RockIt Careers

Green from Envy is Not a Good Color for You

Brian Young
RockIt Career Consultation Services

Envy is the first of the seven deadly sins described by Dante in Inferno. It’s characterized by an insatiable desire and a discontent towards someone else’s traits, abilities, status, or rewards. At some point, we’ve all had this feeling to one degree or another. Few of us have learned to master it completely. As the Greek tragedy writer, Aeschylus once wrote, “Few men have the natural strength to honor a friend’s success without envy.” If left to fester, envy is cancerous to our psyche as well as our career. Watch the movie, American Psycho, to get a better understanding of where envy can lead when the bounds of morality are removed.

It has us focusing on all the wrong things. Instead of looking within ourselves to search for ways to improve, we are spending all our time and energy on the flaws and failures of others. Oftentimes, causing us to point them out, either to the person or to the public. Ever wonder why a bully used to pick on you at school when you were a kid? Most of the time it was because they were insecure and envious of you. You had something that they didn’t. Instead of doing something about it themselves, they decided to act out their discontent on you by making fun of one of your flaws or mistakes.

Envy also leads to other negative emotions, such as anger and hatred. Suddenly, the person you are envious of becomes a personal enemy. It’s been found that we even feel pleasure from that person’s pain. For many of us, we don’t realize that these negative emotions are only hurting ourselves, not the other person.

You’re harming a potentially great relationship and losing a possible ally. Rather than destroying the relationship, this person could help you become better. For example, in the sales arena, there’s always that one person on a team who consistently does better than everyone else. Wouldn’t it make more sense to talk or shadow that person and see what he or she is doing differently than you? Maybe you could incorporate their techniques into your own process. This is better than hating the person for their qualities.

Additionally, it drains our own personal motivation and aspirations. This is because envy takes the control of our destiny away from us and puts it in the hands of others. In essence, it’s a victim mentality. In our thinking, the only reason why we are not succeeding is because of them. But is it really their fault? What if that other person just has a natural talent or gift that we struggle with? What good does it do to always compare ourselves to them on those terms? Doesn’t it make more sense to measure success on our own terms, where we can see the strides we’re making towards our own goals and self-improvement.

Envy, and all the other negative baggage that comes with it, can also stress the body so much that we feel it physically. Increased blood pressure and heart disease, loss of appetite, a decreased functioning in memory and focus, and the development or an increase in bad habits, are just a few of the things that can stem from the stress caused by envy.

Finally, it has implications for everyone else around you. Whether it’s your family, friends, or co-workers in the office, once envy takes control of you, people generally won’t want to be a part of the feud. It makes them uncomfortable. Soon they will start to avoid you. How good do you think this will this be for your career?

While it’s easier said than done, we must control our emotions and learn to keep our feelings of envy in check.

First off, we should stop comparing ourselves to others and internalize our comparisons to who we were yesterday and who we want to become tomorrow. We ought to recognize how we have made strides toward improvement and feel accomplished about it. Then, it’s time to plan on how to keep things going in the right direction.

Second, we need to change the language we use and the thoughts we conjure. For example, let’s say we got passed over for a promotion and someone else got the job. Instead of thinking, “I got shafted,” say, “What could I have done differently so next time I get the promotion.” An even better option is to ask this to the boss. Hopefully he or she is open enough to fill us in on where improvements could be made. Then don’t just think about it, do it. As the saying goes, “Your income can grow only to the extent that you do.”

Lastly, we should be in charge of defining what success means. Don’t let others define it for us. When we have command over this definition, we’ll find there are a myriad of ways to be successful, some of which we have the advantages. Heck, who knows, others might start to get envious of us!