A few years back, I noticed a pattern in my thinking. Every time I’d discover a self-employed woman who had a flourishing mission-driven business—I had a deluge of conflicting positive and negative emotions.
On one hand, I felt a deep sense of admiration and appreciation for the work these women did and the impact it had on the world. I felt blessed to live during a time when the fight for equality in the workforce was just as important as it was in people’s homes.
On the other hand, I felt jealous and inferior; like I wasn’t good enough. I would drown myself in comparisons to other women.
I so badly wanted what they were creating in their lives and felt like a failure because I hadn’t yet achieved that for myself.
The worst part about it all was that I wasn’t able to love myself through these difficult feelings—I was constantly battling with myself.
Fast forward to today and I now have deep gratitude for those strong, difficult emotions I felt. They showed up to help me grow and to help me live a life that was more aligned with my values and ideals.
As a working mom who also leads mindfulness circles in the Bay Area, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how to tame envy, and put it to good use.
Here are 7 ways I learned to make envy my friend.
1. Be present and curious
At times when jealous thoughts show up, pause and deeply connect with what and how you are feeling. What about the person or situation are you specifically feeling envious about? Exploring this can help you define your values and desires and connect with what you really want in life.
2. Forget about the “shoulds”
Go deep and you may be surprised to discover that something you’re feeling jealous of isn’t something you actually want. Ask yourself—Is this something I deeply care about, or is this something that I am taught to believe is better for me and autopilot mode is taking control?
It may feel like something you “should” want, but is it really going to make you happier? Figure out what in your story is being driven by ego and what is driven by your soul.
3. Reevaluate your career path
Are there short term alternatives to that big dream you have? Maybe you care about serving animals and volunteering at a local animal shelter is all you need for your soul to feel alive so you don’t quit your job. Or are there classes you could take in an area of interest before you make the jump into that career path full-time?
While my own personal career path may not look exactly like I thought it would—I have a fulfilling corporate job, a blog where I get to express myself, and an opportunity to write for other platforms—I am happy with where I am.
4. Practice compassion—with yourself
This one can be tough. Even after taking the steps mentioned above, we are often still hard on ourselves. Take a moment to reflect on how are you are treating yourself when you’re feeling jealous. What is your inner voice saying?
“You have x, y, z in your life so you shouldn’t be feeling this way about a or b. Envy is wrong or bad.” Instead, see if you can say this to yourself—“I understand you are feeling sad about not having x, y or z. It is human and normal to experience this. Let’s find a way to channel this in a more constructive way.” Give yourself complete permission to feel what you are feeling and don’t judge your own thoughts.
5. Notice patterns
What did you envy a few years back and what do you envy today? What does it tell you about your changing values and perspectives? Is there a pattern in what you have envied over the years?
I have always envied people who do meaningful work in some form; people who are motivated by purpose vs achievement. Over time, I have realized this is a good thing and it means I need more of it in my life. When my work feels purposeful, I feel in alignment with my values.
6. Lead with positivity
This one is critically important. How do you treat people you admire? Feeling envious towards someone doesn’t make you a bad person. However, if you are behaving with anger, harshness, and judgment—take a deeper look at yourself.
Just because I used to struggle with my own feelings of inadequacy, I didn’t have to let that be all-consuming. I also had feelings of love, appreciation, and admiration and I am now able to lead with those emotions instead of the negative.
7. Make mindful changes
Once you have been able to get a handle on your envy, spend energy on creating change. Instead of focusing on judging yourself or others, ask yourself—what small changes can be made? Make sure to keep track of your progress and applaud yourself along the way for your efforts and not just the outcome.