No one in their right mind ever wishes ill-will upon another, right?
So why do we sometimes feel such a contradiction of emotions when someone we know has a good fortune? Why is it that we suddenly feel consumed by feelings of envy and disdain?
According to a paper from the University of California, San Diego, feelings of envy are much, much more common than you might guess. More than three fourths of all study participants reported experiencing envy over the past year (more so with women 79.4 percent versus men 74.1 percent).
So why is this? Is it natural to hate other people’s success?
Could it be because we suddenly feel inadequate with our own accomplishments?
Or does it have more to do with evolutionary instincts?
In this post, I’d like to dive into what it is that makes us feel this way. But more importantly, I’d like to see what skill we can use in overcoming envy. Perhaps the true battle has more to do with battling our own insecurities about who we are and what we’re capable of doing.
The Evolution of Envy
So first of all, is there anything inherently wrong with wanting what other’s have?
If you think about it in the context of our history as a species, absolutely not!
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, physiological needs (the needs for food, water, shelter, etc) rank as the most basic but most important layer of needs for human survival.
Since the days of cavemen, humans have banned together in small groups as a means for surviving. The strongest of the group could provide for the others who were not as lucky at hunting.
But this didn’t come without a price. The stronger and more “successful” of the group would get the best meals, find the best mates, and more likely live a longer life.
In our modern society, we can draw a lot of parallels. Though we’re no longer hunting for buffalo so that the tribe can eat that night, we do the same through our jobs.
Those who can work and provide for their families (through money from their paycheck) will provide the much needed food and shelter for their families.
But then it doesn’t stop there. Even after those basic needs are met, we still compete (sometimes aggressively) for other ranks within our social norms through the attainment of:
- Powerful job titles
- Higher salaries
- Better looking spouses
- Bigger houses
So then can we really blame ourselves if our DNA has been programmed by our ancestors of the past?
Feelings of Envy and Social Media
Ask yourself: How many times have you walked over to your colleague’s desk and fed into your own feelings of envy.
Your colleague holds a better job title than you and likely makes more money. But they might be younger or perhaps even more inexperienced. You see a picture on their desk of a happy, beautiful family on some exotic vacation. You can’t help but start to experience feelings of resentment. Or worse, you start to feel unsatisfied with what you have in your own life.
These feelings are not at all uncommon. And it doesn’t stop at the office. In fact, you don’t have to look much further than your own phone or computer screen.
According to mental health experts, Social media is a HUGE contributor to feelings of anxiety and envy. Every post and picture is carefully crafted, filtered, and cropped-down to feature the best of the best events in our lives. They serve as our proverbial trophies.
Post the most trophies, and socially, you’re the winner.
The rest of us … we can’t help but feel like the losers …
Overcoming Envy and Recognizing an Opportunity
One of the great things about our species is that it has the potential to evolve. And it is through the realization of what these things actually mean that we can find a way how to overcome envy and deal with the situation for what it is.
Here are a few of my tips and strategies.
1- Realize it’s all B.S.
Those outrageous social media posts. Happy times. 10,000 followers. Fancy vacations. Outward displays of wealth …
It’s all complete B.S. It’s all just nonsense.
If you were really a fly on the wall in the homes of your friends and co-workers, you’d see the same things that everyone else experiences: Bad days, fights, failures, … times you wouldn’t want anyone to know about it.
They’re just as normal and messed up as you. Don’t forget it.
2- Advertising is preying on you and making it worse.
As if people throwing their money around and social media wasn’t bad enough
Feelings of anxiety and envy are something that marketers are well aware of. And they won’t hesitate for one second to use it against you – even if that means preying upon your feelings in a desperate attempt for you to buy their garbage.
How many times have you opened your news feed or been walking through a mall, and everywhere you look, you see glamorous pictures of people living the high-life and having a great time (or better life than you).
Again, it’s all FAKE. It’s all carefully staged and designed to get you to believe in a lifestyle that you think you can “buy” your way into.
The problem is that, for most of us, that life can and never will exist. Recognize this for the complete B.S. it is.
3- Define success on your own terms.
Just because some people think having a powerful job position, more money, or a big house makes them out to be more than they really are doesn’t mean you have to.
You can define success any way you wish. If that means throwing yourself into your passion, pursing a hobby, helping out others, or doing something else to enrich other lives, than so be it! Live your life by your own terms, and don’t worry about what others think.
4- Hatred only consumes you.
Like we’ve said, it’s perfectly natural to feel envy and anxiety. But if you feel it building up into hatred, stop yourself and talk to someone.
Hatred can be dangerous and counterproductive to your own success. The resentment you might feel towards a co-worker, friend, or neighbor will only sabotage the relationships you could be building. In the end, the only person it will hurt is yourself. Don’t let it.
5- Nobody’s fault but my own.
To borrow a line from a really great Beck song, you need to realize that your life is “nobody’s fault but my own”.
You are the sum of your actions and decisions. Though you might want to blame others for your misfortune, what you choose to do each and every day with your time is up to you.
Take some responsibility and carve out the life you want instead of one you’re simply settling for.
6- Don’t get mad, get even.
Let your competitive side shine!
So maybe you really want that big promotion at work. Or maybe you want to achieve some big accomplishment.
Stop “wishing” for it and go do it already!
If you never try, then you can never expect to ever succeed.
7- Learn from their good fortune.
If there’s one good thing that can happen for you because of someone else’s good fortune, its this: You might learn what steps to take to get there.
This is absolutely why I love reading about the financial freedom success stories of those who have achieved early retirement. Every time I do, I pick up one or two new details or strategies that I can then blend into my own way for trying to accomplish the same thing.
8- Keep things in perspective.
Its okay to want more. We all do.
But sometimes we get so caught up in our desires that we forget about the things we DO have.
Don’t take for granted the things you HAVE accomplished and what it took to get there.
To someone else, you may be THEIR idea of success.
Readers – Confess! Do you feel just a little a little frustrated or angry over other people’s success? Be honest. More importantly, what do you do about overcoming envy?