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How Envy Demotivates You From Becoming What You Want to Be

How Envy Demotivates You From Becoming What You Want to Be

Do you ever fall into the wormhole that is Instagram-stalking? You know what I’m talking about: you see a photo (perhaps someone you know, perhaps something on the popular page) and you tap it. Before you know it, you’ve been stalking this person for hours, trying to better understand their life. They have a great body, a cute significant other. They take pictures in front of gorgeous scenery (maybe because they travel a lot) and they have selfies from glamorous corner offices.

What started as a fun time-killing photo binge turns into a sad ego-killing hour or so that ends in you resenting your body, your less-than-glamorous job and maybe even your single relationship status. How did you get here? Weren’t you just having a perfectly happy day? A small voice in your head tells you those people only post the pretty-seeming aspects of their life, but they leave out all the bad days and embarrassing moments. But the louder voice tells you that you don’t measure up to this person inside your phone.

Envy — the Demon and the Angel

Envy. We know it as one of the 7 deadly sins, but what is it really? Jealousy in itself is a biting emotion that makes us feel bitter and even hateful toward a person (whether we know them or not). Envy has to do with feeling unhappy about someone else’s happiness. Be it professional success or personal, when you see their achievements, you instantly start comparing them to yours.

Interestingly, envy helped us evolve as a species. It’s all about the competition and social comparison that forces us to self-evaluate. In a healthy scenario, we would see someone’s success and find motivation to match their achievements. But when it comes to envy, we instead want what that person has and we desire it so much that we feel unhappy and even angry about it.[1]

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Even if you don’t think you’re guilty of the social media envy I mentioned earlier, there’s a high probability you’ve still envied someone recently. Maybe you found yourself envious of the coworker who got a raise? Perhaps you scoffed at the announcement, knowing they slack off most of the day. Or maybe you envied your friend’s weight loss success, even though she worked hard for months and you haven’t been to the gym in a year. Sometimes we feel we have the right to be jealous or upset, but other times, we can’t exactly justify our feelings.

How Envy Is Slowly Killing You

So we’re all guilty of envying others. Fine. But here’s the thing: when you allow that feeling to permeate all of your thoughts or emotions toward that individual or yourself, you lose sight of your own reality. See, when you can only focus on what those other people are doing on their greener grass, you fail to realize yours only looks darker because you’re standing under a rain cloud.[2]

You only have one life, yours. And if you waste it comparing yourself to other people and feeling envious about all the things they have that you want, you won’t have room for motivation because you’ll be so consumed with all that negativity.

How to Stop Envy From Taking Your Life

You don’t have to experience envy on such a negative level. There are ways to see things people are doing and view it as a motivator rather than a murderer.

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First, take a moment to realize how you react.

When you see a close friend achieve something great, do you cringe because you’re envious, or celebrate their victories? Alternatively, if something bad happens, like a job loss or failed test, do you commiserate with them, or celebrate that your life is better than theirs?

Delete your Facebook.

Okay, fine. You don’t have to delete it. But you should limit your time with it and be hyper-aware of how you use it. If it’s a time killer while you’re standing in line at Starbucks or a way to share pictures with that one distant aunt that feels like you two are closer than you are…then fine! But if you spend an excessive amount of time on the site envying your acquaintances new job or baby or boyfriend…then you might need to take a step back.

Remember you’re impressionable (sorry, but you are).

If you spend most of your time with people who value materialistic items and social status, then it won’t be long before you share the same values. This spirals into a constant need to have the most and the best amongst those people and anyone else you encounter. It’s exhausting, unrealistic and not to mention expensive! There are so many important things to care about in this life. Don’t get caught up in the false idols.[3]

Instead of comparing with others, compare with your past self.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the illusion that everyone seems to have it better than you. They’re thinner, prettier, more successful, happier…but you don’t know any of that for sure. Instead of getting so wrapped up in the idea that you are lesser, compare yourself to something tangible: your past self. I know I look back at photos of me, old articles I wrote, clothes I wore…and I realize how far I’ve come. My weight has gone up and down, but I’m more driven now than I ever have been to get healthy and stay healthy instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself.

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I look at the group of friends I have and I’m so grateful I got rid of the toxic “friends” I once cared so much about. And of course, I dress much better! The point is to recognize the aspects of you that are better now than they were before. Keep the comparison healthy and personal, not fantastical and bitter. When you are comparing present-day-you with your own self, you see the progress you’ve made and you gain the satisfaction. No envy, just happy!

Put yourself into the others’ shoes (the people that you envy).

