Is there anything positive about envy?

“Envy will destroy you.” This is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think about this emotion. But why do we feel it and, as this free association of mine shows, why is it perceived to be so negative? Is envy really all bad? No! Can it benefit us in some way? Yes! Let me explain to you why:

What is the root of envy?

Think of the last time you felt envy. In my case, it was one day that I was on my way to work, catching the subway at 7:00 a.m., and a friend told me he was still in bed. I was envious of his situation, of the fact that he could afford not to have to leave bed early in the morning for work.

girl in front of waterfall holding board meant to cause envy that reads "I'm here, you not"

What is envy? Envy is the extreme desire to have something (an object, a quality, an achievement) that another person has and we don’t . This “emotional pain” is aggravated by the feeling that we are unable to obtain such a thing by ourselves.

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Destructive feelings

That’s where shame comes in. When we feel jealous, we are focusing on what we do not have, what we lack and our inability to get what we want. That generates feelings of shame in many people. But since shame is an uncomfortable feeling, it is natural to try to do something to feel better.

Envy drives many people to want to destroy the envied object. In this way it would cease to exist and consequently there would no longer be a reason to feel jealous. People who think that way think that if the grass of the neighbour is greener, why not set it on fire?! But there are more ways of dealing with it.

The positive side of envy

smiling girl holding notebook

The opposite of the “setting fire to your neighbor’s lawn” mentality is quite simple. If the neighbour’s grass cause me envy and I really want mine to be greener, how about fertilizing and watering it?

Metaphors aside, we can use this feeling to help us recognize what we want most in this world. Who do we want to be? Who do we want to become? What do we want to achieve?

By finding the answer to these questions, we can focus our energy on finding creative ways to achieve it without the need to rip it out of someone else’s hands.

The answer is inside you. Good luck in your search!


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