Ignore the Envy of Others, but Remember It Comes From Pain

November 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm in Family & Relationships, Spirituality, Work & Money by Sarah Swenson

The Etiology of Envy

This drawing came up on Facebook this morning. I’ve seen it before, but today it suddenly had a new meaning for me.

If you have ever struggled to understand how someone could be envious of you, and why she has mistreated you as a result, this cartoon might help you see what lies beneath envy.

Envy is generally indicative of two things:

1) a person’s lack of confidence in her own abilities, skills and accomplishments;

2) a gross simplification of the process by which you have reached your goals successfully.

Do you see that neither of these conditions has any factual bearing on you and your accomplishments? When someone is envious of you, she can hurt you. It can be toxic to bear the brunt of someone else’s disappointment with herself. But it is not because of your success. It is because of her sense of failure.

Here is what success looks like to you: You identified a goal, made whatever effort or sacrifices were necessary to reach it, and proceeded until you did so. This is a self-directed, self-monitored experience of working toward something you value, of taking care of your own business. It demonstrates a sense of responsibility toward yourself and respect for the merits of your decisions. It shows persistence, discipline, and focus. We say work toward your goal, not slide toward your goal.

But an envious person does not acknowledge that distinction.

An envious person wants to rob you of acknowledgment for your efforts. An envious person believes you were merely in the right place at the right time; you were just lucky to know the right people; anyone could do what you did if they felt like doing so. Envy attempts to undermine not only the process of succeeding but also the value of the success itself. Envy is the voice of someone in great pain, who cannot or will not apply herself in the same disciplined manner. It is the voice, for example, of someone who wants to play the piano but does not want to put in the hours of study necessary in order to learn to play the piano.

Don’t let another person’s envy deride your sense of accomplishment. Sly and passive-aggressive comments about your success are meant to debase them, in order for the envious person to make sense of her own failures. If she can make you feel your success was fortuitous, she frees herself from the responsibility of working as hard as you do.

Remember the great observation made by Louis Pasteur: Fortune favors the prepared mind. The smarter and harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed. Stick with it.

Try not to let an envious person’s inability to come to terms with this reality impede your progress. Compassion is always helpful, as an envious person is not a happy soul. But your successes are duly yours, and they are good.

Stand tall upon each success you create in your life.


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