There’s a saying that I’ll paraphrase here: Don’t ever envy someone. You don’t know anything about their journey.

The idea of the saying is simple: someone may appear to have it all, but behind closed doors, they could be broken and struggling. Though you can never truly know what someone may be going through in secret, you can still try to imagine what it would be like to switch places with them. If you were to become the person you envy, imagine what it would be like (the good and the bad).

To make this example generic, let’s pretend I’m super envious of Lady Gaga. If I were to be her, I would have fame through music (pro), an attractive lover (pro), constant body shaming (con), no personal space because of all the paparazzi (con), a struggle to make the music I want vs. what my label demands (con). While this is obviously a fictionalized take on her life, it could very well be accurate. And really, I don’t think I’d want to switch places with her.

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When you can imagine both the upside and downside of something, you’ll stop envying people you may not actually know anything about and start to appreciate what you have more and more.

Practice gratitude.

Recently I found myself guilty of envy and some negativity in general. I was too “in my head” about things and it was resulting in a lot of unhealthy stress. I love to journal, so I decided to devote one page to gratitude. The premise is simple: when I think of things that make me grateful, happy, joyful, I write them down. And it’s not an intimidating list at all (think: cold brew, rainy days, sleeping in before a big brunch date), so when I say you can practice gratitude right now, I mean it.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Envy: The Emotion Kept Secret
[2] StartUpBros: Killing the 7 Motivation Murderers
[3] Becoming Minimalist: A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Envy

More by this author

Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

Hope is not a strategy when it comes to change. Commitment is what is needed to make real change happen. Can people change? Absolutely, but exchanging your excuses for commitment is necessary to get started.

Human nature leans toward habits, which can become ingrained over the years, but that doesn’t mean habits can be undone.

The good news is that your personality and behaviors can be changed, but it is up to you. Below are some tips to help you get started with change.

1. Figure out What You Need to Change

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of something you would like to change. That’s great! The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have something you need to change.

Look at the repeated problems in your life, the issues that seem to come up time and time again. Do you keep gravitating toward the wrong relationships, but you blame the people you are choosing, rather than looking at your problem in the selection process?

Do you jump from one job to another, yet blame co-workers and bosses, rather than look at what you may be doing to cause problems and dissatisfaction on the job?

We are creatures of habit, so look at the negative patterns in your life. Then, look inside to see what’s causing these repeated life problems to occur. If you can’t figure it out on your own, consider going to a counselor for better understanding. Once you recognize the area that requires change, you can move to the next step.

2. Believe That Change Is Indeed Possible

There are people out there who believe that personality is unchangeable. When confronted with their problem, such as constant negativity, they lash back with “that’s just who I am.” It may be who you are, but does it need to be?

Change in personality and behaviors is possible. Nobody stays the same from one year to the next, let alone across a decade, so why not move change in the direction that is best for you? Be proactive about the change you want in your life, including the belief that change can occur.

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Look for success stories and people who have changed and done what you so deeply desire to do. Seeing that others have been where you have are and have accomplished the change you desire will help you in your process to accomplish that change.

3. List the Benefits of This Change

In order for people to change, they need to buy into the premise that the change is necessary for their betterment. For example, maybe your goal is to be more productive at work. There are many benefits that could come from this, including:

  • Getting more done in a shorter amount of time.
  • Having more time for your family.
  • Getting a promotion
  • Being liked and appreciated by your boss.
  • Being part of the success of the company.

One of the best ways to help yourself stick to the commitment of change is to make a list of the benefits that the change will bring in your life. Make one list of the benefits for your life and another for your loved ones. Recognizing the full spectrum of benefits, including how your change will affect those closest to you, will help you stick with the process of change.

When you have moments of weakness, or fail on a particular day or time, then getting back on track becomes easier when you review your list on a regular basis. Posting your “benefits of change” list somewhere where you see it often, such as a bathroom mirror, will help you be reminded of why you are doing what you are doing.

4. Make a Real Commitment to Change

Make a commitment to the time frame needed for the change to happen. If you want to lose 50 lbs., then set out a realistic plan of a few pounds per week and a timeline that reflects those goals.

It will take you a lot longer than a month, but setting realistic goals will help you stick to your commitment. Change happens one day at a time. It is not immediate, but over the course of time because of your dedication and commitment to the process.

It also helps if you make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.[1]

People can change using SMART goals

    An example of this would be a person who wants to become an active runner so they can tackle a half marathon. The first step would be to research what other people have done for training plans to achieve this goal.

