The wicked truth of why we get jealous of our friends’ success
They’re our cousins, friends and lovers and we call them our life’s best buddies. We seek their friendship when we’re down, and when they need us, we are sincere with our help. Yet why do we feel bad when they reap accolades? Why can’t we also be proud of their accomplishments?
Why does it seem like somewhere inside us we’re unhappy when they become successful?
The simple answer is envy. Envy makes us feel discontented with ourselves and jealous of what other people have. Have you ever scrolled through Facebook and seen a picture of a friend’s latest smartphone, gadget or latest holiday in Boracay?
Uncontrolled envy in the workplace can derail careers. But controlled envy can boost self-motivation.
On these moments, perhaps we wish we were there instead of that friend, watching a movie on that gorgeous tablet or enjoying a dip at the beach. Fortunately, science says envying others is a natural response. However, envy also has many dark faces.
What science says
University of Texas psychologists Sarah Hill and David Buss revealed in their study ‘The Evolutionary Psychology of Envy’ that envy has deep biological origins. By comparing ourselves with other people, we evaluate our standing, assess our abilities and adjust accordingly so that we can survive. Simply put, feeling envious of other’s success can help us improve our condition in life.
Envy among kids can easily turn to bullying as kids cope with desire.
The psychologists also explained that we are more likely to feel envious towards people who are like us. This explains why we feel more discontented with a friend’s success than with the accomplishments of a complete stranger.
But the ways in which we deal with envy greatly vary for each person. What do you usually do when you feel jealous of a friend’s accomplishment?
Coping with envy
People cope differently with envy: either passively or aggressively. The following are some ways we do it — try to find out which one of these you usually do:
- Submit. Submitting is a passive coping mechanism that means we accept that the person we feel envious of is better than us. Submission can lead to lower self-esteem especially if we focus too much on our weaknesses and forget that we also have strengths.
- Avoid. This passive coping mechanism means steering clear of the person we are envying. Avoiding and forgetting that person’s success can prevent us from comparing ourselves with that person and feeling unhappy.
- Compete. Reacting competitively to envy is an aggressive form of coping mechanism. After comparing ourselves with the person we feel envious of, we adapt similar skills, mimic that person’s talents or shift to their chosen field and try to beat them in their own game.
- Destroy. This aggressive coping mechanism means attacking the person’s reputation in the hope of destroying their image as achievers and improving our own. In Filipino culture, this is called ‘crab mentality’ or the tendency to pull down others who are ahead of us and often starts through gossip.
How we react to envy depends very much on habit. If we are in the habit of spreading rumours, then we may have the tendency to apply an aggressive form of coping mechanism. If we tend to shy away from confrontation, then we might cope passively to envy.
This photo, which many claimed to be Jeane Napoles, daughter of ‘Pork Barrel Queen’ Janet Lim-Napoles, circulated the web just as the PDAF scam was exposed.
While the first photo may have been faked, it did not stop the public from complaining about Jeane’s lavish lifestyle
Each coping mechanism has its pros and cons: which one of these do you prefer doing? But a more important question is, would you rather fall for the traps of envy or move on from the feeling?
How to stop feeling envious
Some people choose not to feed their envy to get rid of negativity from their lives. This is why just as they begin to ogle at a friend’s new iPad or feel their faces twitch at a colleague’s promotion, they simply step away from the temptations and move on. How do they do this?
Here are just some things people do to nip envy right in the bud:
- Acknowledging insecurity and weakness. This means accepting that there are just some things we cannot do or achieve because they do not fit our skills. But we should be careful not to wallow in self-pity but instead focus on building upon our weaknesses.
- Recognising that pride is not the answer. To retaliate against a person’s success, sometimes we focus mistakenly on our strengths. For example, something a Filipinos would say in envy is ‘He may be rich, but he’s not as handsome as me.’ False pride is not the answer to envy as this does not address the root of the feeling and does not help us move on from it.
- Be more compassionate to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Do not force yourself to go to lengths just to show others you can also be great in their chosen careers. Why should it be about them? Stick to what you love doing and improve your skills on that passion.
- Stop habits that fuel envy. Did you know that browsing through Facebook can actually spark feelings of envy? According to a German study, 30% of 584 Facebook users admitted to envying friends’ posts. The result of this is that more people feel less satisfied and sad with their lives. But the cure to this is very simple: just log off and focus on other productive activities.
- Look for ways to improve yourself. How do you stop envying the success of others? By being successful yourself! Find something you love to do and do it! In time, with experience and better skills, you’ll achieve great things in the path you chose. The best thing about this option is that you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone but yourself.
- Count your blessings. Each of us has our own strengths, and these are all worth celebrating. To feel more satisfied in life, we should always be grateful for who we are and what we have right now.
Life already has plenty of stressful moments, why do we have to add to them by feeling envious of others? Envying others can only bring pain. But what not everyone realises is that the pain that comes with envy is inflicted by ourselves.
A friend just won a million pesos from the lottery… so what? Should that win affect us in any way? If we allow ourselves to be affected, we will be unhappy. But if we just accept the facts of life, we will continue to be satisfied with ourselves.
But of course, we can try suggesting to that friend to throw a party to celebrate the win!
Have you ever felt envious of anyone? What was it about? How did you cope with that feeling? What could you have done to better control that feeling? What advice can you give to those who constantly feel envious of the success of others? Share your thoughts below!