Beware of the Green-eyed Monster

Posted by Todd Smith

Two of the most destructive emotions are envy and jealousy, both of which stem from the same source: our own insecurities. As we dive into this lesson, let’s first make sure we are clear on the definitions of both terms.

What is Envy? (Source: Wikipedia)

Envy is best defined as an emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.

Envy can also derive from a sense of low self-esteem that results from an upward social comparison threatening a person’s self-image; another person has something that the envier considers to be important to have. If the other person is perceived to be similar to the envier, the aroused envy will be particularly intense, because it signals to the envier that it just as well could have been he or she who had the desired object.

Bertrand Russell said “Envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It is a universal and most unfortunate aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but also wishes to inflict misfortune on others.”

What is Jealousy? (Source: Wikipedia)

Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust. It is not to be confused with envy.

Writer and speaker Jennifer James explains it this way, “Jealousy is simply and clearly the fear that you do not have value. Jealousy scans for evidence to prove the point – that others will be preferred and rewarded more than you.”

As you can see, the meanings of jealousy and envy overlap. Both emotions have been associated with the color green: the common expression “green with envy and Shakespeare’s words in Othello, “O! Beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

The bottom line is that both are negative feelings that can lead to unproductive and damaging behavior. If you want to live a happy, successful, and satisfying life, you must be aware of and guard yourself against these destructive emotions.

Becoming the Best YOU Can Be

Wanting a fancy car just like your neighbor’s, feeling like you should have received the company promotion rather than your co-worker, thinking that everyone around you is more financially secure, or believing that you can’t attract good friends or a marital partner are just a few examples of how jealousy and envy can play a role in our personal and professional lives.

Being envious or jealous focuses on the other person’s “things” or circumstances that seem more attractive to you than yours. Instead of looking at what you are lacking, look at what you have that everyone else is lacking and accept yourself for who you are.

If you are going to live life to its fullest potential while enjoying the journey, you’ll need to make it a priority to develop your sense of self-worth. Not only do we all look different, we are different. We all have different strengths, skills, talents, gifts, and abilities that are unique to us.  It is simply not reasonable to think you can have them all, nor is it necessary.  Each one of us has strengths AND weaknesses.

My experience has taught me that the only way you will be happy is if you are happy with who you are. If you lead a life focused on comparing yourself to others, you will likely end up unhappy, unfulfilled, unloved, and unsuccessful.

On the other hand, when you focus on developing your unique strengths, talents, and abilities, your self-image will grow, your insecurities will fade away, and you will find great fulfillment, satisfaction, and enjoyment in life.

Oprah Winfrey said, “I was once afraid of people saying ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to stand and say, ‘This is who I am.'”

My Challenge

Look to others for what you can learn from them, both good and bad, but never wish you were those individuals. You can compare your results to the results of another, but never compare who you are as a person to another person.

Start focusing on what makes you special. Look at your distinguishing traits and develop them. Become the best at what you offer the world.

When you find yourself feeling envious or jealous, stop to identify the source and clear the old voices and experiences.

If you find yourself feeling jealous because you feel you may lose a friendship, relationship, boy- or girlfriend, or spouse, instead of focusing on your jealousy, focus on what you can control—the value you can bring to the relationship. Remember, relationships break down when one person is no longer meeting the needs of another.

Stop counting other people’s blessings and start counting your own.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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