Using envy as insight

using envy as insight

I recently finished reading Susan Cain’s excellent book: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. The book was thought-provoking and there were a couple of sentences that made me sit back and reflect: “Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.” I guess it sounds obvious when you hear it, but it’s been an emotion I’ve always tried to ignore versus using it as insight.

“Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.”

Susan Cain (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking)

Healthy vs unhealthy envy

Not all types of envy are useful though. Chasing material goals fueled by envy won’t end well. We sometimes think new shiny things make us happy. When they don’t, we just seek more of them. Other examples of unhealthy envy can be driven by social or societal pressures. Envy should be tapping into something intrinsic. Pillars of happiness are defined differently depending on what self-help book you read; here are the 4 that work for me:

  1. Health: without health we have nothing
  2. Wisdom: we are learning animals
  3. Experiences: memories make us who we are
  4. Relationships: we are social creatures

Things that have made me envious

When overhearing people’s fun weekends at the office, it felt annoying but it was envy. I never liked being asked on a Monday what I’d been up to as I rarely had much to say. I’m envious of friends that have busy weekend calendars with activities planned months ahead. It’s worth pointing out that “getting drunk” (which is a national pastime in the UK) isn’t an envious activity in my book. Continuing on the activities theme, I also get envious when hearing about activity holidays when I can’t do the activity, for example, surfing or skiing.

Simple solution

The last few weeks I’ve been making better use of my weekends. I’ve been experimenting with different activities (even if I think I won’t like them!). This morning I’m off to a yoga class. Already, I’m starting to look forward to the “what did you get up to at the weekend?” question on a Monday.

What’s made you envious recently?

2 thoughts on “Using envy as insight

  1. This is a really interesting article – I definitely feel that pressure too when people ask what I did at the weekend or during time off. The pressure I feel also kind of annoys me too though because it doesn’t seem to be acceptable to not be constantly doing things or doing things that are not fun enough!
    A friend recently told me about this pressure too and she said that on some weekends it feels like she is ‘creating content’ at the weekend (doing things she isn’t interested in) just to have something to talk about on a Monday!

    1. Thanks Hannah.

      Yeah, being busy (work and leisure) has become a status symbol. I’m sure there’s a saying that: there’s nothing wrong with doing nothing if you enjoy it. I’d agree with this, it’s probably only a problem if that’s all you do! It’s good to have time to relax and reflect.

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