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    Runners World lays out specifics for a beginner to train for a half marathon: “Target the Long Run: Every other week, increase your long run by 1.5 miles until you’re run/walking 13 to 14 miles. On alternate weeks, keep your long run to no longer than three miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon. Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for the big day.”[2]

    These kinds of specificities will help you create a personalized plan that is achievable and time-bound.

    You can learn more about writing SMART goals here.

    5. Create a Plan of Attack

    You need a set of steps outlined to succeed. This is why 12-step programs are so successful. You can’t simply walk into a meeting and be cured and changed. You need to mentally process the change in order for the change to be lasting and effective.

    Create a plan for your change. Be realistic and investigate what other people have done to change.

    For example, if you are dealing with anxiety and want to change that, then seek out therapy methods to address your problem. Stick with the therapy plan until your change process is complete. Simply hoping the anxiety will someday go away is not a plan.

    6. Commit to Action

    It is wonderful to set a goal for change and to write it down, but if you don’t act, then your mental commitment means nothing. There is no actual commitment unless action follows. To best kick start our change, the key is to act now[3].

    For example, if you committed to lose 50lbs, then now is the time to go join a gym, hire a trainer, and walk into a weight loss clinic to get support. We can make up our mind to be determined to change, but if action does not follow soon thereafter, then you will likely fail.

    If you wait until later that week, you will get caught up in doing your daily routine, things for works, taking care of others, or whatever it may be; there will be distractions that will derail you from taking action later. There is no better time to take action than when you make the decision to change.

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    For example, if you decide you want to finally write that book that is in your mind, but you don’t have a working laptop, then go and get a laptop today. Then, set aside an hour each day after work (and on your calendar) so that you can write. Instead of going out with friends after work, you are committing to achieve this goal, and you have time set aside to make that goal happen.

    7. Find a Support System

    When people want to change, finding a support system is key. A great way to find support is through group therapy or support groups. If you have a substance abuse issue, for example, you can find groups that specialize is supporting you through recovery and change.

    If you prefer to find support in the comfort of your own home, then you can look for online support forums and Facebook groups that deal with whatever change you are looking to pursue.

    Your ability to be successful in change is dependent on your ability to dive in; support systems help you with the initial dive and staying committed thereafter. and will help you stay committed to the process. Don’t underestimate the power you have by partnering with others who are seeking the same change.

    8. Get Uncomfortable

    Change should be uncomfortable. You are entering new territory and stepping out of your comfort zone. Your mind and past habits will be resistant to the change, as it is uncomfortable and difficult.

    If you give up because of the discomfort, then you are destined to fail in your pursuit of change. Embrace the discomfort associated with change and recognize that it puts you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

    9. Stick to the Plan

    When people decide to change, sticking to it is difficult. If you get derailed from your plan, don’t berate yourself. Instead, allow yourself some margin of error and then get back on track.

    You can’t expect to go on a diet without splurging sometimes. The key is “sometimes.” The sooner you get back on track, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your change goals.

    Other researchers on the topic of change believe this process is about dedication and commitment to the change desired in our day to day lives, as Douglas LaBier from the Huffington Post so aptly stated:[4]

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    “Change occurs from awareness of what aspects of our personality we want to develop, and working hard to “practice” them in daily life.”

    Here are some tips on sticking to a plan:

    Engage in Self-Reflection

    Reflect on things that have derailed you in the past and problem solve them before they happen.

    Jot down those things that tend to get you off track. Now, list ways to combat the derailments before they happen. For example, if you are wanting to lose weight but you work late hours, then commit to morning workouts.

    If you know that in the past you would continually hit the snooze button and subsequently miss the workouts, then hire a trainer for early morning workouts. You are less likely to miss your workout if you have real money attached to it and someone counting on you to show up. You could also schedule morning workouts with a friend, so you know there is someone showing up and you don’t want to let them down.

    Brainstorm solutions for your past derailments so that this time around you are ready to stick to the plan and the commitment you have made to change.

    Define Your Commitment

    Commitment is a daily mental and physical plight when it comes to change. If your commitment is to lose weight, then be specific about how you are going to achieve your change. For example, you decide you are going to stick to 1,800 calories a day and a 1-hour workout every day.

    Then, write those goals down and chart your daily progress. Hold yourself accountable.

    Final Thoughts

    Can people change? Hopefully, by now, you believe that they can. If you have a sense of commitment and persistence, change is possible with any life experience.

    Start small, create specific goals, and don’t wait to get started. You’ll be amazed how far change will take you.

    More on How to Make Changes in Your Life

    Featured photo credit: Jurica Koletić via unsplash.com

    Reference

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