Ignore the Envy of Others, but Remember It Comes From Pain Most Liked Hot Conversation

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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Posted in Counseling in Challenging Times, family & relationships, Our Blog Circle, spirituality, work & money.

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9 Responses

  1. Vicky1956 Vicky1956 says

    Great post. I worked hard for years to earn my PhD, and the entire time I had a demanding job, two daughters also in school and very active, and a husband (now thankfully not in the picture) who would stand in my office door while I was writing my dissertation and ask “What’s for dinner?” I cleaned my own house and did manage to cook sometimes.

    But when I finished, I was ready to move on to the next goal. I didn’t parade around with an imaginary tiara and insist I be called Dr. Queen Bee.

    I don’t rest on my laurels…and the journey is more interesting than the destination.

    One of my colleagues has treated me like crap since the day they proclaimed me Dr. Vicky. That was over three years ago. Finally, I had enough. I confronted her several weeks ago about her consistent crappy treatment of me. She said, “Well I am intimidated because you have a PhD.” I said, “I also am the exact same person I was before, and I also have feelings, and you have embarrassed me in front of people and have made unchecked cruel remarks to me for the last time. I will call you on it from this day on. And if you are envious of my doctorate…go get one yourself.”

    Her envy hurt me for a long time because I really could not figure out what I had done to make her treat me the way she did.

    Now I know, and I think her envy has hurt her much more than it ever did me.

    10 like

  2. Dallas Lady Dallas Lady says

    Seawriter, this is excellent!  One of the things that makes me nutty crazy is an automatic assumption that someone who is successful got lucky, didn’t earn it, is a member of the lucky sperm club, or otherwise took advantage of others to get what they got….vs actually do it the old fashioned way, which is to earn it. 

    Conversely, I hate when people dont acknowledge that it takes hard work, good choice, and luck too.  I’ve known plenty of people who only had 2 of those and didn’t really break through the ceiling of success.  

     You stated the issue so very well.  Technically I am (just barely) one of the now much aligned 1%ers in annual earnings (depending on which statistic you accept, I’ve seen several).  I grew up in a trailer in south georgia.  I went to a local state college.  I inherited nothing to speak of except a strong work ethic, a strong sense of independence and self reliance, and the a commitment to do the right thing.  It has served me well, and yes better than most.  I worked my butt off starting in my 20s and 30s when many were still out partying and sowing their wild oats. No doubt, I caught a good wave. Being a woman in banking in the 1980s, I likely was helped by Affirmative Action. And no doubt–I made really good choices.  And no doubt–I could have screwed it up.

    I didn’t.  And I don’t feel a darn bit of guilt about any of this.  But I am grateful for all of it.

    5 like

  3. marshab marshab says

    SeaWriter, I enjoyed your post.  It made me think of the relationship I have with one of my sisters.  She is a year younger than I am and sometimes I just help feel she is sometimes envious of me.  I can tell by the crappy way she has treated me over the years. I can tell in her voice.  I can tell when there should be joy for something in my life there’s always dead silence on the phone for about 60 seconds or more. Really, no reaction or sounds whatsoever.  I have to say “hello are you there, hello.”  No really, I know when she’s envious of me and she’s my sister.  I can’t tell her what to do and its not like I am always telling her either because she doesn’t listen to me anyway.  I have to literally tell her “now this is only a suggestion and I am not trying to tell you what to do”. I have been at peace in my mind, soul, and heart when I came to the realization just because we are blood relatives doesn’t mean she has to like me. Just because we are sisters doesn’t mean my sister has to treat me like a ‘sister.’ I have accepted it that she will always be envious of me because that’s just the way it is. Someone is envious of me?  Come on.  Me?  I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t experience it myself firsthand.

    4 like

  4. JacquieA2 JacquieA2 says

    This post is so on target and lets me know, along with the previous comments that this is not an uncommon issue.
    For the past few years I have been dealing with the envy of a woman business acquaintance with whom I have ongoing contact.  For a few years I was thinking that our personalities just didn’t mesh.  Then I realized the challenge was her envy.
    When I started to connect the dots of her negative comments to me and her non-acknowledgement of my achievements, I finally realized that she can’t get beyond her envy.
    What I’ve noticed from this situation is a stream of reasons (a-k-a excuses) as to what the roadblocks are and why she isn’t where she says she wants to be in this endeavor.
    As soon as I realized this was her problem and not mine, I started to feel bad for her and the energy she puts into being envious.  Perhaps she could put more energy into working toward the success she indicates she wants.
    For people feeling the brunt of someone who harbors envy toward them, I believe the best thing is to know it is their problem and way beyond our control to correct.  That has helped for me.

    2 like

  5. Generic Image anonymous says

    Hi Sarah. Your editorial is the most and best descriptive, I have ever read. I have been thinking about the envious friends myself, and finally learned how to draw a line in the send. It was not easy but I did it. I also would like to comment on marshab’s post. I do have a sister just like this. I have learned how to accept her for what she is, and started ignoring her comments such as metaphorically said: I will pull rug under your feet sort to speak. Than always turn the conversation to something else. It is often to where she seems to fail. It helps her to get her own mind get busy and preoccupied in a different direction. It works. She is my family which is given to me. When it comes to my friends and people I know. I do pay attention to what they say. Sometimes, it helps me to look at myself from a different perspective and perhaps to take a different approach to get me where I want to be. Than draw a line in the sand even if it means that I no longer want to be with them or around them – they are not my family but people whom I choose to be my family if I like what I see.

    3 like

  6. Sharon Lee 123 Sharon Lee 123 says

    This was great. I’m retired with a pension and countless friends and people I run into tell me how “lucky” I am to have a pension. Luck had nothing to do with it. I worked hard to get my job and went to night school, etc. However, I do sometimes regret other decisions I’ve made and when I have a friend with something I wish I had I tell myself, well, self, you didn’t go in that direction and she did! So I try not to look at it as envy but rather a little regret. I suppose on the surface it’s the same but I can usually talk myself out of it with reviewing my own accomplishments! I truly only have one real regret in life: I’m sorry I didn’t buy better cameras throughout my life. I worked on a six month family photo project when I retired and was horrified at the quality of some great photos. Mostly, I’m happy with what I’ve done—so far! I’m ONLY 66 after all.

    2 like

  7. Lizbet Lizbet says

    It usually comes down to life choices and counting our own blessings rather than the “perceived” blessings of others. Still, success does come easier for some than others, just like some women are born beautiful on the outside and attract men like bees to honey. Also, I’ve known people who have worked diligently and hard all their lives but never really “caught a break”.  I’ve been on both sides and have learned that living gracefully, whatever life’s circumstances, makes all the difference.

    3 like

  8. Generic Image ladye says

    To live life with grace, charm and HUMOR—I think that is the goal…Sometimes we all feel envy…I think it still makes us a good person….

    0 like

  9. Generic Image Aleehs says

    Hi Sarah, I don’t get to read VN too often, glad I read your fantastic story.  Been married well over 30 years, from day one of marriage my  husband worked very long hours, 6 to 7 days weekly for little pay, two yrs. of college, no degree.  Husband got better job, but still many years of very long hours to build up his business, two sons by now and one son that had been very sick and in the hospital a few times, etc.  Good to write, sons are grown, one will always  be mentally handicap and need his parents more, husband has his own employees and no longer working very long hours, finances are great.  Sarah, we did without “things” for many years but people and family who are envious only see the money, things, material, very narrow minded.  Appreciate you taking the time to share your uplifting words, Happy Holidays!

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