Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy; Jean Louis Théodore Géricault (1791–1824

No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.

Bertrand Russell -British author, mathematician and philosopher 1872-1970

In my life and in my work, I often find myself coming head to head with one of the seven deadly sins, and not one of the fun exotic ones.  Envy.  Quick and dirty example-I meet a singer at our first rehearsal together for a gig and they ‘resume’ me.  You know, they start listing off all the great jobs they have (that I don’t have -says the voice of envy in my head) Or I pick up Opera Canada and I flip to the back to see one of my reviews and catch someone else’s’ triumph in bold print, or I see them as a feature article on the cover and my envious voice says “What am I? Chopped liver? “ Or something to that effect.  For any of you newer moms you probably have felt the same feeling when the mom at the park regales you with tales of how her little Caleb at only 2 is reading full sentences, sleeping through the night and makes an excellent soufflé.  You get the idea.

Envy is defined thus:

Envy (also called invidiousness) 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”   from Wikipedia

Russell, quoted at the outset, has this to say about envy:

Envy undermines happiness – it generates pain from what others possess, instead of pleasure from one’s own possessions, and might even motivate measures to deprive others of perceived advantages. Unrestrained envy can destroy excellence.


Here is what I have to say about envy.  Envy is a great tool for pointing you in the direction of what you want out of life and what matters to you.  When you feel envy what you are saying is “you have what I really want, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it”.   Step back for just a moment from the “gimme, gimme, you don’t even deserve it” place envy catapults you and consider this.  If you don’t want someone else to have it, it means you want it.  And if it’s really making you crazy that they have it, then all the better reason for you to stop and look at what it is that they have that you want.  Once you know what it is you really envy about what they have, you can set yourself on the road to getting some for yourself.  Really!

When I do ice breakers in workshops, one of my favorites is to give the participants a chance to tell each other what they dream of doing in their life.  To speak their fantasy out loud.  You say your dream and someone else says theirs’.  When that happens people suddenly begin to say “oh, I love that idea.  I wish I had thought o that, I want to do that too”.  Whether is  trekking through Nepal or running a vineyard in Italy, the envy someone else’s’ dream sparks in you is a great tool to reveal what fires you up.

So the next time someone resumes you or brags about their new car, holiday cruise or superior child rearing skills, invite envy in for a coffee to take a look at what you are feeling.  You might discover your next great passion in life that you want to pursue

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