The benefits of envy


Does another persons success or good fortune sometimes leave you yearning for more? – That bigger house, a better career, or more interesting life?
Envy, far from being a bad thing, can provide valuable clues about our hearts true desire.

Someone once told me that a good way of finding out what you really want in life is to imagine you have unlimited funds and you can do anything (or nothing)
In those moments when I am wishing I was more successful, a best selling author, a champion athlete, I play this game and the results are always pleasantly surprising.
What I discover is that although more money would be undeniably helpful, it wouldn’t radically change what I’m doing right now.

This kind of exercise is useful because it fights off the phenomenon of life comparisons, or the grass is greener syndrome, which seems to be flourishing like never before.
Yes, envy is one of the seven deadly sins, but with the advent of social networking, reality TV and 24/7 media, other peoples lives are beamed into our realities in high definition detail, and it’s hard not to think, if only I had the car, that designer kitchen, the beach house, then my life would be complete…

Under pressure

Keeping up with the Joneses is hardly a new phenomenon, but an increasingly competitive and consumerist culture seems to e stoking the fires of status anxiety in this modern society.

Dr Cecilia d`Felice, psychologist and author of 21 days to a new you, Points out that social media and TV exacerbate the problem by allowing bystanders to view only the highlights of others peoples lives, The mundane aspects of their existence – taking out the rubbish, doing the washing – are all screened out, she says this can make people feel inadequate. I see clients who are no longer inviting people into their homes because they cant re-create what they see on TV”
If the grass is greener syndrome goes on for too long the result is permanent anxiety “she says” people say why can’t I have it all?
Problems become externalised and people forget to look inside themselves and rely on inner resources.

Richard Holloway former Bishop of Edinburgh and social commentator has often touched on this subject in his books, talks and debates.
He sees the death of distances as the driving problem, I was bought up in a working-class culture with its own ways of doing things, he said, We didn’t have TV, Yes there was a sense of another world, but different social groups didn’t really mix, We were embedded in our own communities much more than today, now we are all mixed up together so perhaps it’s not surprising that the poor kids aspire to own the latest shows, That awareness of what others have adds a new energy to a basic human drive.

A double – sided emotion.

The dark side to this is “schadenfreude” being happy when others fail, Richard Smith, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, has pioneered research in this area. “Schadenfreude” isn’t the same as envy but envy puts you in the mindset t have it. he says,
You see in a lot of tabloid magazines that focus on celebrities and powerful people getting into trouble or being caught out looking awful, while at the same time including stories of low-status underdogs doing well to make us feel better,
Yet, despite this, comparing yourself to others and wishing you had their lives or possessions isn’t always bed, In fact, I can be a powerful and positive tool for change, Smith draws a distinction between benign and malicious envy.
Benign is when, for example, you wish you were going to Hawaii like your friend is doing, You’re not wishing them ill because they are going – in-fact you are acknowledging the value of their experience.
You may feel a bit pained but their trip could motivate you to work out how you might be able to go on an exotic holiday too.
Malicious envy is more about seeing the other persons advantage as unfair.
The motivation then becomes less about improving the self as it is too pull the other person down.
Smith says, the key to catching your envy early before it descends into the destructive type, as it is an emotion that transmutes over time, And as d`Felice says, All emotion demands action.
If you don’t do something about it, then it can and will eat you up.

All emotion demands action ….
If you don’t do something about it, then you get eaten by it ….

The map of envy ; an exercise

Envy is a map; it can reveal exactly where in your life, you are failing to take creative risks.
This exercise may help you to move forward…

  • Write down the names of every person you are envious of.
  • Next to each name, write why, Be as specific and accurate as you can.
  • Then, next to each name and reason, list one action you can take to move out of envy and towards creativity..

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