I know, I know. I said I was going to focus on the food thing. But I couldn’t help but write about something that has been bothering me lately. First, to clarify for my grammar geek of a father: the word envy is defined as a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. (Thanks, Merriam-Webster) This word can be synonymous with jealousy, contingent upon the context. However, for the sake of simplicity, I feel as though envy is more of an all-encompassing word for what I want to talk about. Experiencing envy is human and extremely hard to avoid, but how do you know when you’ve reached too much?
Envy has been a thing for years– like 2,000+ years. They even talked about it in the Bible, and that sh*t is ancient. But why is this feeling of resentment so prominent in our lives, and why do we let it take over? Here’s a quick little tidbit of brain science: envy can actually get in the way of thinking about other things. Consistent with research on stress, researchers found that when individuals experienced feelings of envy, they were more likely to spend an extended amount of time completing a difficult task in which they had to unscramble letters to form words.
So basically, if you let it get to you, envy can be really, really detrimental to your success. Your thoughts will be overcome with negativity and it will be almost impossible to focus on other tasks. But the good thing about it is that you don’t have to let it get to you.
I truly believe that each and every person on this earth is capable of doing good. Whether they yield this power or not is a whole different discussion, but when we take a minute to look in the mirror (literally or figuratively) and reflect on our own positive attributes and successes, we are able to see this. Taking a few minutes out of our days to recognize the good within us is incredibly effective in alleviating feelings of envy.
What you shouldn’t do is let envy get in the way of your own success or the success of others. Tearing others down because they have something that you want is going to do nothing besides cause mutual feelings of resentment. On the other hand, wallowing in self-pity is ineffective in helping you accomplish your goals.
One thing we hear constantly in college is to go out and pursue our dreams. But it’s almost impossible to pursue your dreams with a big fat roadblock in the way. Envy acts as a roadblock to success. It makes us pause, think about things negatively, and distracts us from the ultimate goal. We can choose to stop at this roadblock and allow it to get to our heads, or we can choose to move past it and not give it the time of day.
While envy was around long before the digital age, social media has played a huge role in harboring feelings of envy among individuals. It’s so easy to log onto Facebook or Instagram and see photos of the cute kids, fun job, and awesome car that you don’t have. It’s easy to focus on the glamorous parts of others’ lives. But on the flip side, we don’t see the struggles and challenges of everyday life. Not many people like to post their hardships on social media, making social media a place for bragging and the beginning of envious feelings.
It is important to remember that not everything is as it seems. We can sit behind a screen and envy the photogenic aspects of people’s lives without even realizing that they might be doing the exact same thing to you. It’s completely human to want what you don’t have, but focusing on the things you do have is so much more beneficial.
Instead of harboring feelings of resentment, look into yourself and see the good that you are capable of. Use other successful individuals as inspiration, not targets for hatred.