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How to Transform Envy into Thankfulness

How to Transfrom Envy into Thankfulness
Knock Knock, Who’s there?

Don’t compare your life to othersYou have no idea what their journey is all about.

You never know. As soon as you yearn for someone else’s job or organized house or spouse; the minute you boil with envy over your neighbor’s abundant stash, whiter teeth, shinier hair, thinner thighs, smarter kids and coveted nanny – what you calculate may not be what it seems.

An illusion is a distortion of the senses and it’s likeness to reality is slim to none. As young as 9 years old, I wanted to be Angela Cartwright, “America’s Sweetheart”, Linda, in Make Room for Daddy. She had a perfect ponytail, the perfect family, and they all thought she was perfect and adorable. (It was because of her I almost packed my bags and ran away to
Hollywood.)

When I got tired of Miss Sweetheart, I focused my attention on the older, more beautiful and glamorous Natalie Wood. I bought a white dress just like the one she wore in West Side Story. (I still have it today and call it my “Natalie” dress.) She was my idol and I followed her everywhere (on-screen that is.) Marjorie Morningstar, Splendor in the Grass, Gypsy – I wanted to be her.

As a matter of fact, when I was overthinking what to have my grandson call me (I don’t like the silly names that are so popular today: Mimi, GaGa, Gammy, GlamMa, Gummy, LaLa) I decided that I would teach him to call me Natalie Wood instead of Grandma. That’s right, we’ll be walking down the street, and he’ll call out “Natalie Wood,” and everyone will turn around. Ha!  Not really, I like grandma. And just last week, on his own, he started calling me Mimi.

How to Transform Envy into Thankfulness

Envy in all its Forms

It wasn’t always movie star quality that got my attention. I had a childhood friend named Carol who lived in a beautiful old house on a street named Shrewsbury, which had a lovely ring to my ear. Her mother brushed her long, straight and shiny gorgeous mane of hair every morning and pinned it with 2 matching barrettes. As she skipped, her hair would swing and bounce. Mine, however, was a pile of frizz that resembled a Brillo pad. Carol had an older sister, Meg, who never lost her patience, a best friend named Betsy who, naturally, lived next door and a Collie they called Champ. I wanted to move in.

Since I didn’t think my life was grand enough and I was too young to know better, I was always ready to trade mine in for one that appeared more special, more colorful, richer, storybook-like, flawless and ideal. What was I thinking?

Transform Envy

It took years, cumulatively, to convince myself of several things. Often, what’s good and right and exactly what you need is right there in front of you. Probably always has been but you didn’t or couldn’t see it. I took a leap of faith in myself and learned the comfort that springs from wanting what you have rather than having what you want. I also realized that you never truly know what lurks behind closed doors. Things are often not what they appear to be. And you need a sharp magnifying glass to peer into your neighbor’s, your friend’s your idol’s reality. Flip the magnifying glass over and what you see are their stresses, their secrets, and their challenges.

How to Transform Envy into Thankfulness

My own personal journey exploded in front of me forty years ago. I was standing in the middle of my kitchen when there was a gas explosion from the oven. Just inches from the burners, only seconds later, I saw cabinet doors fly open, the window burst into the room and there was debris everywhere. Miraculously, I wasn’t hurt but for a minor scratch. It was as though the window’s shattering glass surrounded my body but didn’t pierce it. A small flame quieted down. What could have been and what was is still a miracle to me today. And so my journey continued.

Why do we think the Grass is always Greener?

If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.

Unknown

Why do we think the grass is always greener in some other pasture?

This powerful and ubiquitous experience is rooted in a human nature tendency called the focusing illusion.

According to Dr. Marjorie Stiegler, this describes how people make judgments. In general, people focus on a subset of data rather than all possible data – because of limitations to our working memory capacity. But, when we focus just on the subset of data we give it more importance than it deserves. This focusing illusion effects how we see our jobs, personal relationships and more. We tend to focus solely on one part of it (usually the negative) without seeing the big picture (which includes the positive).

Spoiler alert!  When you make a change in life circumstances, you still have to take YOU with you.

