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Friday, April 6, 2012

Struggling with Envy

Is there any way to make that negative quality into a good one? :)

Recently my boyfriend and I were talking about fatal flaws, as in which of the Christian seven deadly sins is in the forefront for each of us. It did not take but thirty seconds for me to realize that mine is envy.

I struggle with it every day.

I love other people and want other people to be happy, but the envy still comes. I wish I could figure out how to stop it. Or at least, at this point, reframe it when I notice the thoughts in my mind.

So many times a day envy creeps in. Today, for example...

1) Pick up a new writer's magazine and there's an article about the young man who wrote the Eragon dragon series of books. First one was self-published when he was 17 and ten years later he's never had to have a job doing anything but writing those books. They're wildly popular. Stab of envy. I want that.

2) Facebook always kills me. That's an every day problem but I can't stop looking! People's pictures of weddings and babies and announcements of engagements. Stab of envy. I have no patience to wait for my life to catch up with theirs (and hey, it's not all just my impatience: I am the last single one of my girl friends, so I'm not exactly imagining things).

3) Seeing praise for another writer on a message board where I'm usually the only one. Heaping praise on new girl (who is a good writer) and anxiously asking her for more stories. I want to be supportive of the newbie. I like her a lot, but... Stab of envy. What about my stories? Doesn't anyone want more of mine?

4) On message board for authors and reading threads about people who have successfully quit their jobs from money earned on short stories. I'm writing the same style of short stories. I've made about $1.50 on them. One person mentioned having hundreds of downloads within days of first starting to put stories on Kindle so I asked her for advice about marketing these types of stories. Followed her advice to the letter. Got no sales. Stab of envy. Even though my job is nice, it would really help to not feel tied to it.

I sound so freaking pathetic. I absolutely hate to admit to these petty and mean-spirited feelings. But they happen at that gut level before I can logic them away.

What script do you think I could use to replace these thoughts when I notice them? Make me feel like I'm not alone, what's your deadly sin/fatal flaw?

[Interesting to me to notice as I write these out that so many of them are connected to my professional life. That, at least, is a clue to me of where my energy and attention might be needed and the fact that I am spending most of my time and energy on developing my writing career says to me that I'm doing well following my heart]

ETA: Oh, and also, for the record, I've been doing "count your blessings"/gratitude exercises for the last twenty days or so and really enjoying that, but it hasn't ended my envy. Not yet, anyway.


  1. The thing about sins & virtues is that as human beings we have both of them to contend with - battling for our attentions. As such, it means we can't help but be a little sinful just as we have all that capacity to be virtuous. I think your envy here is good because it's not like you are thinking ill will towards others so much as what you want in your own life...and there's power in that. I feel you - I haven't really made any money in any of my art, but I'm happy to do it and one day if I play my cards right maybe it will all work out for me - and I hope it all works out for you :)

    1. Someday! We just have to hang in there :)

  2. Gratitude helps, sure. But I think the root of envy is the idea that life is zero-sum: there's only so much success or fame or love or whatever to go around. If that author is popular then there's less popularity in the world for you. Realizing that that's not true could be very helpful.

    I don't really believe in the deadly sins. My practice actually accepts that most of them are virtues - heh. But after looking at wikipedia's descriptions of the 7 deadly sins, I probably have issues with pride.

    1. I don't believe in sins, either, to be honest! lol. But it was an interesting way to frame something that has been a major source of inner conflict for me.

      You may definitely be onto something with the letting go of the idea of zero-sum. I don't think I believe life is a zero-sum game, but it seems like some deep instinctual part of me does.

  3. I also have an issue with envy. I try to "check it" by thinking of this quote by Buddha: "He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.” However, your post now has me on the lookout for other Vedic quotes/scriptures on envy....

    1. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

  4. Envy is difficult at times. Sometimes hearing about people who are much worse off than you helps, but I don't think this is the right way to deal with it. There is something very wrong about feeling better about yourself because someone else is worse off than you.

    The way I try to deal with envy is by two things. Firstly recognising that we are divine beings, sparks of God and have created our own karma. We are where we have brought ourselves. Secondly we are all part of the divine dance which when seen from a cosmic level is perfect. We are meant to struggle for some things and get them, struggle for others and fail, and sometimes not bother about things someone else would be concerned about. All, at an ultimate level, are necessary to push, pull, and cajole your soul to perfection.

    To summarise: "I have brought myself to where I am, and where I am is where I am meant to be".

    It is not always easy to feel this in practice, but it helps.

    1. I totally agree that I really hate the idea of comparing myself to someone who is "worse off." First of all, how do I know if someone else has a more miserable life? That leads to too many assumptions and secondly, if I compare myself favorably with some people I will inevitably compare myself unfavorably to people who have more than me!

      I like the idea that I should remember that we struggle for a reason. What would be the point of life if everything were easy and we always had anything we wanted? lol.

  5. I think we may struggle with some of the same things, stemming from similar early life experiences. For me, finally getting to the point of being able to go to a therapist has helped a lot. I wrestle with envy because part of me takes that person's success as proof that I'm not good enough/a failure/etc. As I spend more time learning to love myself, I have also had to wrestle with envy a lot less often.

    From a Hindu perspective, the more in touch you become with the Self, the less what others do or have bothers you. You are comfortable as you are (and having experienced what that feels like a mere one time, I am eager to learn how to be that comfortable all the time, because it's an awesome feeling!).

    But professionally, that's not terribly useful advice. I have a friend who is in the same place you are, professionally (as far as being a writer). I've been super-jealous of other designers, who seem to be in the right place at the right time, and doing things that everybody loves, even though it seems like they aren't working as hard. But if you are in love with what you do, you go right back to it. You reinvent your approach. You work to figure out new solutions. You take a little break to reevaluate and strategize.

