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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

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Heather Poole

Technical writer

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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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