A few things to think about when envy strikes

A few things to think about when envy strikes

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?

envy strikes image 1

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.

envy strikes image 2

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.”

envy strikes quote

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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By |2018-09-12T16:40:12+00:00September 12th, 2018|21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Lindsey September 12, 2018 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Well said! So that means I have to get my own killer thigh high boots instead of hating how great you look in yours? …. Can I borrow your legs?

    • Viv September 12, 2018 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      Trade them for your cleavage?

  2. Lindsey September 12, 2018 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Touché!
    Maybe we could have an exchange program.

  3. Stephanie Vazquez September 13, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Emulative envy… I like that! Instead of comparing… learn from what you don’t have and grow! I never thought of envy that way. Thanks for bringing this to light!

    • Viv September 13, 2018 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie!

  4. Jennifer Dagi September 13, 2018 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Lovely post! We all need to learn how to control and channel envy before it destroys us!

    • Viv September 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      Like CPR, I think it’s a lesson we all need a recap on from time to time.

  5. Cathy Tubb September 13, 2018 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    “If you can’t tame it, channel it.” That’s really good advice Viv – you’ve given me some food for thought…again.

    • Viv September 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      Glad to be of service, Cathy 🙂

  6. Devyani Ray September 13, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Count your blessing- Sums up everything! Not everyone can have everything. Love your post.

    • Viv September 14, 2018 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Devyani!

  7. Evelyn Hernandez September 14, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

    No reason to envy anyone’s life as we do not know the pain or path they had to take to reach their current situation.

    • Viv September 14, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      So true, Evelyn!

  8. Jeferson September 16, 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Wow i like that one…..emulative envy……. We should be inspired instead by someone’s success…… And stop comparing because there’s always better or lesser than you…….

    • Viv September 17, 2018 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Bingo!

  9. claire stoten September 16, 2018 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks Viv for your kind words about me. And it is true, I do feel envy, plenty of times when I witness other families/couples having the freedom to go ‘off road’ where ever that may be. But my envy is neither ‘vicious’ or ’emulative’. As you already know, I wouldn’t want to bring a friend down just because there’s things she can do that I can’t, and of course I am pleased if someone I care about has good fortune (you would too). But I also don’t see my envy as one that I can channel into finding a way to achieve or emulate what others are doing when it’s quite simply not physically possible. However, as you also put so well; there is always someone worse off, many in fact; and having met many disabled families along the way, I often come away feeling grateful for all the things my son DOESN’T have.

    Keep on writing Viv, you’ve really found your calling.

    • Viv September 17, 2018 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      You’re so right, Claire. I think Tim Lomas is right in pointing out vicious and emulative as two distinct types, but there are others. What is amazing about you, my dear friend, is that you neither deny it nor channel it, as you say, but being the genuinely ‘good’ person you are, you certainly tame it. And your ability to feel gratitude for what your son doesn’t have is a testament to that. On a side note, I remain transfixed over what he does have: a joyful heart, a beautiful smile, the most sparkly eyes, and when I’m playing my cards right – a big crush on me!

  10. Toni Blay September 16, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Beautifully written (again) Viv. Going to check my green envy at the door and turn it into a beautiful Emerald City (of 5000 or less) where I live and breathe. Thank you so much for sharing and prompting alternative thinking!

    • Viv September 17, 2018 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Now that’s such a beautiful picture — a beautiful Emerald City. I shall hold that image close.

  11. melissa September 17, 2018 at 9:52 am - Reply

    That’s right always count your blessings. I think it’s normal to feel envy but the thing is to know how to get out of the vibe. What i personally do is pray so i can cancel that envy feeling i might be feeling.

  12. Krish September 17, 2018 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Beautiful articles..everyone experiences envy..response is what matters…very difficult to control reactions but its a must…nice suggestions to control envy..

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