Real Life

True Confessions Agony Aunt: Turning envy to your advantage

Woman jealous of colleague

Image: Thinkstock, posed by models

Many of the enquiries I get as an Agony Aunt are from people eaten-up with jealousy over what they perceive to be the success other people are experiencing, unable to recognise what they see on the surface might bear little relation to the reality.

Here’s how to turn your jealousy or envy into a positive for yourself and those around you.

Some people seem to have amazing luck yet many would subscribe to producer Sam Goldwyn’s wry comment “The harder I work the luckier I get”.

Countless celebrities point to a tutor or coach who believed in them and set them on their road to success whilst many others remember short-sighted teachers who viciously told them they were stupid or would never amount to anything. Instead of being cowed by such a lack of confidence in them, their reaction was to show the critic just exactly how much they could achieve.

Similarly, bad luck can stop some people in their tracks, while others can see it as a fact of life and try to negotiate around it, hopefully learning from the experience.

If her apparent life of luxury leaves you so envious of her good fortune that you are unable to see any of the negatives, such a lack of imagination could have a very limiting effect on your own achievements. Seeing only what you want to see results in an inability to recognise that while wealth, beauty and success make life easier at times they offer no guarantees against suffering disappointment, illness or despair.

Hilary Swank and Halle Berry are both stunningly beautiful award-winning actresses, yet that probably counted for nothing when their marriages ended.

Many people fail to follow in the hard work or experience of those they look up to and instead assume instant gratification to be a right. How often have we heard hollow laughter from ‘overnight’ successes who have worked for years to get where they are but whose long grind is conveniently forgotten in following the ‘why spoil a good story with the truth’ mantra?

Sometimes even just putting your negative thoughts in writing can bring about the solution as it will force you to take time to consider the facts and recognise that what you might be doing is generalising without all the details.

Many women are effectively paralysed by this envy which drains their energy and prevents them making positive changes and aiming high.

There’s a huge difference between being selfish and being self-aware – concentrating on improving and enjoying our own lives rather than fretting over things that don’t matter or cannot be changed.

  1. Accept that you may envy some people, but although you may feel everything has come easily to them, you don’t know that for sure.

  2. Negative emotions can produce very positive effects — your envy of someone else’s success can drive you on to greater things. Don’t let it poison you — use it well.

  3. Nothing beats hard work. Always being ready to learn something new and put in the graft has its own rewards, even if it’s just awareness that you’re living up to your capabilities.

  4. Don’t bad mouth other people. Be gracious in the face of other people’s success, be grateful to those who help you and if you can’t forget an insult use it to spur you on to better things.

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