Have Problems With Envy? Let’s Talk

Do you have problems with envy (jealousy)?

If your answer is yes, and you want to overcome it, choose one of the three possible solutions below. Afterwards, I will share my thoughts on each one, and which one I think works best for me.

Possible Solutions

1. Find a religion that teaches you that your value is greater by believing certain truths about yourself.

2. Find a self-help organization that helps you improve yourself by setting and accomplishing goals.

3. Recognize that envy can be good, because it motivates you to reach your ultimate capacity.

1. Find A Religion . . .

I did this. I became closely aligned with a religion that taught me I could become like god. If there was anything that could overcome my envy of others it was the thought of becoming a god. The peers I envied couldn’t do better than that, especially if they weren’t members of my religion.

The downside of a belief like this is you might take it too far; it can transfer to a feeling of superiority. Feeling superior merely because you believe a certain way can become a social narcotic. Meaning: we may get dazed by embracing such lofty beliefs and fail to think through them thoroughly enough. Believing without knowing why you believe often results in defensiveness if and when challenged to rationally defend your beliefs. If that happens fear very often replaces envy. You become afraid to engage in thorough discussion of your beliefs. Trading one problem for another problem may not end up being much of a deal.

2. Engage In Self-Help

I also did this. My self-improvement program came from my church. I progressed greatly, even maybe profoundly on a personal level. My particular church was maybe the greatest self-improvement association in the world. I took full advantage of almost every opportunity presented to me. With growing confidence I went forward unafraid to compare my accomplishments against others, especially those whom I most envied.

My mistake was in concluding that my church was PRIMARILY a self-improvement association. It expected loyalty and obedience to its doctrines in exchange for the resources it spent on training me and helping me to develop and progress. In other words such an investment on their part required a return on investment (logical). So at some point the self-improvement portion ends and the deep obedience on my part begins.

The downside to this is that self-improvement is a lifelong quest. One that must be pursued throughout one’s life if it is to meet its ultimate goal of developing a fairly self-actualized person.

3. Envy Is Good

Envy is in us in order to survive and constantly strive.

I concluded that feelings of envy can serve as an internal signal that we are not working up to our fullest capacity (Nietzsche). Envy motivates us to stretch ourselves. It demands that we set goals and strive to accomplish them with the force and will of our individual personalities (Schopenhauer).

In doing so, envy facilitates a breakthrough in self-knowledge. The more I extend myself to my full capacity, the more insight I receive about myself. Why? The assumption is that doing leads to knowing. For example, if you create a thoroughly personal goal, and you work through all of what it takes to accomplish the goal, at the end you will have noticed all of what’s inside you that came alive in order to accomplish the goal. After that, if harder goals are created, you once again can observe a fuller extension of what’s inside of you, hence developing a fuller and deeper insight in what makes you tick. The result is that over a life time, you not only have accomplished things, you have also come to know and appreciate the fullest extension of your personality. Also, envy is seen for what it really is – a personal response that wakes you up and gets you going.

The challenge to this approach is there never quite seems to be a satisfactory end when it comes to self-knowledge. Happiness comes in spurts upon completion of a hard achieved goal. Shortly after, however, “restlessness” sets in. No matter how much personal wealth and comfort you may have achieved as a result of your efforts to improve, life begins to seem less meaningful if self-improvement is not pursued continuously.

Creating goals becomes a constant imperative. Each time goals are created the hope is that they are worthy goals and improve the world. This cycle continues until death.

Which One Would I Vote For?

I have a saying that I will do anything to get through the day. Meaning: I don’t believe there is just one way that humans can overcome challenges in life. Hence, the three options above have been used by me with varying degrees of success. If put in similar positions I may use them again.

However, if I had to pick, it would be number (3). I like it because its internal logic is strongest. It makes the most sense regarding the most reasonable approach in overcoming weaknesses – in this instance, ENVY.

For example, to my way of thinking self-improvement must be an end unto itself. It should not have to compete with other objectives (2) for time and attention. When it comes to self-improvement, there can be no “this for that” exchange. Although that is most often what happens, happens when you participate and are involved in organizations; nevertheless, true self-improvement, authentic self-knowledge and the resulting erasing of envy is a personal endeavor void of all outside crutches. It’s a journey only you can take with yourself. If possible, you set a goal at point zero, and you move independently through barriers until you accomplish what you set out to do. The result is twofold: the accomplishment of the deed and a small discovery of who you are. Self-discovery has the effect of waking you up to yourself. Envy leaves, not because it is overcome, but because it was used in the right way. The prize is the contentment of knowing yourself.

Embracing exotic beliefs (1) can shield people from unpleasant mental and emotional states such as the internal torment of envy. But merely accepting a belief in order to feel better, is a battle too easily won. The logic of doing it this way is faulty. Beliefs are embraced, not necessarily because they are right, but because they are powerful analgesics which cover over various personal struggles like envy. Very often they have an unintended result: instead of curing the envy, it creates a false sense of superiority. Eventually the pain killer wears off and we find ourselves back to where we started – envious.

It’s best to be cautious with beliefs. Instead, it’s better to use envy as a leveraging tool to create personal goals, the hard won achievement of which, brings us a little closer to knowing and accepting ourselves. Envy is used to push us forward so we can appreciate and enjoy a degree of satisfaction of what we have brought forth with our own grit, perseverance, and most of all our own valued self.