How to Stop Envying Others

How to overcome envy

A guest post by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy

It’s healthy to possess a bit of envy for individuals you admire.

These people do what you want to do—they’ve got what you want.

But if envy doesn’t motivate you to take practical action, it’s a dangerous quality.

Your world becomes a place of what other people have or what other people do in contrast to what you don’t have and what you don’t do.

Practical action involves many tiny steps that often seem inconsequential, but it’s these individual steps that produce a substantial final product.

When you focus on the process, you understand what another person did to get that something that you want. You recognize common ground, and your goal becomes more attainable.

Consider Teenager Tom’s envy of a classmate who works at an ice cream shop. Tom works part-time at his parents’ travel agency, but he’s not interested in travel; he constantly fantasizes about spending his afternoons grazing on mini-spoon samples of frozen goodness.

What choice does Tom have? He can continue glamorizing his classmate’s life, or he can take a step.

The first step is to ask his parents if he could get a new job at the ice cream shop instead of his current gig. Let’s assume the conversation goes well and after a short time, he attains a job at the ice cream shop.

Hooray! (For now.)

Here’s what often happens when we reach a goal. After a few weeks at the ice cream shop, nothing in the world is more boring to Tom than ice cream. He knows every flavor, every topping, every scooping method, etc. He’s the Bubba Gump of ice cream.

His mind starts wandering over to the next best thing.

The ice cream shop has lost its intrigue, and Tom’s envy of his classmate has subsequently faded. The experience served a purpose, but it’s time for Tom to move on.

“Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself—must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will not know.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you get something that you think you want, sometimes you do wholeheartedly love it. Sometimes it temporarily satisfies a desire, but ultimately it’s not for you at all.

Your original envy may seem a little silly in retrospect. Remember that silliness amongst passive wishing and wanting for something more than what you already have.

Experience the mystery to learn more about it and get your next clue.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

~ Albert Einstein

Assume a limitless attitude regardless of what anyone else says.

You have to cheer yourself on if you want to create a new part of your reality.

Taking action to achieve your goals isn’t necessarily exhausting yourself and discounting the joy already present in your life. Make the right sacrifices.

If you discover that the process isn’t enjoyable, instead of envying the person who committed to that work to achieve that goal, find the work—a true passion—that suits you.

Set your eye on the prize. Adjust the path to that prize accordingly.

There aren’t some people who can do everything that they want to do and some people who can’t. The only difference is that some people do.

What’s the first step you have to take?

Stefanie Flaxman is the founder of Revision Fairy. Follow @RevisionFairy to keep up with Stefanie’s philosophy for writing and editing your life.

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  1. I love the words to Baz Luhrmann’s track ‘Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)’. One of my very favourite lines is:
    “Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes
    you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with
    So very true!
    Jo@simplybeingmum´s last blog post ..No Waste Tastes Great / Plus Next Week’s Simple Meal Plan

  2. ‘The grass is always greener . . .’

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with envy. Sure, I have felt it but it’s done what mentioned, motivated me into action. I do know people who do have a hard time with it. They’re those who’s glass is half empty all the time.
    Glynis Jolly´s last blog post ..Modifying Your Mood Will Change It All

  3. Michelle says:

    Wow!! I loved this post!! I have recently felt (and know for sure that they do because they’ve told me!!) that people envy me for my weight loss and healthy attitude toward life. I have always found being in this position to be very uncomfortable. Rather an asking me how I’ve gotten here, they offer back-handed compliments or insist that they are not disciplined enough to do what I do even though they have no idea what I “do” to attain it. This writer captured my thoughts exactly!! Thank you so much for posting. I am going to share on my FB page and blog.
    Kind regards,
    Michelle “The Curly Haired Chica”

  4. jp says:

    thank you, this guidance is so important for the development and stability of the SELF. i had so very many opportunities over the years, and created some realities for myself that i wanted and then, i messed up, bigtime because i was seeking that thing outside of myself, a mommy? approval? i was insecure bigtime. i was also self absorbed and greedy, indulgent, feeding, complaining, and worst of all, unkind. i lacked a strong sense of self and have learned it the hard way, loss and aging. i also learned how my constant “feeding” eating, drinking and overworking the liver (probably a taxed liver) continued a perpetual cycle of wanting and unhappiness. When in essence, I had it already.

