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Envy- Why we feel it, how to get rid of it

“There’s always going to be someone better.” If you are anything like me, you’ve heard this before. And it breaks your heart every time. I’ve been there! I hate those words more than anything. Why? Because I want to be the best at something. Anything. A simple desire, yet one that causes a lot of pain for me and many others, a lot of tearful breakdowns and a feeling of hopelessness that festers, building up and bursting like a raging inferno. 

You look at other people, doing the things you love, but better. Envy swells in you. In your mind, it doesn’t matter how much work they had to put in to get there, how much time and commitment. The only thing that matters is that they are there, and you aren’t. 

Hopeless. Unmotivated. Furious. Maybe you’ve felt it before, or are feeling it now, that dark voice that whispers, “Why try if there’s always someone better?” and the yearning for a legacy, the insatiable desire to be the best, to make your mark on the world. You want what the other person has so much that you lose sight of what you have. It’s easy to do. So how can we expel that hopelessness and turn it into something great? How can you be the best you if there truly is always someone better? 

Envy. It grows like a weed, and like a weed, it can take over and start to kill off flowers, or the good things in life. To beat envy, you need to find its roots and tear them out. Let’s find out how.

You are different- Stop Comparison!

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

You have hobbies, loves, interests. There will never, ever be another person exactly like you. And yet, that seems to get lost in seas of envy, comparison, anger. 

I’ve met people, had friends that seem like they are better in every way.

I had a great friend in elementary school who had the same interests. We played the same sport, had similar hobbies… it seems great, but for me? That was a double edged sword. Sure, we had fun, of course, but I always found myself comparing me to her. I worked hard in gymnastics, writing, and yet she was just… better. At the time it was easy to be jealous because she simply seemed like a better version of me. Prettier. More athletic, more trophies, won the award I had worked so hard to get. 

There will always be people like that- some worked hard to get to the place they are, but others seem to naturally be better. It can be infuriating when you try your best and someone else breezes past you without hardly any effort. 

Judging your skills and self-worth against someone else’s comes naturally. It’s called the Social Comparison Theory, says Psychology Today. It states that humans compare themselves to others- usually someone with similar characteristics as their own (like age or gender)- simply because it is biologically ingrained in us as a way to judge how you stack up in development and other areas (Social Comparison Theory- Psychology Today.)

But ultimately, though comparing is a natural thing, it causes stress, anxiety and self-loathing. Studies have shown that people who frequently compared themselves to others were more depressed and had less self-confidence than those who didn’t. Try to be a better person instead of trying to be better than someone else.

Monitor your “diet”

No, not your food diet! What you read, watch, listen to, and look at. Nowadays, there are millions upon millions of opportunities for jealousy. As technology advances, envy grows stronger, feeding off its new platforms like a smug demon puppeteering our society. With social media being as it is, jealousy runs rampant in the streams of people posting their highlights. 

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, all showing pictures of people having amazing times. Countless beauty magazines portraying women decked out in the finest clothes without a blemish on their skin and men with six-pack abs and bulging muscles. Celebrities sharing their wealth on Instagram, TV shows boasting billion-dollar mansions decorated to the max with gold filigree and gorgeous sprawling gardens that rival the Palace of Versailles. All of it cultivates a breeding ground for envy like never before. 

Poisoning our society with pressure to be like other people, to change yourself and who you are- it’s a real problem that only gets worse with the passing years. Unrealistic beauty expectations can cause body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia, unhealthy habits. Overwhelming envy of a celebrity (or even just a friend!) can cause depression and forms of anxiety. Envy goes deeper than momentary frustration. For many all across the world, it can be detrimental to their mental health and overall happiness.

To help eliminate any jealousy you may feel, you have to monitor your “diet.” Cut out anything that makes you feel like a lesser person, anything that gives you unhealthy desires. Skip the beauty magazine, don’t record the millionaire reality shows. Unfollow a celebrity on social media, stop scrolling through a successful friend’s pictures. Truly think about how things make you feel, if the simple things you do every day might be taking a toll in the long run. Make what you listen to, watch, and read things that have a positive impact on you and your self-confidence. It’s okay to want something you don’t have occasionally, but jealousy can be cured- and I guarantee you will be better off.

Think about what they aren’t showing you

Image from CNN

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

-Socrates

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Social media can be toxic! It warps our perception of people’s lives like a fun-house mirror, a bright facade slapped onto a dingy gray building. In the age of internet and social media, envy and jealousy is made easier than ever. You look at a post of a person on vacation, lounging on the beach with friends under a shining sun, and jealousy takes over. But you have to remember- you only see what they want you to see. 

Nobody takes pictures of their darkest days, crying on the couch surrounded by used-up tissues. Nobody shows the world how it stormed almost everyday on their tropical vacation, how they returned to the normal world in a week with a hundred chores and an overflowing inbox. It may seem like they have it all, but there are always hidden struggles behind the endless stream of smiling faces and beautiful photos.

The same thing applies to real life as well. You can never know what people have been/are going through. Festering envy can easily be cured if you imagine what they aren’t showing you, take the person who seems perfect and think about their dark days, how they have obstacles and fears and struggles just like you and everyone else. 

Better at a sport? More attractive? Good grades? It can be hard to fight back the yearning to be like someone else, but they may have had to work hard for their reward. You will always be happier and more content in your own body, doing your own work, no matter how it may not seem like it. By putting yourself in their shoes, you will find that you like your own much better. 

Sources used:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/social-comparison-theory

2 thoughts on “Envy- Why we feel it, how to get rid of it”

  1. “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”
    -Henry B. Eyring

    Liked by 1 person

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