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How to Let Go of Your Envious Feelings and Lead a More Peaceful Life

Copying with one of the most prevalent of all human emotions

By Margaret PanPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
How to Let Go of Your Envious Feelings and Lead a More Peaceful Life
Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

You’ve been trying to get that promotion for months. You’ve been staying up late doing work, sacrificing sleep, and neglecting your partner, all in hopes that your boss will be impressed and will finally give you that raise you so much deserve.

Then, one day, your best friend gives you a sudden call and tells you that she’s just been promoted. She’s been working for a company similar to the one you’re working for. It was somewhat unexpected and she still can’t believe it; she can’t stop giggling and laughing.

And as she describes how happy she is you find it hard to hear her over the sound of your own rampaging emotions. Why her and you? You’ve been working for far longer than she has. And she didn’t even try to get that promotion.

So, why can’t you be happy for your friend? Why does her success make you feel like a failure? That, my friend, is one of the most prevalent of all human emotions: envy.

In fact, according to this study conducted by researchers from Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain, envy is the most common basic personality trait shaping human behavior — and is found among almost one-third of the human population.

No matter how high our self-esteem is, at one point, we’ve all felt envious of someone’s looks, status, or wealth. Social media seems to make things only worse: you seem unable to stop comparing your body to the one of that gorgeous Instagram model, and can’t help but think life’s unfair for giving that uneducated poker player so much money.

Getting overwhelmed by feelings of envy doesn't make you a bad person. It’s in human nature — moments of weaknesses we all face. The good news is, there’s a solution. Here’s how you can fight that human tendency, put your envious feelings behind you, and start living a more peaceful life.

Recognize That Envy Is a Universal Emotion

Just like you can’t cope with and overcome a loss unless you go through all the five stages of grief and finally reach the stage of acceptance, you won’t be able to overcome your envious feelings unless you accept you have them. Envy first needs to be addressed before you can put it behind you.

“I don’t feel envious of them. You know I’m not a bad person. I’m just saying it’s too much.”

Those were the words one of my friends said when we were discussing whether it’s unfair that football players and Victoria's Secret models make such huge amounts of money.

We both agreed that it is. But when I said that I would love to be able to make so much money too, she gave me that answer. You see, a lot of people think that feeling envious of someone else’s success makes you a bad person. Or someone with an inferiority complex.

The truth is, you’re neither. Instead of denying your feelings, you should recognize that envy is a universal emotion that anyone can experience. There’s no need to feel guilty for having envious feelings. Accept them, and get ready to work on eliminating them.

Shift Your Focus to Yourself Instead of Other People

You save up money and you manage to buy a brand new expensive car. You get a raise in work. You start dating an insanely beautiful person. You feel great for a while.

Then, you notice your boss’s new car parked outside their company. It costs much more than you’ll be able to make in 5 years. Your friend shows you their new girlfriend — she has the looks of Angelina Jolie. Suddenly, you don’t feel that great anymore.

You see, having a comparison mindset always ends up in you noticing someone that has more/is doing better than you and feeling envious of them. There’s always gonna be someone with a better car, a better job, a better house, a better-looking partner.

But what if you started comparing yourself to… yourself?

Truth be told, when we compare ourselves to others it’s only natural for envious feelings to surface. In Bertrand Russell’s words:

“Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.”

No one wants to get stuck in an endless loop of envy. That’s why you need to shift your focus to yourself instead of others. Start thinking about how far you’ve come and how much you have grown. Recognize how brave, courageous, and patient you have been. Appreciate all the opportunities that are lying ahead of you.

Reframe Your Envy as a Desire for Self-Improvement

Usually, when a moment of envy emerges we either deny it or fall into the pit and drown in it. But, however strange it may seem, envy can be turned into motivation and inspiration to become a better version of ourselves.

Other people’s success is often a necessary example of what we could do, and who we could be. A jolt of envy can cause you to reflect on your life, help you uncover some powerful traits, and motivate you to try harder for your goals.

For example, let’s say you’re an aspiring blogger. One day your favorite blogger decides to share with the world their success story, including how much money they make at the moment. They publish a post, in which they are completely transparent about it, with screenshots and everything.

Their post takes you aback. You start getting those icky feelings of envy. How exactly have they managed to make thousands every month just by writing online? Could you ever reach their level of success?

At that moment, the best thing you can do is to reframe your envy as a desire for self-improvement. Let those feelings motivate you to be more serious about your goals, to work harder, and keep trying until you have what others have and you crave.

Let envy be a wake-up call to clue you in on what’s missing in your world and work as a stimulus for progress and self-development. Perhaps you aren’t yet where you want to be, but doesn’t it feel great to know that, since other people have done it, it’s possible for you, too?

Final Thoughts

“He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”

― Buddha

Envy is like a tiny devil on your shoulder who whispers harsh words into your ear, makes you feel inadequate and helpless, and manages to fill your daily life with negativity and sorrow.

Time to tell that tiny guy to shut up.

Envy might be a universal emotion, experienced by all kinds of people, but it’s also one that can each and every one of us can eliminate from our lives. Put your envious feelings behind you, and start living a more peaceful life today. You have what it takes.


About the Creator

Margaret Pan

Words have power.

I write about relationships, psychology, personal development, and books.

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