Dr Marjorie Stiegler
How to Transform Envy into Thankfulness

The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome

“The grass is always greener” syndrome is a condition that has been present throughout many generations. But the condition seems worse in our modern era which is full of choices, opportunities and, freedom. With all these choices we have, it can be difficult to settle, commit or decide on something because we always wonder what else is available. Since we live in an age of opportunity, we have come to believe that there is always something better or that we are missing out. This type of thinking is destructive as it leaves us feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with life. Not only are we then unable to see and be grateful for all we already have, but we start comparing ourselves to others who have what we don’t have.

A Solution to Envy

What’s the solution?

Water your own grass…

Make an effort to reframe your focus and pay attention to the positive things you already do have in your life. These may be familiar or mundane things that you tend to overlook but by noticing them again it could really shift your perspective. This is what it means to transform envy. Yes, a world full of opportunity is a wonderful thing but don’t allow it to let you lose sight of what matters. Whenever you find yourself adrift and wanting what others have, pull yourself back to the present. Shift your focus to what you have now and take some time to enjoy it and feel grateful for it. In other words, water the grass in your own garden, nourish it, appreciate it and you won’t need to look for happiness anywhere else.

How to Transform Envy into Thankfulness

The holiday season should be a joyful time but it can be tough not to feel envious when your social media feed is spammed with things you don’t have. Comparison tends to mutate during the holidays as there is a lot of pressure during this season. There are expectations that you should be surrounded by people you love, be taking exotic vacations or receiving thoughtful gifts. This can leave us feeling as if our life is lacking.

How to Transform Envy into Thankfulness

Therefore, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I want you to reignite your sense of gratitude. Rediscover all that you have and be thankful for it. So, that you can head into this holiday season with a joyful heart; that has transformed envy into thankfulness. Here are some tips on how to transform envy.

Understand What You Want

Envy occurs for a reason and can actually be used as a guide to understanding what you really want in life. Use what you feel envious about to teach you about your true desire. Envy, just like any other emotion, is teaching you something. Allow the feeling to provide you with helpful insights into your unfulfilled desires.

Reframe Your Focus

What if you could transform envy (the thing that caused you pain) into your source of inspiration? You could turn the negative energy into positive energy that inspires action. That’s real transformation if you ask me. Understanding your unfulfilled desires is great but doesn’t help unless you use the knowledge constructively. Once you understand why you are envious, you can actively reframe your thoughts by directing your focus elsewhere and using it to motivate you.

Practice Gratitude

When you reframe your thinking it automatically leads you to the next step; feeling grateful. We will likely never know what someone had to go through to achieve that thing we envy. But their success paved the way for you. So, practice gratitude towards the person you envy for the gift they are actually providing. If you find it difficult, then start practicing gratitude for what you already have or towards people you don’t envy. Eventually, it will get easier to be thankful to everyone and everything.

Cultivate Happiness

This is the final step to transform envy to thankfulness. Being able to find joy in others’ happiness is the ultimate goal of this transformation. Although it may seem impossible when you are envious, it is something that happens over time as you work through the previous steps. It may even be cultivated through selfish reasons at first, but this will change to unselfish joy eventually. When you can find happiness from other’s happiness, your opportunities to be happy will increase exponentially.

Have Some Self-Compassion

A final tip as you work to transform envy into thankfulness is to allow room for self-compassion. Always treat yourself with kindness and don’t feel guilty or ashamed if you feel envy. Rather, approach this journey of transformation from an understanding and loving mindset towards yourself and others.

A Personal Transformation

This year, I lost three dear friends; it’s been almost a year since my dearest friend (of almost 52 years) passed away, and I still mourn and miss her deeply. And then, there was my dear friend and client who passed away in the fall, who I adored and wish every day that she was still here. Also, another friend who passed away just this week; we met when our children were in kindergarten, and they grew up together. She left behind not only her children but her first grandchild who she only got to know for a year and a half. Although she was sick for quite a while, and she fought really hard, it just doesn’t seem fair.

In times like this people say be grateful for what you have, you never know what might happen, life is so short – all of that is true. But from the time my grandson was born, I transformed myself into living in the moment. I knew quite well that in the blink of an eye, my life or the life of someone else close and dear to be could be taken away. I transformed myself, not so much from envy into anything else; but just my state of mind. The transformation has made me a more mindful, present, and happier woman. I enjoy my life so much more and I smile all the time while rejoicing in all the beautiful things I have. I’m really not trying to forget all the things I don’t have; because honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I do have what’s important to me.

How do you deal with envy?

