Envious: demonstrating a longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another
Everyone is envious at some point in his or her life; it is impossible to go about your day without ever thinking “I want this” or “I should have that.” Just doing this daily challenge, I’m noting characteristics I would like to have or change. To me, that is envious.
I’ve always thought of the word “envious” as a bad thing. The green-eyed jealousy monster. Stay away! But perhaps this is where envy and jealousy have a slight difference to them: jealousy implies a negative connotation and denotation whereas envy might come across with a bit more optimism.
You can be envious of how good someone looks or the new job (s)he was offered without seeming to have that underlying bitterness over who should have gotten it first (or at all).
I know I can be both envious and jealous. I have always been a “grass is greener on the other side” kind of guy. When I was younger, I would get angry or upset if someone else beat me (Note, I still can’t stand to lose, especially at cards… I have to win all the time) or got something I wanted. A sort of childish reaction, sometimes accompanied with putting up a wall between that person and myself… even into my late 20s, I think I still had more remnants of that behavior that one should have as an adult.
I really never wanted for anything (life’s staples, you know, things of substance) as a child. I had all the necessities, nothing missing to be able to eat, sleep, drink and be sheltered. Yes, I am lucky and grateful. Perhaps because I never truly needed something to survive, my envy or jealousy of trivial things was that much more impassioned.
When I say that I was envious when younger, I don’t mean in a very obvious and negative way. It wasn’t a regular thing. It wasn’t a big scene where I acted out. It was more a quiet acknowledgement inside my mind and body that I wanted something and I deserved it, and I didn’t like that someone else had it before me. Remember, I’m shy… so I don’t often do things to draw attention to myself.
As I’ve aged, it’s certainly been minimized; however, it’s present enough that I notice it as a general first “go-to” type of behavior when I see someone else got that perfect new job I am still looking for, or someone else received a huge annual bonus and it sounds like it was more than my last one. There are a few of those remaining traces left, generally focused around 2 or 3 topics of truly physical things, not emotional things.
Age brings comfort and happiness to the mind in many respects (I’m ignoring fear of sickness or death), and I’ve been lucky enough to be happy with my life; I don’t envy other people’s lives for those types of things. My mind is content with where I am and who I am; I know the things I need/want to change to be better instead of just because I want them. And that’s a really good thing because it means I’m achieved a great many things thus far.
But… how do you address that envy when it creeps up from time to time? What tools and techniques do you use to control it? For me, I think it starts with knowing what you are truly envious of. If you have envy, it means you want something you don’t have. So start with your list of wants.
Write ‘em down. Give yourself clear goals. Target dates. Check-in points. Figure out what’s realistic. And if it’s not realistic, focus on either (1) being envious in a good way and happy for the other people or (2) removing any trigger points that make you uncomfortable or unhappy about it. Challenge the energy behind the envy into the drive to move the dial on your goals. For instance…
I have always wanted to own and live in a mansion. A huge piece of property with an old-fashioned yet modern building and gardens, a long and winding driveway, and… you get the picture. But why? Perhaps status. Maybe freedom. Could be security. Do I have it right now? No… I live in NYC and do not have $10M to spend. Seriously, who does? And how do they make it happen? Can you help me? JUST KIDDING.
It’s been something I’ve wanted since childhood. But at the same time, I collect things for my current home, draft ideas of what would be good to have in the future, look at places where it may be the right environment to live, etc. And some day, perhaps I will have what ends up being my mansion, even if it’s not a mansion by anyone else’s standards. Note, I love my current apartment and it’s definitely nothing to complain about at all!
I want to be a writer. So I write. Then I am a writer. But what I mean, is I want to be a published author. So I write. Then maybe I will become a published author. I am envious of authors. But I am not jealous. If it never happens, it never happens. But I know that I tried. I set out to write a book, which I’ve completed. And I’m starting to shop it with literary agents. I’m doing a lot to make it happen, so I’ve been able to stave off jealousy and replace it with hope and envy.
I’d like to hear from others about envy… how do you handle it? What do you do to control the impulse?