    Honestly, I think that it's rare for human beings to live without feeling envy. But I think the trick is to learn how to use it as fuel for determination, rather than something that trips you up.

    Good luck! (And I loved the short story you put out a while back on Amazon. I wish there was more to it, because I want to know more of the story!)

    1. I find the other people being in the right place and doing the thing people love! I try to tap into what people like and it seems like no one is interested in the same things I am! lol.

      And thanks for the compliment on my story :)

    2. Lucky for you it's just envy. I'm battling with good old fashioned unadulterated lust. It doesn't help that I have a fairly high "drive" and single. Since it is hormonal, it certainly is a tough one to overcome.

    3. Eeek. I never thought of lust as particularly "sinful" but I guess it can be in some circumstances!

    4. The difficult trick with all these "cardinal sins" is to acknowledge that they're there, but not let them drive your actions, or overwhelm your senses, or change how you make decisions. For example, lust is totally natural, but it shouldn't run your life. You shouldn't start to second-guess your own choices because you're envious of others. You shouldn't make decisions that adversely affect other people because of personal greed.

      My dad used to articulate sin as "missing the mark" (which is apparently the meaning of its original root word); it's not always terrible, but it's not quite where you should be, so it's a good opportunity to correct your trajectory and get better at being at that place of balance.

      One of the most important skills that a person can learn (and one that's at the heart of Hindu philosophy and the idea of the Atman and moksha) is to let those feelings be a part of your life, but to live a life that's not driven by those feelings.

      And that's really, really hard to do, especially in America, which seems to have culture of indulging those feelings.

    5. Hi. Came across ur blog n was reading stuff out of curiosity.

      regarding what u said
      I try to tap into what people like and it seems like no one is interested in the same things I am! lol.

      I can relate to it a little bit. But there's a bit of a contradiction here. How can no 1 like what u offer if u r tapping into what ppl like?
      To me it suggests u're not able to reach the right audience - ppl who'll really like what u offer. Maybe u just need to look for a diff. Audience. it may be a niche, but u'll b playing on ur own terms then.
      I know its tough if its what u do for a living, but its a choice. I am from india, & see a lot of really smart ppl become very popular & successful selling stuff that they may not believe in themselves, but which they know sells a lot. U can go down that route, or choose ur own path, depending on what makes u happy.
      Also, monetary compensation apart, what do u give greater importance to? appreciation from others, or an internal feeling of satisfaction, knowing u've done a good job? Nothing right or wrong about either option, just a choice which feels right to u.

    6. Thanks for the thoughts. I do actually have a really good audience for my work. It's small, but dedicated and I'm pretty alone in my niche, which works well. But I'm not seeing huge success, so I've started trying to expand out into other things and that's where I'm running into success stories I'm getting jealous of! I know I need to focus on the wonderful people I do have who are buying my work!

    7. wow, that sounds so much like my own story, although i'm not a professional writer, just a newbie amateur blogger. and to be honest, i'm far from figuring this out myself, but the way i try to motivate myself is by thinking that if i want to play on equal terms on somebody else's turf, then i need to have a similar level of ability, or put in that much effort that i get there. but i'm always held in check by the question i ask myself - am i chasing my own dream or somebody else's?

      Hope it helps. I wish you good luck with your endeavours.

  6. It's a matter of perspectives. Envy is not that bad. It creates need, want, demand etc. It provokes us to act without which we will remain stagnant. The concept sounds crazy because we tend we create far fetched goals. Instead, create deliverable goals with deliverable deadlines. Justify the goals existence(worth) instead of just pretending to do work. Is the "cost"
    worth it? Does the "benefit" outweigh the "cost"?

    I think(IMO) the writing business is like a restaurant business. One can start a new restaurant right next to a successful one thinking they can acquire some of the existing customers in the area but it doesn't work. The new restaurant might be bigger, better looking etc etc but it still fails to become successful. I know people who ran sick restaurants for more than 5 years before they hit break-even point. A friend of mine who is in the restaurant business thinks it(restaurants) is a hit and miss aka a matter of luck. It disregards the basic rules of economics i.e., the theory of demand and supply.

  7. As a thumb rule, taken caution is any business that is related to aesthetics(art) because it is fundamentally risky in nature.

    I follow many brilliant non-fiction writers on private space. The stuff they write is THE best. Even the best well-known writers in the mainstream world who publish their work through books or in opinion editorials in newspaper journals are mediocre compared to what is being written in private space. IOW, public talent is glorified talent in reality.

  8. Absolutely natural feelings and yes, been there a few times :) !! My suggestion is to be conscious of envy every time it creeps in and ask yourself the following questions:
    1.What exactly are you envious about? Their joy, the success or their manifestations of it, in terms of marriage, children, books, etc? Joy, success, satisfaction, gratitude etc are a state of mind that eliminates envy and can be achieved. Once you separate this, you will be able to define what would you like to achieve to not feel envious of others. The exact same things, or_________ ? Once you begin thinking so, you will begin defining your purpose and give power to what YOU really want in life. Using creative visualization, and meditation, you can manifest it in your own life. Try listening to Deepak Chopra. Helps me tons!

  9. Interesting question and good to have you back. (I'm myself coming to your site after quite sometime, as I thought you had stopped writing here).
    Anyway, the only philosophy I adhere to regarding envy is the gist of what Hinduism teaches - Each one of us is unique; each one of us is a soul on its own journey to perfection; each of us have our own life-lessons to learn. What may be good for XYZ may not be good for my development as a soul!

    1. You are right! I did stop writing. And recently I've been drifting back to it :) Not posting as often as before, but every once in a while I think of something I want to say.

      I think envy is definitely one of the things that I am meant to work through in this life. That pattern has become clear!