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We all experience feelings that are difficult to handle. But between our emotion-phobic society and the debilitating uncertainty of modern times, we usually don’t know how to talk about them, much less handle them.
Left unchecked, comparison can make you miserable. Seeing people be better at something than you are can feel like a vicious uprooting. But with the right tools, you can use your envy to uncover what you value.
Here’s how to take your envy, decode it and turn it into positive action.
Comparison can teach you what you value when you see yourself envying someone doing something you want, even if you haven’t consciously allowed yourself to want it.
Self-awareness can help you turn your feelings into something useful, so the next time envy rears its head, ask yourself:
• What do they have that makes me feel less than?
• What void do I believe having it would fill?
• Do I really want what they have?
• If yes, how much, and is it worth taking action to try to get it for myself?
Benign envy motivates us to work harder to improve, while malicious envy makes us nasty.
We often feel malicious envy when we perceive scarcity. But in many cases, another person’s ability to achieve something is evidence that it’s possible for us, too.
To shift your thinking from malicious to benign envy, try these phrases:
• “I’m inspired by _____. Maybe I can learn from them, or ask them to be my mentor.”
• “I haven’t done what they’ve done . . . yet.”
• “Every person is on their own journey. I’m grateful for mine.”
If you see a friend hitting a personal milestone, it’s easy to feel you’re far behind in life. But if you think of 10 or 20 of your acquaintances, chances are a bunch will be in the same boat as you – and might even be happily sailing along.
The next time you desperately covet what someone else has, swap out the question “Why don’t I have that?” with “Do I have enough?”
Chances are, you can survive without whatever it is you pine for, and not having it has no impact on your worth as a person.
Here’s a list of questions that can help you make better comparisons:
• What would a day-in-the-life look like?
• What specific pieces of that life do I want?
• What specific pieces of that life do I not want?
• What experience does this person have?
• Is this comparison based on some imagined/ better version of myself or other people’s/ society’s expectation of me?
• Am I willing to give up the good things in my current life to have that?
You may not always be exactly where you want to be, but chances are you’re not where you used to be, either. Pausing to take stock of your accomplishments – and the skills you’ve developed as a result – can help you feel proud of your progress and untangle yourself from malicious envy.
A simple way to make this type of self-comparison a habit is to take a few minutes at the end of each month to reflect on these prompts:
• What have I learned over the past few weeks?
• What was difficult, and how would I approach it differently given what I know now?
• What progress did I make?
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