Radical Advice: Working with Envy

The new Disney version of the Cinderella fable departs from other popular versions in that it focuses on Cinderella’s capacity for courage and kindness.  This is especially poignant in the midst of the envy and cruelty of her stepmother and sisters.

While I’m generally critical of sanitized versions of myths that tend to send the wrong message to young girls about beauty and being saved by a prince, the story offers valuable insights.

landscape_nrm_1423671687-gallery_1423669515-capture_decran_2015-02-11_a_104050_amJealousy is thinking someone or something else will get in the way of you getting your loved one’s affection.   Envy, on the other hand, is directed at another wanting their qualities, success, or possessions.

Too often our human tendency is to make comparisons and assume others have it easier or better than us.  We compare our lives with an idealized version of someone else’s.

When these feelings crop up our tendency might be to make their happiness less significant or ignore our feelings of envy altogether.

What if we had a different approach?  What if we acknowledged and claimed our own envy?

Let’s say I get stirred up looking at a picture of a friend vacationing on a Caribbean island with her “amprince-cinderella-headerazing life” while I’m at home procrastinating from doing work. I might blame them saying they’re self-aggrandizing.  Or I can tell myself they’re not really happy, it’s just a facade.  Or I may hide them from my social media feed for fear it will further lower my self esteem.

When the truth is:  what gets stirred up is envy.  I’m envious of the beauty, joy, celebration and connection displayed.  Yes, we all know it’s an image and we can question the truth of it.

Yet the image represents something I want.  Something good I think I can’t have.  So I diminish it.  I make it small so I won’t have to be with my longing, my desire or my emptiness.

Reading Cinderella and Her Sisters , by two Jungian analysts,  really helped me look at and embrace my own envy (and the ways I might be envied).  The book helped me uncover some important insights.

5 Steps to Own and Transform Envy

1. Acknowledge envy.  Am I envious of someone else’s success or  happiness?  Am I hating?  Harboring resentment? Questioning or reducing the good in the other person?  Making negative comparisons?

When I have the urge to roll my eyes at someone else’s triumph or happiness I can tune in to my own response to it.  Does it make me uncomfortable because I want the same thing?  Do I think I won’t get it?  Am I envious wondering why they get all the good while I have none?

2. Notice the good.   What does that other person have that I might want?    What is fundamentally good or positive about the other person’s circumstance?

What goodness is represented here?  Connection, joy, peace, success, aliveness, passion…

3. Affirm the good.  Send a message that the person deserves the good you perceive.

 Like the photo on FB.  Send the person good vibes.  Congratulate them. Affirm them. Encourage them.

4. Tell yourself you deserve that same goodness. Envision yourself enjoying something similar. Let yourself have the desire.

I see the goodness in what I perceive.  I deserve goodness.  I deserve blessings.  I deserve happiness.

5. Affirm there’s enough goodness to go around. Someone else having it won’t prevent you from having your own goodness too. It’s true you won’t magically lose 20 lbs or grow 6 inches. But you can celebrate your physical form, the love in your life, your unique talents and blessings.

I acknowledge and affirm my desires and ask for what I really want.

Bring your awareness to how you might feel diminished in the face of someone else’s happiness and affirm your right to be happy too.

8 thoughts on “Radical Advice: Working with Envy

  1. I love this post, Eloiza. This is a topic that needs more air and light brought to it. Envy is normal and human yet, I often feel ashamed when I experience it. Thank you for reaching out with your clear voice and helping us turn it into wisdom.

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