I’m no stranger to jealousy. While I like to think I’m not driven by material things, I must confess that I still find myself longing for more from time to time. For example, there’s this lovely, big house with a wrap-around porch and spacious sunroom just around the corner from me. It’s called White Oaks. Every time I walk by it, envy strikes as I imagine this scenario:
Daughter (opens front door): Mom, I’m home!
Me (standing in the kitchen): I’m in the kitchen!
Now that I think about it, it’s kind of odd that I dream of owning this multi-million-dollar home, yet I still see myself in the kitchen trying to figure out what to cook the family for dinner. I mean, if you’re going to dream big, why not throw in a personal chef?
Anyway, here’s the thing: when envy strikes, we become filled with resentment, which only serves to breed discontent. What if, instead of resenting others for their lucky breaks, we used our energy to cheer them on and be thankful for our own?
When envy strikes, try celebrating somebody else’s win like it’s your own.
I have a friend, Claire. She has two teenage boys, one of whom will remain as dependent as a toddler for the rest of his life. He is wheelchair bound. Subsequently, so is she. But here’s the thing about Claire: she expresses the same degree of enthusiasm over a wheelchair-friendly hiking trail as I do over a five-star beachside resort.
She realizes wheelchairs don’t do well on beaches. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t love to visit one. Of course, she would. She knows exactly how much pleasure a beach has to offer — and that’s precisely why she rejoices in my good fortune when I tell her I’m Mexico-bound.
In all the years I’ve known her, she hasn’t once demonstrated resentment towards me or made me feel like a privileged brat. She sends me on my way with good wishes and asks me for the juicy details when I return. I’m not saying she doesn’t feel envy. She’s admitted to me that she occasionally does, but she makes a point of getting a grip on the green-eyed monster before it gets a grip on her — because she knows it serves no benefit.
Yeah, she’s pretty exceptional. We could all learn a lot from Claire.
When envy strikes, remember, nobody has it all, no matter how it looks.
I’m guessing that even those mortgage-free friends — the ones who retired at 55 and now spend six months of every year traveling — have their fair share of s*** to deal with.
When I started dating my husband, he was living in New York and I was living in Toronto. We maintained a long-distance relationship for more than two years. Once a month, there I was, being wined and dined in Manhattan. I’m not gonna lie; those weekends were fun and my life looked amazing on Facebook. More times than I can count, friends and colleagues would mutter, “must be nice,” or, “boy, I’d like your life.” Meanwhile, what I would have given not to be in that situation.
You see, those weekends were just one snapshot of my life. The other snapshots included me, rattling around a house in the suburbs with a seven-year-old because my ex-husband had decided after 10 years of marriage that he didn’t feel good in my company. And that, folks, was the end of that.
When envy strikes, tame it, and if that fails, channel it.
According to positive psychology expert Tim Lomas, there are two types of envy. There’s vicious envy, which is “the simple resentment of another person’s success that manifests in the desire to haul them down into the mud.” That kind of envy is ugly. It breeds nothing but contempt.
Then there’s emulative envy. That’s the kind of envy you want to channel. Emulative envy “is akin to admiration … If used wisely this kind of positive envy can help us to clarify our goals and values, illuminate our path towards them and drive us forward to achieve them.”
In the case of White Oaks, vicious envy would have me bitching about how smug the owners look, sitting out there on their porch with coffee in hand, acting like they’re better than the rest of us. Damn them.
Emulative envy, on the other hand, would have me calling a meeting with our financial advisor to explore income generating strategies that might enable us to buy our own White Oaks, albeit a smaller one, in a town with a population of 5,000 or less because realistically we’ll never be able to afford one in the city!
– Read more from Tim Lomas on taming the green-eyed monster –
Last but not least, count your blessings.
Next time envy strikes and you’re comparing yourself to someone who has more than you, STOP, picture someone who has less than you and then resume. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find you have a whole lot to be grateful for. As for that green-eyed monster, you’ll be able to kiss him goodbye, at least for a while.
Envy, at least the vicious kind, is one helluva beast. I’m doing my best to tame that monster. Here’s wishing you the strength to do the same.
Viv for today xo
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