“Envy is ignorance.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Very few people would argue for the positive influence of jealousy & envy in our lives. In fact, most of us can quickly recognize the importance of learning how to stop being jealous. And we’re all aware of jealousy and envy’s effects:
- They foster discontent and distress.
- They bind our freedom.
- They lead to resentment and bitterness.
- They cause us to do things we wouldn’t normally do.
- They can spiral into depression.
And yet, the wasted emotions of envy and jealousy continue to be present in our lives. It is a constant battle that wars against our heart and soul. We experience envy over other peoples’ appearance, talents, relationships, and bank accounts. It offers no positive contribution to our lives. Yet, it remains.
It is time to break free. Certainly, each of us desire to live in freedom from jealousy and envy.
Here’s how to stop being jealous.
1. Shift your focus to the goodness in your life. One of the biggest reasons we envy the life of another is because we have begun to take our blessings for granted. Count them again. You are talented. You are gifted. You are cared for. You are unique. Your life is too valuable to be lived like everyone else. You have countless reasons to be grateful for the life you have been given. Remind yourself again.
2. Remind yourself that nobody has it all. Stop comparing your life with others. It is always a losing proposition. There will always appear to be people who have it better than you. But remember, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others. Be reminded, nobody has it all. Each person you meet experiences problems, trials, and weaknesses–just like you. This is what makes us human. Nobody is exempt. Nobody has it all. Nobody.
3. Avoid people who habitually value the wrong things. If you spend all your time with people who compare the latest fashions, you are going to start desiring the latest fashions. If you spend all your time with people who talk about their salaries, their new cars, or their extravagant vacations, you are going to naturally fall into the inevitable trap of comparing your possessions to theirs. But there are far more important things to pursue. Remove yourself from the conversation (and the relationship if necessary).
4. Spend time with grateful people. Gratitude is highly contagious–that is why I spend time reading Tammy Strobel. You can read gratitude in almost every word she writes. Find grateful people who experience contentment in their lives and spend quality time with them. You can find them online or you can find them in person. But the more you invest your time with them, the more their spirit will become yours… and soon, others will desire what you have.
5. Understand that marketers routinely fan the flame. One of the most effective tools for advertisers in our culture is to foster jealousy and envy among us. After all, if they can cause us to recklessly desire the possessions of another, they can drive us to great lengths to acquire it for ourselves. Be on guard against their tactics. Recognize them. Avoid them. And refuse to succumb to their deception.
6. Celebrate the success of others. Genuinely and practically, rejoice in the fortune of others. When somebody receives something that you desire, be happy for them. If you wanted it, they probably did too. Stop viewing life as a competition. Joy is not a finite resource. And the moment you learn to experience happiness in others’ joy is the day you take a huge step to overcoming envy once and for all.
7. Be generous. Even if you have to force yourself into it at first, make generosity an essential habit in your life. Give your time. Give your finances. Give your abilities, talents, and skills. Volunteer in your community. Support a cause that promotes social justice. And get your hands dirty. As you begin to spend more time and more energy with those who have less than you, the more you will find fulfillment and meaning. And when you do, the allure of another’s person life will quickly fade away.
Both jealousy and envy have held us hostage for far too long. It is time, once and for all, to break free from jealousy & envy and experience a more fulfilled life because of it.
Image: Yashna M
Number 2 is something I came to realize earlier this year. I was struggling with some depression and realized that most of it was from comparing where I was at in life with others. Once I stopped doing that I became a much happier person! Thank you for the refresher and for this inspiring post!
I love this article! The part that really resonated with me is that each person i meet has weaknesses just as I do. This is something I must remember! I tend not to envy possessions and status but I do very much envy people who seem to “have it all together” and are organized, efficient, self directed etc. Your message is just what I needed to be able to acknowledge that what I am feeling is really envy and doesn’t serve me. These people have weaknesses too even if they are not readily apparent! Thank you!
Oh, me too!
I have only just realized it has been a big contributor to my depression thinking that people who are more self directed, organized and so on have it more together than me…even when really I don’t know a lot about their lives. I take heart from the following comment too.
Surrounding yourself with people who espouse values with which you sympathize, as you point out, is a great habit-forming technique, I’ve found.
If I feel jealous or envious, I always try to figure out exactly why.
I try to turn it into admiration, and be inspired to ‘be more like’ that person, or research what they like doing/reading etc, I’d rather look up to them as role models, and aspire to be as good or as happy as they are. :)
I do that, too!!
Very helpful article. I do envy others sometimes and your advice is spot-on.
Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca says
Good tips. I always assume that other people have it together better than me, and have an easier time. It’s important to remember that we’re all just people.
Manija Ansari says
Thank you so much for this post. As a practicing Muslim this article speaks volumes to me. I feel like it has been taken out of the pages of an Islamic book on purification of the soul. One of my teachers once said “envy and jealousy is like drinking the poison yourself and hoping the other will die”.
Very true Manija! Even I was wondering if I was reading an article or some hadeeth! Each of these points are highly emphasized in Islam. Prophets Muhammad’s direct quote is “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” Great post…thanks!
Hmmm. As a practicing Christian I find this article closely follows Christian ideals and beliefs! I would like to know if you have read the Bible? Nothing new under the sun! And, it’s still true!
I heard a long time ago that you should pay attention to the people you are jealous of – it holds a clue to what you would like to do with your life. For example, I always envied people who travelled and ate for a living – Food writers and/or Travel writers. I realized eventually that I would have to find a job in travel or food, which are two of my passions. I am still working towards building that – but I would never have figured this out without the jealousy I felt and analyzed.
Thanks for the post. :)
Mr. Everyday Dollar says
That’s a good point. While I completely agree with the statement about finding your passion and making sure you align how you obtain monetary resources with that, I hesitate about the use of jealousy.
I find that jealousy, while it can be used for “good” in your example, I think it can also leave us unsatisfied. How many times have you thought that as soon as you get something you want – a job promotion, a new car, a degree – you’ll finally be happy, only to find you’re not satisifed. And then you’re on to wanting the next thing.
I believe you are right!! If one just stops and thinks “why” do I envy that person and how can I do that too…we would be better off just logically trying to do the thing we envy! Right?
Joy is not a finite resource – very well said. I hope to remind myself of that as often as possible. I also hope to seek out friends who are more conducive to my personal contentment. They say you are the average of the five people you associate with most frequently. I have no doubts about the accuracy of that statement.
Charlotte K says
Jealousy and envy are not the same thing. I think you are writing about envy here.
joshua becker says
You are correct Charlotte. Thanks. I am going to adjust the article to be more specific.
Zeus Yiamouyiannis says
Jealously is really simply envy applied to intimate relationships.
It really isn’t, though.
Envy is a two-person emotion. “I want what they have.”
Jealousy is a three-person emotion, “What I have is going to be taken away by them.”
Interesting… I never thought of it that way. I really struggle with these emotions.