Envy is a destructive emotion, but these practices will help it become a problem of the past.
Envy causes many people great misery. It consists of suffering as a result of the good of others, being unable to be happy about their positive traits or accomplishments, and experiencing their success as some sort of personal failure. Envy embitters us and makes us unhappy.
This negative emotion is produced especially by two tendencies: wanting what you cannot have, and continuously comparing yourself to others. It implies poor self-esteem and insecurity.
The increasingly narcissistic and self-referential worldview that so many hold in our post-modern world, along with the “ideals” imposed by a pervasive consumerist society — ideals that are far too often unattainable for a large majority of citizens — are a fertile breeding ground for these types of feelings. Some people today agonize over the number of social media followers their colleagues have or over the positive comments and compliments their friends receive from other people.
Envy leads to a lack of empathy. An envious person doesn’t know how to put himself in another person’s shoes, nor be happy for him or cultivate healthy relationships.
There are two things we need to do to overcome envy. One, we need to strengthen our own self-esteem and sense of security. We need to understand that our true value comes from who we are, not from what we have, and that the appreciation of others — while pleasant — isn’t a reliable indicator of our virtue or goodness.
This requires learning to judge our personal progress against ourselves, not others. Accepting, loving, and being happy for being who I am frees me from needing to compare myself with others.
We also need to increase our empathy towards others, shifting the focus from ourselves outward. We need to learn to admire others and appreciate their success, celebrating with them and praising them sincerely. Admiring another person implies taking our eyes off of ourselves in order to contemplate with gratitude all the good and the positive things we witness outside of ourselves. The happiest people are those who know how to be grateful and happy for all that is good – no matter who has attained it.
Exercising daily the habit of sincerely praising others and being truly grateful for the good of another not only opens our eyes and expands our ability to admire others, but it changes our heart by making us less self-centered and better able to rejoice with another.
Admiration helps us learn and grow
Admiration needn’t make us feel inferior, but rather it should motivate us to want to know more, to improve ourselves, and to learn from others. From childhood we learn to admire those who inspire us to be better people, who move us to learn more and broaden our view of life and of ourselves.
Admiring human qualities and the virtues of others is a source of motivation to build a life of personal growth and constant improvement. To grow as human beings, it’s important to spend time with people who inspire us and who communicate to us their joy of living and their desire to help others.
Admiration has nothing to do with idealizing others, nor with unrealistic images that later turn into disappointment. To admire is to contemplate realistically the virtues that exist in others, the good to which we can aspire, and in which we wish to persevere.
So, go ahead: be grateful, admire all the good that comes to you and others, and you will be happy – without the envy.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?