outgrow.
Still, time is not the only remedy for unwanted envy.
5 Tips For Overcoming Envy
1. Look beyond the surface.
If we feel envious of someone, we’re probably only seeing what’s on the surface.
It might seem like a person has easily acquired success, love, and quite frankly, happiness, while we struggle to achieve any one of those things. However, it’s important to remember that life is a journey.
If a person has success, there is a journey that led up to it. If a person has love, there is a journey that led up to it. These things don’t happen overnight. They take time. And you have to give yourself time to achieve them, too.
2. Take some time to unplug.
Social media makes it so easy for us to see the best parts of other people’s lives. It can make it seem like everyone else is happy and successful, while we are struggling to keep up.
If you feel envious of someone, take some time to just focus on you. Do things that will make you happy, like taking a nice bath or drinking tea or going for a bike ride. Take some time to focus on things that make you feel good about yourself.
3. Look within.
If you are envious of someone, take some time to understand why specifically you are envious of him or her.
Maybe you’re envious of the person’s career or appearance or abilities. Why do you feel envious of that particular thing? Maybe it would bring you happiness. Maybe it would give you independence. It could be that the thing you really want can be achieved in a variety of different ways.
4. Know that your feelings do not make you a bad person.
When I’m envious of someone it can be frustrating, because I usually just want to be happy for that person’s success. So then, not only do I feel envious, but I also feel guilty.
We feel the things we do for a reason, and oftentimes we have to dig deep within to understand the true source of those feelings. Be patient with yourself.
5. Know that you are valuable.
If I feel envious of someone, it’s usually because I believe she is better than me. I’ll be envious of one aspect of that person’s life and think I am worthless because I don’t have that one thing.
The truth is that we are all valuable. You may not have everything you want in your life right now, but that does not take away your worth. You don’t need to compare yourself to others because you are perfect the way you are.
Sad girl image via Shutterstock