Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own. ~Harold Coffin
Is it hard for you to be happy for someone else’s good fortune? Even more, does someone else’s joy make your blood boil? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, then you suffer from envy.
What Is Envy and Why It Hurts
Envy is the feeling induced when we covet what another person has. Let’s separate out the envy we feel over someone else’s success and their possessions from the jealousy we feel over flirtatious behavior that other’s get from our partner. We’ll get to the feeling of jealousy another day.
“Envy is an emotion. Period. It is a feeling and you can control it,” said Elissa Grunblatt, Owner/President of South Bay Counseling who treats Depression Therapy on Long Island.
Let’s say your sibling gets a promotion or your best friend gets a new car while you receive none of those things. You may feel a combination of anger and inadequacy. Your inner voice might be saying, “Shouldn’t I be getting those things?” “How come they won and I lost?”
Those thoughts and the feelings associated with them are valid. You feel passed over for what you believe you are entitled to. It’s what you do next that counts. Do you continue to let the anger and inadequacy build until you poison your thoughts? If you don’t make an effort to discourage negative thinking, you will hurt your self-esteem. Do you challenge your belief system? For example, are you really entitled to the things others have? Did you work as hard as they did? Do you have their skill or talent? Maybe it’s simply not the right time to receive those things.
Sometimes life is unfair in that others are born with advantages you will never have. It’s ok and even beneficial to acknowledge them. If you are short, you will never have the same experiences that a tall person has. If you were born into poverty, you will likely not have the same upbringing as someone who comes from wealth. The past can’t change, all will not be equal, and there will be an uneven distribution of benefits. If you behave from a place of envy, you will not see your own path to getting what you want.
How to Control the Feeling of Envy
You may feel you have no control over your emotions, but, in fact, you do. Your initial reaction of envy may be fleeting. From there, you can consciously decide how you will react in thoughts and feelings and in your behavior.
Try reframing what occurred so that it is slightly more acceptable. For example, “Yes, my friend got a $75,000 BMW, but when I think of having his car payments, I’m glad I have a Honda!” Or when feeling envy over a family member who lives in a million-dollar home, you can say to yourself, “I would have to work long, stressful hours to afford something like that, which I don’t want to do.”
Let the feeling of envy propel you toward your goals. Why stop at feeling bad for what you don’t have? Make a list of what you would have to do to attain what you want and take the first step on the list. The feeling of envy will dissipate.
You can also try to limit the amount of negative thinking/feeling you allow yourself within a day. As envy arises and moves you away from goal-oriented behavior, tell yourself to stop thinking about those thoughts. Only you can control your thoughts/feelings.
We envy people—their goods and achievements—believing what they have is the true cause of happiness. But once you start to question that belief, you realize that happiness is created via good relationships and a positive attitude.
Elissa Grunblatt, LCSW-R is the Owner/President of South Bay Counseling LCSW, PC, a multi-clinician outpatient counseling center located in Amityville, NY and Huntington, NY
For more information on how to treat Envy or to schedule an appointment, contact SouthBay Counseling LCSW at (631) 264-0058 today.