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Taming Envy:How to Love Yourself and Your one Precious Life

Love it or not we have all experienced the crushing feeling of envy. It’s given a bad wrap. Ie. it’s considered a deadly sin and we call it the green-eyed monster, and for good reason: Unchecked it can really hurt and cause us to act in selfish, competitive and malicious ways. But, what is it? Why do we have it? And, can it be a useful thing?

In this article I'll be exploring

  • The mechanism that gives rise to these feelings,

  • Give some tips on how to manage them,

  • Outline ways you can absorb the lessons and get back to loving being the best version of yourself and your one precious life.

I have often been heard commenting to my clients in a clinical setting that I believe jealousy or envy is a rather poor description for a certain type of emotion that rears its head in an individual who feels such intense longing for an outcome in their lives which they feel powerless to realise, but which the universe seems to flaunt on another.

To use some examples, it comes when you are unsuccessful at your third round of IVF in the same year you are needed to support your best friend at her first baby shower. Or, being overlooked for a promotion and another friendly teammate being recognised. Or perhaps when your partner who you feel ignores your gifts congratulates one of their attractive single friends for their accolades in your presence. In many cases the individual wants to be happy for the object of their envy or jealousy but is so wrapped with painful desire at their own unrealised potentials and unmet emotional needs. Envy is a signal that you feel blocked, and that your social status has been threatened.

Firstly, In order to understand how to overcome envy you may need to understand the mechanism that gives rise to it. Envy, put simply, is an old survival mechanism. Everybody wants to be at the front of the evolutionary pack. There are a great deal of advantages to being considered the front of the evolutionary pack, for example landing the healthiest mate, getting the best paying job, being respected by your peers, and having authority over other individuals. Our evolving brains considered this advantage so material that our present day nervous systems are constantly at work behind the scenes attempting to detect a few things: food, mates and any threats to our survival. Whenever we perceive one of these, our nervous system automatically pays attention and sends the appropriate signals to our body whether we should pursue the advantage or protect ourselves from a threat. In other words, we are very consumed, even on an unconscious level, of securing the highest social status and level of abundance that we can obtain. This mechanism has been with us since the dawn of time and has driven us to become the most dominant species of the planet, however, there is a potential to fall into a lot of meaningless obsession with superfluous goals and to hyperfocus on things which have very little to do with our actual happiness. Once our survival mechanism is triggered we will visualise any competitive rival as a threat to our survival and do whatever we can to protect our social status, in some cases in unhealthy ways. We need to tame this normal triggering response because acting from a place of fear and lack never really leads to happiness, pursuing the things that we want out of love and meeting ourselves in the depths of a perceived failure with compassion, however have been proven in academic studies by Kristen Neff to be two key ways to live a truly happy and meaningful life. Ultimately the ego which is consumed with pack status has a ravenous appetite, too. If we do adapt to a higher level of abundance or status we will acclimate within 18 months.

According to A 1978 study by Brickman, Coates and Banoff-Bulman of Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts, findings suggest that a person will find themself back at “square one” from a happiness perspective within a year and a half, whether they have suffered an accident resulting in paralysis or won the lottery.

We allow our expectation to rise or fall in equal measure to our quality of life, so really this increase in expectation is a lifelong pursuit. Sometimes you will be ahead and sometimes you will be behind, but the survival brain is always looking to obtain more. This feels like a genuine threat, but actually has very little to do with actual life or death. It's a natural human need to thrive, but one needs to learn to tempur excess fear, gluttony and insecurity to calmly and joyfully live in the moment and appreciate what they do have, or they will never be happier with more.

Here are some hints you might be Envious:

You are feeling Inferior

You feeling frustrated

You are feeling angry at people with the results you crave

You want to avoid scenarios in which you may be forced to talk about yourself

You feel as though people who are getting what you want are undeserving of their success

You are considering harming others or sabotaging their opportunity. (This is a red flag, please seek professional help immediately)

Here are some techniques to work with and dispel envy.

Let your body know that you are SAFE.

There are a few ways to diffuse stress

  1. Boxing/running

Visualise yourself overcoming a competitive rival while boxing or outrunning them while you run to convey to your unconscious mind that you have dealt with the threat and it can go back to rest and digest. So easy, but it actually helps our stone age brain.

  1. EFT Tapping is a great way to relax the nervous system you can find heaps of tutorials on YouTube or purchase The Tapping Solution

  1. Breathwork


Breathe in for 4 counts

Hold for 7 counts

Exhale for 8 counts

Repeat 5 times.

Realise that you are Comparing Yourself, and Stop It.

All this unhappiness is coming from comparison, based on limited information. Remember that if there is another individual in question, they have had a life of mixed experience and challenge and when you go into a stress response you obtain something called a negativity bias, that means you discount all the positives about yourself and your life and hyperfocus on potential problems.

Exercise: Journal Prompts.

What are some of the positives about myself and my life that I am presently discounting?

Is this comparison accurate?

Is this comparison useful?

What lesson can I absorb from this negative feeling so I can let it go? (Maybe it’s a motivation etc.).

What do I have that is similar?

Remember: The Light you See in Others is a Reflection of your Own Light.

It is a well known psychological phenomenon that we unconsciously project our own qualities onto other people (likewise our darkness.) Even if you feel that your light has gone out, remember that no phase or feeling is final, but the quicker you drop comparison, believe in yourself, calm your insecurities and make an action plan for your own success the sooner your light will come back on. Stay in your own lane and get to work on your own life, knowing sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes you're behind.

Drop the Victim Mentality.

Ok, so I also don’t like to use the phrase “victim mentality” as it shames a person who ultimately feels powerless to effect change, but ultimately the problem IS that you feel powerless. The common internal dialogue can be something like “this always happens to me” a pretty heart wrenching statement. You need to shift your perspective away from helpless, hopeless apathy because you will never take initiative to attempt better outcomes for your life if you believe the fates convene to block your every best effort. It empowers you to believe that there are plenty of other opportunities for fulfillment you just haven’t executed successfully, yet, and if you believe you are strong and well resourced you will maximise your efforts then in turn realise the most from your potential. If you are open to perceiving that you are responsible for your challenges (not in a shame spiral kind of way, but in a cause and effect kind of way) you can learn, adapt and improve your results. Believe in yourself.

As shown above, we wont act to realise goals if we don't believe in our potential, and we wont get good results if we don't act on our potential, and if we don't get good results we reinforce low belief in our potential. The lesson? BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

Exercise: Journaling Prompt.

What do you want? (Ie House)

Why do you REALLY want it, as in what will you have once you get the object of your desire? (Ie. respect, security, my father’s pride, etc.)

Why do you believe you can’t have that?

Instead of asking: "why can't I have that?" ask "how else can I obtain what I really need?"

How have I been going about meeting these needs for myself, thus far?

How is that working?

If I am serious about being the version of myself that I really want to be and getting the results I want, what else might I be doing?

How do I answer this call?

Am I making myself miserable with this aspiration? What can I do to lighten up?”

Remind Yourself that this is an Ego Response.