3 Techniques to Avoid Envy

It never fails. You buy a brand new car, house, boat, phone, coat, and then you notice the neighbor next door has a better version of it than you have. That wonderful feeling of pride you experienced owning that new item suddenly plummets to anger.

There is a way, though, to avoid these feelings of despair.

1. Never compare ourselves with others.

Comparing ourselves with others is a losing game. Everyone is different. We all have different tastes, different styles and different goals in life. When we look to others, and compare what we have, let alone, what we do not have, and wish our lives were different, we set ourselves up for failure.

We need to appreciate our own circumstances in order to appreciate our own value.

That is hard to do when society does nothing more than compare people with people all the time. Disengaging is not an option either. We cannot go a day without having contact with another person.

Yet, when we look into the mirror, we ought to see how wonderful a creation we truly are, and that there is no one else like us in this entire world.

2. Forget about coveting what others have.

The bible is quite clear when it talks about coveting:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex. 20:17 ESV).

The idea that God knew what we would be like before issuing the tenth commandment should inspire a pause. Envy has a way of eating at our hearts, promoting fear, and lingering long after we come to the realization of its futility.

Coveting does one thing well. It convinces us we are inferior to those of whom we covet. We ought to know better. We ought to toss covetousness aside. God believes we are better than the things we desire that are not ours.

God wants us to be strong in spirit and strong in character.

Envy cannot grow in a person who avoids comparing oneself with others.

3. Engage in activities that will build self-esteem.

Ultimately, the cause of envy is low self-esteem. Being secure with who we are and what we do raises our satisfaction with ourselves and with what we have. If we do not like who we are, then logically, we would want to be someone else. What better way to be someone else than to want what others have.

Purging the need for validation is the first step to building self-esteem. Finding activities that will allow us to grow in that direction is the second step.

As someone who aids others with the direction of their lives, I tend to ask questions that promote discussion. One of the questions I ask is this: what makes you happy? Many of the people of whom I speak with do not know what makes them happy. Some cite money. Some say a beautiful house and car. But no one really talks about satisfaction with their lives. There is always something missing, which they believe is something material in nature they need to possess.

Possessions do not make people happy.

Money makes life easier, but it does not make people happy.

However, the simple activity of flying a kite, or walking a dog, or stomping our feet in the rain may bring incredible joy that cannot be compared with anything else.

Simple activities such as these are what define happiness for us, and we would not need to succumb to envy to build our self-esteem.

What more is there?

Perhaps it is time to see things from a different perspective. Perhaps it is time to love others rather than want to become them. Only then would we feel compelled not to envy them.

Only then would we become whole.

Toxic Perfectionism

I have a confession to make. I’m not sure if this is the right forum to admit this, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m going to write this in stream of consciousness without editing any of it. Let’s see how far I get for this Freedom Friday post.

Toxic Perfectionism
Toxic Perfectionism

The confession. If you haven’t figured it out from the title, I was a perfectionist. When I say that, I mean it in the strictest sense of the word. Thankfully, a decade or so ago, I had put it all away and I’m happier for it.

Being a former perfectionist allows me the liberty to recognize when others are suffering from the same debilitating condition. The unfortunate thing about it is not having the power to prevent them from causing harm to their neighbors or themselves. It’s like seeing someone holding a baseball bat over a brand new convertible and waiting for that person to trash it because it’s not a Rolls Royce.

You see, perfectionism convinces sufferers they’re not worthy. Strange, I know. Bear with me. Perfectionists always compare their situation with others, and in so doing, they minimize their achievements because they’re convinced the other guy has it better. Remember that saying? How does it go? Oh, yes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Thing is, it’s not. It’s an illusion. The Joneses show you what they want you to see. But what you don’t see are their heavy debts, the fighting that goes on behind closed doors, and the screaming kids. Perfectionists can’t keep up with the Joneses because The Joneses will always be one step ahead.

Then there’s the guilt. That guilt is the driving force behind the life of a perfectionist. Without it, they’d be like everyone else—relatively normal. But why the guilt? Simple, guilt causes perfectionists to set unattainable goals based on unrealistic expectations. A case in point is the guy who graduates college and a week later expects to score a job. Sorry, real life doesn’t work that way, unless you’re a drop out and found your own company like Bill Gates did, but that’s a story for another day.

The worst part about having been a former perfectionist is knowing I had gone through life thinking nothing was ever good enough. It all goes with not feeling worthy, comparing myself with others, and the guilt. It’s that “not good enough” feeling, which kills the most. As wonderful, happy and joyful life is, if perfectionists feel not as good as required, it doesn’t matter what happens in their life, they will always feel inadequate.

Perfectionists can’t survive without knowing they’re in control.

As I’d mentioned, it’s been a decade or more since I’ve given up perfectionism and, let me tell you, it’s been like someone had thrown the light switch. What a difference. Life is not about being perfect. It is not about others having more than we do. It is not about feeling unworthy, not feeling good enough, and feeling guilty every moment we take a breath. In all honesty, no one can control every situation, but it sure makes sense to want to try. Funny thing about it is what makes sense to a perfectionist is wrong.

That’s how I broke the habit, going against myself to want to be who I am without the turmoil. Now, I’m happy knowing I’m always giving my best regardless of how I feel. It’s a matter of maturing. It’s a matter of living.

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Do you know perfectionists in your life? What is it that has affected you most knowing them?