In Comparison: Identifying the Role of Envy in Our Lives


In Comparison: Identifying the Role of Envy in Our Lives

So, what is envy? Envy is the desire to have what someone else has, whether that be possessions, relationships, or status. Envy can be triggered by seeing someone else’s success, or by comparing yourself to others.  Envy is a powerful, but often hidden, emotion. It’s a feeling of discontent or covetousness aroused by the sight of someone else’s superiority or good fortune. To envy someone is to want what they have, even if acquiring it would bring no real benefit to oneself.

Envy is a complex and powerful emotion that is often difficult to understand. It can be triggered by anything from someone’s possessions to their accomplishments. It can be harmful because it can lead to feelings of resentment and hostility.  

There are many ways envy can manifest. It can be directed toward others who have what you want or toward people who have what you don’t want. It can also be directed at people who are perceived as being worse off than you are or at people who have something you think you need.

Envy is often sparked by comparison. We see someone who has something we want – a nice car, a great job, a beautiful home – and it’s natural to feel some level of envy.  Envy is a complex emotion, but it’s typically rooted in feelings of dissatisfaction and insecurity.  We might experience emotional envy when we see someone else enjoying something that we want for ourselves. It can be viewed as a negative emotion that can lead to feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and even anger.

What makes envy so complicated is that it can be both positive and negative – it can drive us to achieve great things, or lead to bitterness and resentment.  Envy can corrode relationships, undermine our self-esteem, and even lead to depression.  Despite its destructive potential, envy can also be a powerful motivator. It can drive us to achieve great things, and in some cases it can even help us to develop a more compassionate outlook on life.  

Envy is often driven by distorted thinking, or the tendency to compare ourselves to others in a way that is not only unhelpful, but can actually be harmful. When we start to focus on the things that other people have and we don’t, it can lead to feelings of inferiority, resentment, and even jealousy.

Envy or Jealousy?

Envy is often confused with jealousy, but there are key differences between the two emotions.  Envy is a feeling of wanting what someone else has. You may see someone with a great job, a beautiful home, or a nice car and feel envy because you want what they have. Jealousy is feeling threatened by someone else’s success or possessions. You may see someone with a great job and feel jealous because you are afraid that you might lose your own job.

When we experience envy, it often feels like we are not good enough. We feel like we are not worthy of what we desire.  If we want to counterbalance the resentment that we might feel towards someone, it can be helpful to check the facts of the situation.  To recognize what it is that we envy and to consider what we are needing.  Allow yourself to turn the emotion into a motivation to set new goals if there is a desire to achieve a particular result, as well as to incorporate gratitude where recognizing our own accomplishments can become grounding.

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