Comments 16

  1. Envy is a tough one. It comes over us unexpectedly as we are scrolling through social media, walking along the street, or even sitting in church! I agree that gratitude is a powerful weapon against envy. I heard once that most people, if given a chance, would choose their own problems over someone else’s. That is something to think about!

    1. Seana,

      How right you are that envy is a tough one. Makes all the difference when I decide to want what I have rather than have what I want.
      It’s interesting that you mention when asked, people would choose their own problems over someone else’s. That’s exactly what I write about in next week’s post.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. I used to envy my two sister-in-laws. They were so fit and thin. But then I decided to use them as my inspiration and to be realistic. One I’m much old than both of them. I have a different work schedule and don’t have the same amount of time to devote to exercising. So I looked at what I could do to live my life in a healthier way. Small changes have helped me feel better about me and my sister-in laws still inspire me to do better.

    1. Hi Janet,

      I think you really hit it on the nail. When we stop focusing on someone else and instead focus on ourselves, it completely turns envy around.

      I have to admit though, having not one but two sisters-in-law who are fit and thin can be a little much for anyone. 🙂

      Enjoy the fun holiday of Thanksgiving!

  3. First of all, my heart goes out to you for the loss of the three special people in your life. I remember hearing this recently that “grief only exists where love lived first.” It doesn’t seem fair, but boy oh boy, is it true. With deep loss often there comes an incredible appreciation of life. It sounds like you have come to that point and I’m happy for you.

    I love the photo of you with your grandson. There is joy “written” all over your face. And what a sweet name that he calls you, Mimi. I love that!

    I’m not sure what to say about envy. I’m sure that I experience it at moments although I can’t think of anything specific. But mostly, I am grateful for my life- the past, the present, and possible future. As I just reached a milestone birthday, I am also deeply aware (more than ever) that life is fragile, precious, and uncertain. I hope to live for many more decades, but who knows?

    So embracing what is here now, letting the people I love know how I feel about them, and finding joy in the world around me is how I choose to focus. There is so much to be grateful for. There is so much to enjoy, even with sadness, loss, and challenges. The hard things make the beauty that much sweeter.

    Wishing you and your beautiful family a happy, love-filled holiday season.

    1. Hi Linda,
      You have the most beautiful way with words. It’s hard not to think about the loss of my three friends, especially as I’m approaching the one year anniversary of the loss of my best friend, my confident and my soulmate. A piece of your heart is cut out with a loss like that.
      My life really turned around when my grandson was born. It’s a mesmerizing joy that’s magical and it doesn’t stop.
      So does one wipe out the other? Joy for loss? I don’t think so. But I am grateful that I’ve had so many very special relationships. I’m also blessed that I wake up every day happy. It’s non-negotiable. It just is.

      Sending you a big hug!

  4. Ronni, this post is so beautifully written, and definitely something to think about this time of year. With social media showing us so many things that we may envy, reframing our focus and practicing gratitude is great advice. This post reminds me of the Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We never truly know that the grass is greener in other people’s lives, or what they are going through, or have gone through.

    1. Hi Nancy!
      Thank you for this and for your kind comments. The one thing I keep thinking about is no matter where we go, there we are. Whatever we do, we take ourselves with us. To me that means that happiness and gratitude and being satisfied must start with oneself.
      I don’t have everything but I have all the good stuff in life that means so much to me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      Xo
      Ronni

  5. Thanks Ronnie!

    This is an excellent blog…I feel envy and then remind myself that no one has it all. Everyone feels envy…

    Each person experiences problems, trials, and weaknesses. This is what makes us human. Nobody is exempt. Nobody has it all. Nobody. Xo

    1. Hi Amy!
      Thanks for stopping by. You are so right. Nobody gets away scot-free. Everyone has their struggles in one way or another.
      For me, I try not to go there because there’s no high to up. I really do try to stay in my own backyard and be grateful for all the wonderful things I have in my life.
      Xo

    1. Hi Imee,
      Thank you for your comment and I am so happy that my article inspired you. I think you are right. A new perspective can change everything.
      Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  6. Beautiful and inspiring post! You bring so many truths to light and I love your ideas to overcome envy. We definitely need to water our own grass.

    1. Thank you so much Collene! Being thankful brings us so much joy as we appreciate who we are and where we are. It puts us in the moment as we experience the very most we can.

      Wishing you a Hsppy Thanksgiving!

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