Envy is one of those things we experience from a young age, whether it’s being envious of your friend’s new toy they got for their birthday, the beautiful long hair the girl in your class had that you wished you had, or how other kids your age would be going to Disneyland while your parents could only afford a camping trip.
Most of us growing up are taught the important lesson that you don’t always get what you want, but as you get older, if you work hard enough, you might be able to get it. I personally think that we need to leave that last part out because sometimes, even if we work hard, we might not get it and I think it doesn’t teach us to put our focus on the things we should really value in life, things such as our relationships.
This idea that we can work for what we want is dangerous because it can bring too much pride in ourselves and too much let down if it doesn’t work out. By focusing on what we want, we are allowing ourselves to become open to envy, which can affect us very negatively.
There are 3 problems I have listed below that come with being envious so that you may be aware of why it is a habit that you need to break in order to build your self-esteem and live a healthier life.
I am also going to show you 6 great ways to overcome envy and how to put your focus elsewhere.
The Problems That Come With Envy
There are 3 main areas where envy can hurt you as a person. These are problems that affect a lot of us but we don’t realize that they stem from what we wish we had.
Killing Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is something that you have to nurture and protect and envy is a major self-esteem killer, so being aware of it and learning how to overcome it is a key to building a healthy level of self-esteem.
Envy naturally comes with bad feelings about ourselves for what we don’t have. It causes us to feel less than, without or not good enough. By allowing ourselves to be envious of others we are setting ourselves up for low-self esteem which can significantly impact many areas of our life.
Encouraging Pride & Competition
Envy can bring out nasty traits in people and this is seen often through competition. I’m sure you have met a “poor loser”, someone that doesn’t handle not being the nest very well that they can become quite irate. This reaction is triggered because they are envious of the person who won and they believe they deserve winning more than anyone else. This shows someone’s level of pride in an unhealthy way. It’s all stirred by envy.
Envy in someone can cause them to react to losing a competition with the need to win next time and they can become very self-focused being filled with pride and placing there winning more important than anything else.
Allowing ourselves to be envious can bring out the worst in us and encourage selfishness.
Placing Importance On Materialistic Things
When we are envious, often times it for a particular thing that we don’t have that we want ie. the newest iPhone. We become so focused on wanting to have it that it can become an unhealthy level of importance to us. This is being materialistic. Placing our values in something we can just buy.
The problem with material things is that you can never feel truly fulfilled by them. You might feel a quick sense of fulfilment when you first get a hold of it, but the more you use it the more it becomes just another thing you own, and especially with the world we live in now with new things coming out every day, the desire for the next thing grows. Focusing on materialistic things can bring you down and could possibly lead you to become depressed because you aren’t valuing more truly fulfilling things in your life.
Solutions To Overcome Envy
It’s time to feel free from the hold of envy, to take back your life and feel content in what you have. So how do we get there?
These next 6 steps will guide you through the areas that you need to work through in order get to a point that envy isn’t overwhelming you and when it creeps in you can tell it where to go! Over time and with practice it will become natural for you and you will find that envy is something of the past.
1. Acknowledge It’s There
The first step in moving towards a goal is always to acknowledge the things that are holding you back. In this case, it’s recognizing that jealousy is a bad habit that you partake in and to note the areas you especially struggle with it.
If you aren’t sure if you are envious of anyone, you can work through this exercise in order to help you realize areas in which you struggle with envy.
Sometimes simply breaking down each part of our feelings can reveal the truth to us. This exercise helps you do that.
- List the names of people that you feel intimidated by, competitive with, who you follow for advice & tips and who you might feel better than.
- Write down the ways that you feel intimidated, competitive, advice seeking, and better than. Example: I feel intimidated by * person’s name* because of their work success.
- Circle the things listed that indicate a longing for something that the person has that you don’t have?
- Ask yourself if there is any bitterness towards the things that you circled. Any that create a bitterness you are likely struggling with jealousy towards.
- Make a list of the things that you feel bitterness towards not having. This will help you to recognize a pattern of where you struggle with envy so you can better address it.
Once you have discovered areas that you struggle with envy you can begin to overcome them and learn how to change your focus.
