Envy? Awesome? I don’t think so!
When I first felt jealousy it was like a shock to my system. I was gripped with an intense and controlling possessiveness that flew in the face of my usually generous nature.
Envy, on the other hand, is an old friend. Softer, but more insidious, I reckon it’s been with me since primary school – perhaps longer.
A word of clarification, in case you’re confused:
Envy is when someone has something that you want.
Jealousy is when you don’t want someone else to have something that you think you should have.
Anyways, back to Envy. The other day, a friend looked after my kids for me while I worked on a creative project. Afterwards, she admitted – I enjoyed playing with the kids, but to be honest, I’m envious of you. When do I get to work on my creative project?
The Ugly Face of Envy
The thing is, most of us don’t have a healthy way to be with our emotions. So when the feeling of envy arises in our bodies, it gets wrapped up in a whole lot of conditioning that doesn’t allow it’s true expression.
My friend was aware enough to notice her envy, and brave enough to confide her feelings in me without blaming.
But it ain’t always like that.
Whether we verbally express it or not, our response to envy can often be more like this:
It’s not fair. Why can’t I do that?
That’s pathetic. I bet I could do a better job than that!
How could they? Doing that is so selfish / irresponsible / crazy.
I’ll never be able to do that. I’m just not good enough like that person is.
I could do that, but I haven’t and I won’t. I don’t know why. I’m such a failure.
Let me give you a specific example.
I recently felt envious of a teacher and mentor of mine when she showed me photos of her latest skiing holiday in the Alps. My gut twisted. I didn’t want to look at her smiling face and snow white slopes. Irrational and angry words came out of nowhere, filling my thoughts with bile – That is so selfish and… irresponsible! What is she even doing there? And why is she rubbing it in my face? Gloating like that! She should be ashamed!
….Luckily I caught myself in the act, and instead of continuing to project my envy outwards, I started to listen inwards to what it was really saying underneath…
Wow. They are so lucky. They are having a holiday. I feel stressed and unsupported. I wish I could have a holiday like that, but I’m worried that we don’t have a budget for a holiday right now. I never feel like we can afford a holiday… But is that really true? I feel powerless in this area, but I’m not really… If I really wanted to prioritise this, I could save up for my own skiing holiday. Or to do something else that I love. And you know what? What I really want right now is a rest – some time out from the intensity of work and parenting. And I can actually think of a few ways to give myself that which don’t cost anything at all!
When Envy feels awesome
This inner listening, while confronting because it exposed my own selfish and immature thought patterns, was also revealing and healing. It allowed me to see where my thoughts were holding me back from stepping into a whole new possibility in my life. It opened a door enough for me to see a glimmer of where I could go and how I could grow next, to fulfil what my heart was truly longing for…. A priceless gift!
So what’s actually happening here?
When you feel an aching to have what someone else has, it’s easy to get confused and consider that you yourself are longing for an external thing – I want more money like that person has. I want to be famous like that person. I want to be prominent and successful. To see that someone else apparently has these things can feel like rubbing salt into the wound of your own lack. And the pain intensifies even further if you tell yourself that it is your own inadequacy that has caused your lack, or that you will never be able to afford or deserve this thing you are longing for.
Most of us, not knowing what to do with this pain, will jump to the negative and defensive thought patterns that are probably meant to make us feel better, but rarely even succeed to do that.
These thought patterns can be seductive and convincing, but they are probably not true! The truth is more likely that someone is doing something wonderful, and they are mirroring your own potential to do something wonderful. And if you haven’t been fulfilling that potential, that might be painful to admit, and it might take you some time to be truly open with them.
But what if that ache didn’t have to be avoided?
In fact, what if it were a gift to unwrap? or a sweet inner child to attend to? What if the ache of emptiness and longing was put in your body and being by the same force of the infinite universe that created the thing you are longing for.
Listening to your Envy
If envy comes up for you in your life, work or business, it’s worth taking the time to listen to it and hear what it’s really saying. Notice what you are envious of, and ask yourself – how have I been holding myself back or blocked in this area? And what could I do now to change that?
And in this way, you can get from envious, competitive thinking to celebrative, inspiring thinking that feels awesome, and can open new possibilities for your life and business.