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How to Stop Being Envious of Others

By: Brian Kim - October 16, 2006

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Envy. It’s one of those emotions we’d like to admit we don’t have, but we do. It’s a very powerful one and if not kept in check, can lead you down roads you do NOT want to travel. Roads that lead to jealousy, depression, resentment, hate, anger, loss of personal power, and great unbalance in your work, social, and personal life.

In terms of the context of this article, being envious of others simply refers to being envious of another person’s possessions. That’s a broad area which includes natural talents, abilities, looks, material possessions, etc.

So why do people become envious of others?

It all comes down to focusing on two things.

1. Too much focus on personal lack.

2. Too much focus on others.

Too much focus on personal lack.

I don’t have his/her intelligence. I don’t have his/her good looks. I don’t have my neighbor’s new car. I don’t have my co-workers cool new cell phone. I don’t have my classmates’ cool new clothes.

I don’t have, I don’t have, I don’t have.

That’s the common theme here isn’t it? The catalyst that seems to sparks envy.

You state what you don’t have and then you state what that means to you.

I don’t have his/her intelligence. I must be dumb. I’ll never be smart enough to do anything.

I don’t have his/her good looks. I’m hideous. Nobody will ever like me.

I don’t have my neighbor’s new car. I must not be cool.

To solve this, let’s cut out the root part, which is the “I don’t have” part, so you don’t start spiraling out of control.

So how do we solve the “I don’t have” dilemma? The logical step would be to state what we do have, but let’s take a step back and discuss one important principle first.

We’re all unique.

Yes, you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. We are all unique.

I don’t care if you have an exact identical twin, if both of you have been fed the same food, or if both of you have been brought up the exact same way. We are all unique. Period.

No two people in the history of the universe have ever led identical lives. Every person is made up of entirely different ingredients that comprise of genes, thoughts, emotions, experiences, and feelings that are all mixed together at different moments and blended at different times which make up who they are.

Given the fact that we are all unique, it makes no sense to compare yourself to other people since the concoctions that make up who we are, are so radically different.

Never forget that you are truly a unique individual.

So what is it that makes you unique?

Now is the time to write down what you do have.

Stop underestimating yourself. You know you have some qualities about you that other people don’t have. Do you know how ludicrous it sounds to be naming off all the qualities that other people have when you don’t even think of doing it to yourself?

Take out a piece of paper and really start to look within and start writing. See what it is that you have, not what you don’t. We all have something about ourselves that ironically enough, other people envy about us.

Once you start to focus on what makes you unique, you stop becoming envious of other people because your previous identity was made up of what other people had and what you didn’t. In other words, your identity never really existed because it was made entirely outside of you. Now that you focus on what you do have, your identity begins to take solid internal shape. Realize you are unique, that you have a lot to offer, and stop relying on others to define who you are which bring us to:

Too much focus on others.

We each have our own journey. Define it by clarifying what YOU want out of it. Don’t get trapped into thinking we all want the same things. You’re a very unique individual. What one person may want, you may not necessarily want. Get clear on what you want so you don’t waste time and energy being envious of people who have what you may think you want.

American society has conditioned us to believe that we want the BMW, the high paying salary job, the trophy wife, and two kids at home. Some may genuinely want it, but I’m guessing the majority don’t.

We all have different values that we work for. Some might value health more than wealth, so they’ll spend time eating healthy and exercising. Those people will not be envious of the wealthy. In fact, they may even pity them for trading their health for wealth.

Others may value family over wealth, so they will take the jobs that allow them to spend as much time with their family as possible. They, as well, will not be envious of those who are financially well off as their journey points to family, not to wealth.

Once you clarify what you want, what your journey is, you block out everything else.

If your journey is to become the best teacher at your school, you don’t become envious of other people who are movie stars.

Why?

Because that’s their journey, not yours.

You know what happens when you clarify what you want and start to focus on your own journey?

Your envy turns to genuine admiration and inspiration.

In other words, it starts working FOR you.

Going back to the person whose journey is to become the best teacher, he may look at movie stars and realize just how hard they must’ve worked to get there instead of being green with envy for their good fortune. He will then start realizing all the positive aspects of others, the guy who must’ve worked hard to get that BMW, the person who must’ve spent hours in the gym sculpting that body, the marathon runner who trained for years to place 1st in the race. That admiration can then lead to inspiration, which can be used to fuel his own quest.

Once you begin to learn to appreciate other people’s circumstances, you start to appreciate your own as well.

You become thankful for your circumstances instead of thinking you're handicapped because of them.

I’ll admit, when I was young, I was envious of the kids at school who had parents who were financially well off. I would envy all the presents they got, the cool clothes they wore, and the cars their parents bought them. But when I started focusing on my own journey to become the best I could be, I started to appreciate how hard those kid’s parents must’ve worked to provide their children with a comfortable life. I then looked at my own circumstances in childhood that were filled with financial hardships and I realized that I was blessed because of them. Those hardships were there to shape me, to propel me to become the very best I could be and without them, I would have never undertaken my own personal journey.

So how will you know when you’ve truly stopped being envious of others?

When you genuinely feel happy for the good things that happen to them in their lives.

And the ironic thing is that mindset is something that a majority of people would envy having.

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7 Responses to “How to Stop Being Envious of Others”

  1. Prasanna S Says:

    There is a difference between being envious and being competitive, sometimes in trying to be a competitive and a better personality than somebody, one may become envious, so in that case do you think we should bury the competitive instincts because it may lead to envy?

  2. Brian Kim Says:

    Hi Prasanna,

    In my opinion, you can be competitive without being envious, so long as you compete with yourself in terms of being the best YOU can be, not trying to be like the people you’re competing with.

  3. How to turn the ugly, green-eyed monster into a very Cool Broad Says:

    […] Brian Kim, a popular author of several self improvement books, argues that once you clarify what you want and focus on your own journey, your envy of others will turn into genuine admiration and inspiration. […]

  4. Prasanna S Says:

    I am reading this article for the 4th or 5th time and I can’t resist to comment again, being an aggressive person I sometimes think others as my competitors and this article really pacifies that thought, thanks.

  5. Brian Kim Says:

    No problem Prasanna. I’m glad the article is able to help in that regard.

  6. Emily Says:

    This is a fantastic article and I wanted to thank you for your help. :) I have struggled with this problem my whole life; I easily envy others and end up resenting either them or myself because of it. It’s a struggle to try to change this, and advice like yours are aiding me in my journey. Thank you. :)

  7. Brian Kim Says:

    Emily,

    You’re very welcome. I’m so glad you’re taking this journey!

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