    the importance of a strong inner base to return to cannnot be underestimated. this is one of the topics that should be taught in school before earth concepts because without this there is no healthy life on earth. there is no earth happiness. i do not believe the present chaos, the crime, the economic problems, the greed, etc is necessary. we must teach ourselves and our children, above all – kindness and it starts with kindness toward the SELF.

    thank you for the opportunity to make a comment

  5. Great reminder that a bit of envy is healthy but to follow it with practical action! I love to look at people who are ‘where I want to be’ and to look at what they did so that I can gain some clues. I have also learnt over the years, though, to enjoy the journey.
    Claire Kerslake´s last blog post ..I choose easy

  6. Glori says:

    I used to be be a very envious person. Still am sometimes. You know that feeling of the world and life is unfair? Yeah, I feel that a lot. But I realized I wasn’t doing myself any favor because I was focusing on other people. I should focus on myself so I can be better.

    Yes, envy can move us to be competitive, but really its more about competing with yourself. It’s difficult to do all the time, and it takes work.

    Thanks for the great post!
    Glori´s last blog post ..The Ultimate Resource List for Introverts

  7. The realization that you’re focusing too much on other people is a big step itself! Once you accept that there is so much that you can’t control, you also realize the power that you have to positively alter your own behavior, development, values, etc. It does take constant work to stay mindful and shape your life in ways that will benefit you in the long run.
    Stefanie @ Revision Fairy´s last blog post ..Freelance Confessions: Confronting the Unsolicited Copy Editor

  8. Steve says:

    This was a really interesting post, I’ll try to help my children getting rid of this bad habit! Thank’s for your advice.
    Steve´s last blog post tax

  9. Jane says:

    Thank you for your interesting post! I have recently been in the throes of an acute attack of envy, and this is very timely. I like what you say about finding your true passion, and asking what’s the first step that needs to be taken. Sometimes things can seem so huge and daunting, but finding out what needs to be done next makes things seem much more manageable.

    • It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and impatient, so breaking tasks down into steps is important. Here’s another way to think of it: If you want to learn a new language, you won’t be a fluent speaker the day that you begin learning it. Does that mean that you should never start? No. Instead, little-by-little you learn words, phrases, grammar, syntax, etc., and over time the new language becomes second nature. Thanks for reading, Jane!
      Stefanie @ Revision Fairy´s last blog post ..Freelance Confessions: Confronting the Unsolicited Copy Editor

  10. Helena Gabbys says:

    Let me ask you about one thing. Do you use any SEO plugin on this Blog, Mary?
    Helena Gabbys´s last blog post ..Watson Soma Online

  11. How true that we often lose interest when we get what we think that we want! I love the idea of connecting with the mystery and allowing life to unfold. That’s an interesting assertion that a “little envy” is healthy. I wonder about that!
    Sandra / Always Well Within´s last blog post ..To Feel Seen, Heard, and Connected

    • I know what you mean, Sandra! It’s certainly not always clear where healthy envy stops and damaging envy beings. I think healthy envy is more like admiration or respect. You may be inspired by people you admire or respect—you want to change your behavior or career because you look up to individuals who do something different than you. I regard pure envy as a more passive trait, a quality that stays within your mind and perpetuates negativity: the idea that someone else has something great and you don’t.
      Stefanie @ Revision Fairy´s last blog post ..Freelance Confessions: Confronting the Unsolicited Copy Editor

  12. Rose Byrd says:

    Stefanie, this is a fabulous post, urging us to DO, to BE in the moment of DOING, not fretting over somewhere else and something else and somebody else. There is a very deep well of joy and mystery and enlightenment in EACH MOMENT, if we put drill in with our whole self into those life-giving waters! Thank you for this wonderful guest post!
    Rose Byrd´s last blog post ..“……and Jitters did WHAT for that little injured girl?”

  13. […] negate your potential. And when you look at others and their perceived talent and success, you may feel envy – which is really a wish to extinguish the light of […]

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