What is Envy Telling You?

Apr 11, 2019

You’re scrolling through your Facebook/Instagram feed. You see that someone you know, possibly a colleague or a school friend has managed to secure a seat in an all expenses paid trip to a conference abroad. The conference resonates with you and you realize if only you had become aware of the opportunity, you would have applied and quite possibly gotten in. You want to feel happy for them, but you experience a sinking feeling inside of you. 

With the advent of social media, it is not uncommon for us to know what others around us are up to. With Instagramming every little thing we do in fashion, social media can get overwhelming. It is easy to look at someone else’s life and feel that you are getting left behind. During such moments, the ability to skillfully navigate such thoughts and emotions becomes crucial. 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to become smart and mature with our feelings. Being smart means thinking things through- not jumping into instant conclusions. Likewise, being mature means thinking not just from your perspective but from others’ perspectives too. 

When overwhelmed with feelings that arise from seeing others do well, it is helpful to ask ourselves first: what am I feeling right now? Chances are, you are likely to feel one of two feelings: jealousy or envy. Although they sound similar on the surface, these two feelings are different. 

Envy doesn’t deny that seeing others do well is a bit unsettling, but it provides perspective as to what we value and would like to accomplish for ourselves. If anything, this feeling can help to push us to pursuing what matters to us. Watching others succeed in an area we’d like to get better at can be a source of positive fuel. 

If you’re looking to develop your emotional intelligence, the first step is to develop the ability to label your emotions accurately. For this, you will need to develop your emotional vocabulary. When you step back and realize it is envy that you are feeling, the next step is to understand the function of that particular emotion. Envy is telling you about something you wish for yourself but haven’t quite attained yet. If it is envy that you are in fact feeling, get into the habit of asking yourself these questions:

Q1. What particular aspect of the news is making me feeling envious?I saw that my friend applied to a conference and got in. I wonder how he come to know of such opportunities. If only I was aware of such information, I would have worked hard to apply too! 
Q2. How does answer to Q1 relate to my short term and long term goals?Going to such conferences would help boost my profile. I could get international exposure and bring back my learnings to my own organization. Getting into one would probably be a starting point for further exposure which would help me get opportunities to work with international clients. 
Q3. What can I do to take that first step toward what I answered in Q2?I will approach my friend/colleague and inquire about such conferences in the future. But first, I will congratulate him!

Emotions are useful data. They can help us know more about ourselves and people around us. In the next edition of this series, we will discuss about jealousy. 


Sagar Satyal

Sagar Satyal is co-founder at My Emotions Matter and can be reached at [email protected].