2. Uncover The Lies
The biggest thing that can be hard for some to swallow is the fact that no one can have it all.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the lie that you can have whatever you want. This is a lesson that most of us have been taught since we were children. We couldn’t have every toy in the toy store we wanted and our parents taught us that so that we could remember this for when we got older. The issue is that the marketing tactic for everything around us is designed in such a way to convince us that we can have it so that we will purchase it or commit to doing it. How many times have you thought about how much money you need so that you can get something? Probably you do this a lot. A question that we often don’t wait long enough to ask is “is this something I want, or is it something I need?” and a second question is “why do I want/need it? Will it benefit me as a person?”
Recognizing and accepting that you can’t have everything is a really big step in overcoming envy so that you won’t struggle so much when you see someone else with something that you desire.
Some other lies that you might be convinced of are:
- No one else struggles as you do (Truth: Everyone struggles with something)
- You never have anything good happen (Truth: When you look closely you can recognize areas in your life that you have been blessed)
- You need *blank* to be happy (Truth: Nothing can truly bring freedom and happiness apart from God)
- A particular person you envy has it all (Truth: The person you are envious of has something that they would like to have in their life that feels out of reach)
- Money will solve all your problems (Truth: Money might temporarily make things feel easier, but in truth, there will forever be a need for more money, so you can never feel like there is enough)
By recognizing these lies, you can discover the truth behind them and stop allowing them to convince you of false ideas. The truth is what will truly set you free because when you come face to face with envy, you will be able to ask yourself what lie is beneath it.
3. Discover Your Core Values
Everyone’s values are different and often times those who have something you feel envious of don’t have values that align with yours.
Discovering your core values is really key for flourishing within yourself and your life in general because every decision that you make that could impact your life in any way will be influenced by your values. You’re not going to choose to do something if it doesn’t align with what you value because you know that it won’t help you to grow and move forward. For instance, if you value having a successful career in your early years after school, you are not likely going to spend a year backpacking through Europe, because that time for you would be better used doing an internship or taking extra classes to further your knowledge in the areas of interest.
When you discover your core values, anything that you might feel envious towards, you can then ask yourself if having it aligns with what you value for your life. If it doesn’t then it will be easier to forget and move onto things that will actually benefit you.
Make a list of the things that you truly value in life, whether you currently have them in your life or not. Use this list as a reminder during the times you find yourself longing for something.
4. Shift Your Point Of View
When you find yourself getting stuck on the things that you don’t have, a great solution is to write down all the things that you do have that you would miss if you didn’t have them. I recommend writing them down because when our brain gets clouded with negative thoughts, its easier to break the cloudiness with something we can see. By making a list you will be able to clearly see how much you have in your life that you are truly grateful for. My guess is that as you are writing, you will discover more and more that will fill the list, and it may surprise you with how much you really are blessed by.
Here are some blessings to take note of:
- People in your life
- Opportunities you have
- Daily things (ie. house, car, finances, pets, food)
- Good habits/life choices
- Personality traits
- Freedom to live
As you can see there are many areas to be grateful for that we often forget. This list is a starting place as I am sure you can think of many others that are blessings in your life. This list will help support you when you are feeling bad and as though you are needing something in your life that you don’t have
5. Practice & Reminders
As with most things when changing habits, practice is a must. As much as it would be easy to get overnight, most of the time that’s not the case because we have to rewire how we think. This is an important thing to remember in the beginning. Don’t be hard on yourself if you aren’t getting it right away, and just remember that you will get there the more you practice.
Remember to invest in your values. By focusing on the things that you care the most about (ie. relationships, faith) you can lift your self-esteem more easily remember what’s truly important when you feel envious.
6. Create A Dream List
One of my favourite things to do when I notice someone have something I would like, I create what I like to call a “dream list”. This allows me to not feel bad about not having it but instead have it as something to work towards. It puts my mind in a more positive place and allows me to not dwell on it long.
By having this list, I can come back to it periodically and see if I ended up achieving it in which case I can be thankful for that, or I can see if it’s something that I want to continue working towards.
Sometimes when we first want something, we jump the gun and go for it right away, when it wasn’t the best thing in the first place. This can happen if you purchase the first thing you think you want but then after, you see something else you would have prefered. It’s good to sit on things sometimes to see if you really want them or if they will benefit your life, the dream list helps you do that.