Have you ever gotten that long awaited promotion or new job, shared it with a friend whose response was: “Oh, that’s nice.” Or worse yet says, ”What was wrong with you that you couldn’t get it sooner?”
Or maybe you’ve returned fresh, filled with tranquility and joy from a spiritual retreat, excited to tell a good friend all about your personal discoveries, and they immediately dismiss it or generalize your experience.
And then it seems we all have that one friend that always seems to be competing with you to be bigger or better.
This is Envy.
It’s normal to feel a little envious of others every now and then, but it’s different when it’s consuming, and deliberately hurtful.
Morrissey even wrote a song about it
which sums things up pretty well:
We hate it when our friends become successful
And if they’re northern, that makes it even worse
And if we can destroy them
You bet your life we will destroy them
If we can hurt them
Well, we may as well, it’s really laughable
Ha, ha, ha
You see, it should’ve been me
© Morrissey – We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful
I’d like to quickly point out that Envy and jealousy are often confused.
Envy is when you want what someone else has, but jealousy is when you’re worried someone’s trying to take what you have. Jealousy is most often seen in insecure relationships.
The root of envy is a mentality of poverty or lack.
This mentality is driven by comparison and the belief that they will never achieve a desired status, income or aren’t any good at something or at least not as good as the one being compared to. This stirs up powerful feelings of desire or covetousness for the lifestyle, possessions or what-have-you of another.
The emotion of envy can be triggered in circumstances that
involve a social comparison where someone perceives that you have possessions, attributes, or attainments that diminish their own status (Silver & Sabina, 1978; Smith & Kim, 2007).
Envious people will never say it directly, but the distain they have towards you will come out verbally and sometimes subtly as criticism or disrespect for you.
Envy is a sign of weakness.
The greater the envy experienced, the more weak and inadequate the envious one believes they are compared to the other person. This insecurity causes a higher tendency to be defensive or verbally lash out.
A powerful emotion like envy can even influence ethical decision-making, promoting the justification of deceptive behavior.
Recognizing envy in others:
- Withdraw: They aren’t available and don’t behave like the person they were before learning of your achievements.
This person may not answer your phone calls, emails, or texts. You find they give you the silent treatment and just be overly unavailable. Truly, they wish good things were not happening to you and can’t bear to hear about your happiness.
- Invalidate you: This includes subtle and not so subtle belittling, generalizing and/or devaluing your achievements and experiences. This often includes comparison to others.
- Rudeness toward you for no reason when things are just starting to go well for you. This can display as dismissiveness, a lack of responsiveness, to outright belittling on hearing of your good news.
- They are never happy for you.
How to handle an envious friend
There are several methods to deal with these situations and personalities, but firstly, I recommending taking a step back and evaluating the overall relationship and determining if this ill behavior is a long-term pattern, or a one time issue.
- ) Do NOT take things personally! Usually when someone is negative, it has to do with them and their issues and nothing to do with you.
- ) Be proud of yourself and your achievements. You worked hard to get where you are – own it! Do not downplay your own success and hard work because of another’s feelings of inadequacy.
- ) Try talking to your friend about it. If their behavior doesn’t improve, or if you believe it to be a pattern, bring it up gently and try to work it out. But remember, it is they, not you who must do the work.
- ) Give it space or if needed, let them go. Usually, time and space apart is enough to minimize another’s ill feelings toward you. If they continue to react to you in hurtful and negative ways despite efforts to remedy the situation, it’s in your best interest to let them go.
- ) You cannot and never will please everyone. Just do your best to be a loving, honest and compassionate person.
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.”
― John Lydgate
We all might feel envious at times, but those who really understand that the source of their suffering is actually within themselves, will try to fix their problems, because truly, the feeling of envy is painful.
You are not competing against anyone in this life but you. You only ever need to focus on your own path and goals, continually improving yourself and well-being.