Envy gets a bad rap. It all began in the Bible, where the tenth commandment reads, “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or belongings.” Following that commandment essentially means that you banish all envy from your life. Shakespeare agreed, writing that jealousy is the “green eyed monster.” We generally don’t feel good when we envy someone and it can be embarrassing to admit that we feel envy. It’s such a powerful emotion that it can make people nasty and hateful.
It’s hard to completely squash out envy. What are we to do if we really wish we had that person’s car…house…credential…job…spouse…life…? Is it really so terrible to aspire to something different? Is it truly wrong to like what others have, are and do? In my opinion, it’s only a bad thing if we treat it as a negative, and turn that envy into negativity or become a hater.
I choose to transform my envy into inspiration.
If I pay close attention, my feelings of envy are clues into what I really want in life. It’s so critical to define our goals; if we don’t know where we are going, we float along and life just happens. And yet strangely…sometimes it’s hard to identify what we really want.
I often tell clients who are struggling to define career goals to tune into to people they envy. Focus in on that which they are literally jealous of and they will have clues into what they really want to do and be. I have a whole circle of people that I admire for different reasons, and I keep an eye on them because they inspire me to go where I want to. If I feel that itch of not liking someone, I take a closer look and often realize that there is something they are doing that I want to be doing.
It’s quite liberating to view envy as a positive signal and in fact, transform it into a tool that propels me to better.
Next time you feel envy, take a moment to dissect that emotion and consider whether there is something that you can pull out of it to inspire you. And if you are struggling to define what it is that you want in life, reflect on who you envy and why, and you may find clues.
What do you think? Are haters just gonna hate…or can we leverage envy as a positive tool and become something better?