Question: How do I manage my envy for other people’s lives when they are experiencing something I’m wanting?
“Every Facebook post is about pregnancy, engagement, a new job, or new adventure. I’m genuinely happy for them but it comes with an initial twinge of jealousy.” -A
When I receive a question like this, my first and most basic response is-
Then I wonder,
“What is operating inside of us that makes us want what we don’t have?”
This question raises my curiosity for 2 reasons…
1. My most fundamental belief is that we are “good.”
No matter what wells up and presents itself to the public, at our created core, we are magnificent. Marvelous. Miracles in skin suits.
This is our life long pursuit- mining and owning and manifesting all the universal and unique good inside of us. (Game on.)
2. I believe every person is doing the very best she can in the moment.
“What the —?! Really? Are you serious, amy?”
Yes. Even more serious than I am about the Dallas Cowboys winning an NFL title in 2018. Serious.
You are doing the very best you can in the moment.
The guy who cut you off in traffic this morning was doing the best he could in the moment. You mother-in-law is doing the best she can in the moment. Your ex is doing the best he can in the moment. Your temperamental child is doing the best she can in the moment. Your significant other is doing the best he can in the moment. Your demanding boss is doing the best she can in the moment.
If you and I can give people that; give ourselves that- we have way more space to work this life stuff out.
You and I are good at our core and we are doing the very best we can in a given moment.
So why do I perpetually want what I don’t have?
Because “wanting” pulls me further along the path. “Wanting” leads me deeper into the life I’m called to live if I let it.
Let me explain.
I used to have a job I hated. I worked long hours, traveled too much, and felt undone all the damn time.
There was an adorable coffee shop down the street from my office. They handmade everything, including soups and sandwiches. I grabbed lunch there most weekdays when I wasn’t traveling. I’d blow through the door, a hot mess, usually racing from one meeting to the next.
But there was this lapse in time when I had to wait on my food. It was before smart phones. I didn’t have email or social media to check. I didn’t have a game at my fingertips. I just had to old-fashion “wait.”
And while I waited, I people watched.
I watched women- some my age, some only a bit older than me- huddled up at tables talking. And laughing. Some sitting alone, reading. Some with pen and paper on the table, writing. Some passing babies around. They seemed so happy. No hurry. Just enjoying the day.
I was crazy jealous.
They were so different than me.
I worked 14 hour days. I had very few female friends. I secretly dreamed of being a writer but had no time to write. My husband and I were trying to have a baby and couldn’t. Our marriage was falling apart.
Seeing those woman who had what I wanted made my insides ache. But I kept going there day after day.
I think this story comes to my mind today because being jealous of those women stirred something in me. It’s the first time I remember seeing the life I wanted and making a mental note, “I’m going make that happen for myself. I don’t know how or when- but I want it.”
That was more than fifteen years ago.
Today, I’m sitting at Starbucks writing this response. I’ve got a friend coming to meet me here at 2:00 with her four-month old daughter. We’ll laugh, sip some coffee, and pass that sweet baby girl around. I’ll pick up my son at school after that. I’ll get home in plenty of time to fix my family a nice supper.
How did that happen? How did I get here from there?
There are lots of pieces to that puzzle. I’ll share them over time. The most important thing to realize today is-
“Wanting” what other people have can motivate you and I.
It helps us paint pictures for our future. It helps us identify what we aspire to do and be and have in our lives.
Growth is part of our human process. Most of us will press and push toward betterment until we draw our last breath. Why wouldn’t we use other people’s experiences to mold our own?
But we’re often told it’s wrong to want what other people have.
Some people say “being jealous is bad.” Or that you and I should “be content with what we have.” Others will even say it’s a “sin.” (“Do not covet,” is the 10th commandment.)
But if we look within, we’re (usually) not wanting the thing that already belongs to the other person. You and I don’t want her baby or her husband or her job or her adventure. (If you or I do want something that belongs to her already, we’ll need to address that differently. With a coach or a therapist is best.)
You and I don’t want her experience.
We want our very own.
And wanting it for ourselves can draw us toward envisioning and acting on it.
How do I manage my envy for other people’s lives when they are experiencing something I’m wanting?
It ties back to our life long pursuit- mining and owning and manifesting all the universal and unique good inside of us.
Wanting more for our lives, for our relationships, for our careers, for our contribution, for our purpose, for our soul expansion- well it just makes sense!
I think we can manage it by asking a question-
Am I envious because what she has is something similar to what I want for my own life?
If “yes,” we can begin with small steps toward making it happen.
If “no,” then we can let that go and leave ample room for what we really want.
With either answer, we can say, “Good for her and good for me!” And keep moving.
Also published on Medium.