Envy: 7 Ways To Understand Secret Self-Loathing
“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.” – Socrates.
“Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.” – Jean Vanier.
“Envy Debilitates.” – Abby Gardiner, founder, stressbubbles.com
Yes, it’s a nasty universal emotion. One we’re not supposed to discuss, feel or act on.
But most of us do at one time or another. Secretly. And the fall-out is rarely positive.
“[Envy] fosters discontent and distress,” says Joshua Becker, “[it] binds our freedom, it leads to resentment and bitterness, it causes us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, it can spiral into depression.”
The Skinny On Envy
It’s simple: “…envy is triggered only when you come up short…that’s part of the reason why it is experienced as such an “ugly” emotion,” says Marcy C. Lamia, Ph.D.
Here’s the two-pronged ugliness: You feel lousy about someone else’s triumphs. Then you blame yourself for your (perceived) lack of achievement.
Don’t stop there!
Add the guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and negativity you invariably feel experiencing these dark thoughts, and soon enough you’re basking in a toxic, self-loathing stew.
How This Monster Brews
Neel Burton M.D. says that three conditions must be met for this emotion to ignite:
- Upon encountering high achieving people with fabulous lives and possessions, you feel depressed and anxious.
- You want what that other person has, or wish that they did not have it.
- Negative feelings burst forth from those feelings and you end up in a state of despair.
How To Understand Envy
- Know That Glorifying (Or Loathing Others) Is Folly. The cliche rant “I hate her, she’s so beautiful and talented” is a serious waste of your breath. Here is a fact: you’re not ‘her,’ she’s not you, nobody’s life is easy, nobody’s life is the same, we all have different attributes, skills and life circumstances, life is not fair, and this is not a contest.
- When Troubled By What You Don’t Have. Stewing over this regularly does one thing well: it dismisses the merits of your own life and your own achievements. That’s called sabotage and low self-esteem.
- Remember: Life Is Not A Competition. “We always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others,” says Joshua Becker. “Each person you meet experiences problems, trials, and weaknesses–just like you.” Thus, with envy, you’re comparing your life to another life that’s also flawed and imperfect.
- Associations with shallow, materialistic people. Those who brag (long and hard) about money and accomplishments will ignite your – and many people’s – natural urge to compete and compare. So be clear about your motives in associating with these types of people.
- Influence by the media, social and otherwise. The mission of advertisers is to promote jealousy and envy. Consumers, compelled by envy, are driven to buy. Further, social media sites like facebook and instagram foster jealousy and envy. Be aware of this influence.
- Think “Inspiration.” If you boil up when someone you know sets big goals and achieves them, what’s your payoff? In fact, setting goals and achieving them is not something to loathe about others, it’s an attainable and ‘inspirational trait’ that we can all strive for.
- Does Materialism Drive You? Then, welcome to EnvyLand, where comparison of “things” never ends. Studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion in 2013 showed that as people become more materialistic, their wellbeing diminishes. When they become less materialistic, their wellbeing increases.
- Were you taught to be envious? “Your envy does not always belong to you,” says Mary C Lamia Ph.D. “Your own envy of others can originate from what your parents envied or admired.” Did your parents gossip regularly in front of you? Were they openly judgmental or critical of friends or family? If so, then envy was role modelled to you. Now you have to break that chain.
Taming The Beast
How do you tame envy?
By lovingly addressing and recognizing it within yourself.
By understanding that it is a (warped part) of human nature.
By understanding that some of us lean on envy because there is some other major void in our lives that needs to be filled.
By knowing that with reputable, professional help, you can work on, demystify, address and ease these negative feelings.
Because when you covet and envy others for what they have, because of what you don’t, you only diminish and hurt yourself.