It begins early in our lives. Someone else has a better toy on the playground, a cute puppy in the park, or a bigger house with more. More is relative; money, material items, luck, fancy vacations with pictures of laughing families in exotic locales. As we age, the envy of toys and birthday parties with ponies and magic shows is replaced with a longing for and an envy of other’s professions, success, fitness, body image, and more. This envy can wreak havoc on our lives. It destroys the simple pleasures that come with creative thought and artistic outlets.
Envy by definition is a feeling of [resentful] longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck. It is a feeling of admiring discontent, and the innate desire to have for oneself what is possessed by others. Its origin is Latin, the word “invidere” – literally to see into – and meaning to eye maliciously or begrudge.
As a writer (and a woman) I tend to magnify my own shortcomings. I never feel accomplished enough, smart enough, pretty enough. As a member of the female race, I can say honestly, that we as a whole have many insecurities. Women have been shamed by society to breed low self esteem and self worth. Even with the advent of women’s rights and the surge of successful, beautiful women in the public eye, we are made to be overly self conscious. As a woman and a writer, where feedback is often slow to come, or comes only from friends and family who would not tell you if your work was horrid, there is always a kernel of self doubt that we are not talented enough. How many works need to be published, how many times must we envy those authors who are so prolific they have novels and blogs and articles all over the mainstream media, yet still have time for local interviews about how they spend quality time with their families. There comes to be a very fine line here between admiration, envy and jealousy.
Jealousy is a powerful feeling of resentment over something lost, or perceived as lost. It is that gut feeling, the green eyed monster within,screaming at us that those other people got what we truly deserve. We are no longer fans, admirers of the authors we so like to read and wish to emulate, but are now envious. Envious as in the definition from Middle English, where it borders on hostile emotions and enmity. Envy is ugly. It rears its green eyes and horrible words in unhappy resentful feelings because someone else, who has also worked hard, possesses that which we want for ourselves.
So back to that fine line between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is all about loss. It’s is a hurt and angry reaction to feeling of betrayal, imagined or otherwise. Envy has no anger, just a longing for what could be yours. Envy is simply story. It’s something we tell ourselves about another person’s life without having all the details. What we believe to be truth, may be only our perception. This is a red flag, since coveting another’s success may come with terrible ramifications that we know nothing about. Envy can be like poison – wanting so much another’s success, yet without the struggle to reach that achievement.
On the other hand, there are some positive traits to being envious. Covetousness may not be such a bad thing. Benign envy can be motivational. It helps us to use the cravings and desires we seek from the other person(s) to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. It raises our achievements because when we see someone who is like us, either in creative spirit, social stature, or that we admire for their work and character, we become hopeful for our own success. It brings out a more creative side to out work, and boosts self esteem. As a writer, it serves to boost our self evaluation of our work. We critique, edit and revise, often based on what we have seen other authors produce successfully. When we listen to our envious feeling, it serves to teach us. We allow the arrogant and wayward cravings to speak to our minds. If we listen carefully, we can guide ourselves to subtly reach our goals and desires for achievement. Envy helps to focus our direction. We need to ask ourselves why we aren’t in the same game as the one we are admiring. What stopped us from pursuing our goals, and how can we get back on track to be successful.
The bottom line, is that envy, not jealousy, as long as it is not destructive, is not so bad after all. It is natural to compare ourselves and our lot in life to others we are exposed to, especially those who are doing better than we are. Everyone wants to have “toys” and luxury vacations, and it may very well be possible. We can use those we envy to further our own goals, and to reach for our own successes, by emulating the positive aspects they share publicly. Just remember to cage that green eyed monster.