You’re not following your own path when you’re busy trying to be someone else
He wakes and takes a deep breath, looks at his phone and gives a sigh. New morning, just like any other he says. He starts imagining how life would be if he were richer like someone else.
They probably have breakfast prepared for them in bed, while he only has dry cereal stashed in the cupboard. He thinks about the work he has to accomplish today, already dreading the morning traffic he will be fighting later.
“Woe is me,” he proclaims – if only life was easier, if only the grass was greener here in this part of the world. “If only I was born somewhere else, a different city, a different family, a different name”.
Life would be so different, so much more meaningful, with so much more purpose. And in that instant, he turns and realises that in the mirror looking straight back at him, was a pair of green eyes.
He knew at that moment, the green- eyed monster was no one else but him.
I don’t know about you, but on some days I wake up with a negative cycle of thoughts running through my head.
The worst part of it is, sometimes I can go about my day carrying envy and then forget to “look into the mirror”, which basically means not making time to reflect or to dig deep into my thoughts and feelings.
Envy as defined by Merriam-Webster is the feeling a person has when he/she is resentful of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.
A clear sign of envy can arise when there is dissatisfaction of one’s life, a clear comparison mindset to others, or an issue of self-pride.
As you can already see, the factors that cause feelings of envy are highly external, but the source of the issue is very much internal.
The cost of envy
You would probably be asking, is envy really that bad? Can it be used instead as a drive towards having greater success if the envy is because of someone who is better than you?
While a part of that may be true, envy does give a person a negative sense of life, and makes people forget at what cost it will take to attain the success they seek.
From a counselling point of view, the dissatisfaction that envy creates often brings depression instead of a positive drive towards a goal.
Comparing your own life to another has a detrimental effect. When those affected by envy feel their lives are worthless, they focus on wanting to live another person’s life instead.
According to an article written in The Origin of Emotions, envy becomes strongest when someone you personally know has achieved a higher position in life than you.
It is specifically mentioned that envy varies with peer similarity, which states that the more similar the circumstances in life, the stronger the negative effect.
The thought pattern to this is that the person feeling envy will consider the fact that if they both had significant similarities throughout their lives, but the other individual has achieved a higher status, then the person would assume that he/she would need to be of equal status with the targeted individual.
As I would always say to others about comparing, there is no need to compare an apple and an orange – if you like both, eat them. If you like one, eat that. If you like neither, get yourself another fruit.
The fact is that no matter how similar the circumstances in life between two people, even if they were siblings who grew up in the same home, there would still be many other factors in the process of growing up that would make one distinct from the other.
Take control of the monster
Now that we’ve gone quite deep into what envy is and how to be aware of it, which would conclude the whole act of “look into the mirror” that I alluded in the beginning, let’s look at two key steps to deal with envy.
1. Comparing your expectations
The best person to compare to is yourself. The simple act of looking back into our own lives and considering the blessings, friends and experiences that we have gone through will indicate to us the measure of our growth.
Of course this also means that on some days we may feel defeated because we may sense that we have failed, especially when we compare ourselves to our past projections.
We will fall some days, but learning to get up is a growth journey too.
2. Check your values
It is always important to figure out what we value the most. Many times when envy happens, it’s usually because we want a bigger house, a bigger car or a more comfortable life.
The problem is that many people know the destination, but in their haste to get there they forget to hold on to their values – so they go all out in trying to achieve their goals, and usually find out that they have sacrificed too much of themselves along the way.
It’s a good reminder to find out what value to place on the goals that you would like to achieve.
You could have a personal goal that affects only you, or a goal that is larger than yourself which may aid others in achieving their goals too.
I believe that if envy is dealt with in the right manner it can be beneficial. While envy in itself drives a person away from others due to dissatisfaction, a person who knows how to deal with envy in a healthy manner can then learn to connect with the object of his/her attention.
Why burn bridges when we can build them and use that to further develop our own lives. As they say: don’t hate, appreciate.