How to work with envy and why
Envy is one of life’s guiding lights. Yet it brings shame for many of us. We can’t bear to admit to it, to face it. But unless we work with it, it becomes our shadow, running like a dark thread through our lives. It is, however, fertile ground for soul growth. You just have to look straight into its green eyes.
Simply put, whomever you envy epitomizes your deepest desire. Guaranteed. Whatever they’re doing that gets your grudge monster going is what you yourself have not yet done. They merely represent whatever is unrealised in you, something you don’t yet know how to find within yourself.
That’s the thing with envy: it’s never about them; it’s always about you. It’s also a part of you that you must acknowledge otherwise it’ll pester you like an impatient child, vying for attention. If you turn towards it, however, and take ownership of it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.
That’s the thing with envy: it’s never about them; it’s always about you.
The mystical tradition of Kabbalah teaches us that our shadow qualities are actually distortions of our soul’s unique gifts. Whatever you think is wrong with you acts as a mirror for what is right. Whatever you think you lack is already buried somewhere inside, waiting for you to find it.
This is how envy becomes a gift, since it reveals your own unaccomplished gifts, your untapped talents; your unrealised capacity for great joy. It throws light on your deepest desires; on whatever it is that remains embryonic in your life.
The truth is that envy wants you to live the life you came here to live. And that’s why it will keep badgering you until you take notice.
Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it, but what about some practical application? Begin by focusing on the person who riles you the most. Or perhaps there’s a handful that consistently grab your attention. Can you draw similarities between them? What is it about their lives, bodies, accomplishments that sting the most?
What is it about their lives, bodies, accomplishments that sting the most?
Next (and this is really important), ask yourself what those things actually represent to you. You see; this isn’t just about singular acquisitions and accomplishments, it’s about your deepest desires and feelings. This is soul work, my friends. Envy speaks of your very essence.
Say, for example, you’re driven to distraction by yogis posting the perfect asana; it’s not that you want to emulate their yogic prowess, no, what you crave is the vitality and radiance it represents. Or, perhaps, the person who continually posts #travelgrams stokes the fires of frustration. But you don’t necessarily want to jump on the next plane out of here; you simply desire freedom.
So let’s take the concept of “freedom” and roll around with it for a while. Journal about it; meditate on it; let the answers come. When was the last time you felt truly free? What does freedom look like to you? What does it feel like? You might come to the conclusion that it actually feels like financial stability rather than a round-the-world ticket. You get the gist.
Continue on this vein and you’ll hopefully end up with a handful of overarching themes that you can work with. And work with them you must. Bottom line, envy leads you to self-responsibility, as well as self-love. It’s about valuing yourself and your life enough to take action. If you simply dream about what you want and then get mad when someone else is “living the life of your dreams”, what’s a coach to do?
We must be mindful that envy can devolve into scarcity mentality, and a form of blame. They’re doing it, we say, so there’s no room for me. They have it, we say, so there’s none left for me. We start to believe there’s not enough to go around.
It doesn’t matter if what you want to do has been done before. Nobody will have done it the way that you can.
But, remember, all shadow is the exact opposite of the light. So that means there’s plenty to go around. It doesn’t matter if what you want to do has been done before. Nobody will have done it the way that you can. And nobody else will do it for you. Nothing evolves in your life unless you are involved in its creation.
As I’ve said before, wherever you direct your attention sets the intention for action. So if you’re constantly giving attention to a sense of scarcity, you’re setting the intention to stagnate, to get left behind. This eventually leads to a sense of isolation, a belief that you’re separate from all those people who, in your eyes, are happy and successful.
We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
But how much do you know of them and their journey really? As Maya Angelou so rightly says: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
We, as social media consumers, are always looking to each other for the answers. We want to absorb messages of empowerment and inspiration, but so often this is not what we see. We’re blinded by our envy. But we must let it open our eyes instead, and see that everyone is doing their own thing, in their own way, and in their own time.
So let’s talk about time for a moment. I recently posted about Chronos, also known as Old Father Time. Indeed he’s a cranky old man. He wants things done right now. Sadly, we’ve absorbed his impatience and a belief that all of life must happen in order and on time. Which is why we so quickly feel left behind.
And that’s also why I want you to meet Kairos, a handsome young man who, in Greek mythology, personified opportunity and luck. His name actually derives from a word that meant “right moment”. You see; Kairos is universal time, soul time, measured in moments and not minutes. It’s cyclical, without beginning and end. It’s something we cannot control because it unfolds in magical ways that take us by surprise. Right time, right place, we say. Uh-uh, right moment.
Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be. Take a look around. What can you learn while you are where you are? How is life currently reaching deep into you and pulling out your soul? What is envy trying to tell you?
Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be.
I can ask these questions with absolute sincerity rather than sanctimony since I’m one year into a book schedule I thought would take half that time. But I know that all is well. And everything that is unfolding feels right. I’ve dealt with my fair share of envy, for sure. But when we move through its shadow, we enter into a state of receptivity and joy. We become grateful for the windows we open onto our deepest desires and into our soul.
When we set about bringing these desires to life, we actually meet Kairos, and the universe, half way. You see; success, freedom, love, abundance, whatever it is you desire, do not come to you through suffering. Kairos can’t reach you when you’re in a funk. So find a way to be happy where you, as you are. Do what you can with what you have.
Don’t put your happiness on hold. Let envy exercise your joy muscles. As Rob Bell tells us, “Pay attention in the valley and you’ll have no problem paying attention on the mountain.”