The subject of envy has come up in my mastermind group, with my students and my clients, so it feels appropriate in this series on emotion and false emotion to address it.
Envy is a result of comparison. It is a desire for something else. It is a resentful discontent as a result of someone else’s fortune or possessions. It comes from a perception of lack.
It also happens as a result of desiring the qualities or attributes of another person.
I think we can all agree that one of the ten commandments, “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” is about with envy.
Let’s compare envy to jealousy.
Jealousy comes as a result of losing, or the threat of losing, something you already have. It carries with it the feeling of being taken from or being abandoned, whereas envy comes from lacking the thing altogether.
Do you suffer from envy when friends, coworkers and family members are successful? Does it feel threatening to have success? Perhaps you had an envious sibling or parent who treated you terribly or ignored you when you achieved something important. This may have caused you to downplay or even hinder your own achievement in order to be loved and accepted.
Many people have learned to tone down their own autonomy or success in order not to threaten a relationship. Their progress will threaten a codependent marriage because the only thing holding it together in the first place is an exchange of love for security. If that delicate balance of dependence is disturbed, one feels threatened that the other is gaining more independence and will no longer need them. This could be in terms of money, transformation, or even progress toward a more conscious way of living.
Conversely, there may also be envy that one person gets to slack while the other works harder than everyone else. Envy then morphs into blame and self pity that someone else has it better than we do. Our lack of boundary and authentic voice gives way to resentment.
When looking at envy, we need look no further than the predominance of “lack mentality”and competition that has been instilled in us for centuries.
The patriarchal model of dominion and power shows us someone’s loss is another’s gain. There is no desire to support or applaud another’s success because it takes away from our own. We might congratulate someone outwardly but inwardly we are envious.
I am defining success here as happiness, abundance and fulfillment. With this lack mentality, there is not enough success, wealth, clients or goods to go around. This fear creates hoarding (money, love, support) in order to hold control and power over that exchange. We then feel compelled to compete for that power, wealth or happiness.
We hear lots of talk of “healthy competition” and I ask us to consider what that means in terms of systems. When there is enough to go around people can choose from several sources. If the wealth is held in the hands of the few, we are unable to have variety and diversity.
For example, if the way we receive information is held in the hands of the few, we no longer have numerous perspectives and freedom of speech but a propaganda machine controlled by those who own the airwaves.
Our democracy is also threatened if the politicians are bought to fulfill the interests of those who want to maintain wealth and power. It cannot thrive when dominion and greed are the predominant themes.
A healthy environment in which we all thrive, where democracy and equality is respectfully fulfilled can only happen when goods and services flow through the hands of many. Many news outlets, many small businesses, many farmers, many people offering services that are promoted and supported by all. This creates healthy competition which doesn’t feel like competition at all, but exchange of goods and services from many people. Less envy, more prosperity.
Poverty mentality is defined by the belief that there is not enough to go around whether it’s love, money, happiness or success. Certainly in these times when there is a great deal of wealth held by the few and a disappearing middle class, we feel this as reality in our economic systems. There is not a healthy exchange of goods amongst many people in order to sustain a middle class. When wealth is concentrated and does not flow amongst many people, greed and control comes strongly into the picture. The have-nots fear there is not enough, and the have’s want to keep it that way. Even donating to poor countries rather than trading with them keeps things unequal.
There are also many who deliberately deprive themselves of abundance believing this will make up for someone else’s lack. This behavior displays lack mentality. Their identification with altruism, fairness and equality becomes the reason they deprive themselves. This mentality believes that if they deprive themselves, someone else will gain by it. It boosts their Ego. It is as if their poverty is a noble cause and will solve the imbalance and provide for the have nots.
What does this really have to do with envy? Why in our heart of hearts don’t we celebrate the success of another but instead feel threatened or unsuccessful? We become filled with self pity that we ourselves are not there too and judge those who are. It stems from a false perception of ourselves and our place in the world. We feel compelled to compete instead of help one another along the way in hopes that we get it and they don’t. If we can understand the new paradigm shift, we celebrate each other’s strengths and offerings, knowing there is enough for everyone. There is room for many at the top because the top does not look like the tip of a triangle but a large pool of prosperity. This is the feminine principle.
In this large pool, our needs are met and we care for each other. We stand strong as fulfilled individuals able to trade and serve with dignity instead of control, whether that be love, resources or knowledge. This is relationship between two on a solid foundation. Our attention can ascend to a higher order of existence.
When we feel insecure about ourselves, it is very hard to celebrate the success of another. We criticize how they got there, question their motives, and simply wish that they would stay with us in misery. They force us to look at our own patterns. It may exacerbate our feeling of inadequacy to the point that the only way to relieve it is to tear them down. Misery loves company.
There is no room for another’s happiness because it simply accentuates the feeling of lack with which we have become conditionally identified. People who are not even competitors but simply successful/prosperous/happy become the enemy. We envy their freedom.
When we feel confident that we too can have that success in work and in relationships, we are able to support and celebrate each other’s growth. When we feel threatened because we harbor fear, we tear them down to our level, keep them dependent, or in our control.
In fact, the way we do business, family and relationships is a direct reflection on how we view ourselves. If we need to control and dominate a situation or a relationship, for example, we actually are motivated to do so by our fear of lack. In this scenario, friends and family are in our lives not for love, but to serve our needs and fulfill something we cannot fulfill ourselves. Their freedom and happiness is a major threat. Their dependence keeps us feeling better.
When a crab has finally figured out how to get out of the pot, the others will always try to pull him back in.
What are your thoughts on envy and lack mentality?
How does it affect your life?
Do you believe there is enough to go around?
Are you threatened by someone else’s freedom and success?
All of this could be a process of study within ourselves for a long time.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments.