Try reining in the green-eyed monster

Try reining in the green-eyed monster

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Try reining in the green-eyed monster

Envy need not necessarily be a negative emotion, if channeled the right way, writes Bhakti Bapat Mathew.

All of us have, at some point in our life, felt an unpleasant twinge of envy for someone we perceived to be luckier than us. While a lot of times the feeling passes away quickly enough, sometimes envy about a particular person can persist, especially if you have to meet the person every day, like at home, in class, or at your workplace. This long-duration feeling can be a very unhealthy thing if it goes unattended by the person experiencing it.

Consider this. Envy can cloud your judgment, hit your self-esteem, make you take decisions that may not be the best, and lead to you saying things about someone that may not only be completely untrue, but also extremely hurtful. In fact, several cultures have created mythologies and symbols  that “ward off the evil eye”. In our Indian context, the kumkum water sprinkled on a dear ones face is supposed to keep the ill effects of envious eyes at bay. Several shops tie red chillies at the entrance to ward off any curses that jealous competitors might cast, and keep the business going.
Green-eyed monster or misunderstood muse?

Envy does not have to be the villain it is made out to be. Psychologists say that when you feel envious, it's often your subconscious telling you that you deserve better, that you can and should be doing more. If this emotion is leveraged correctly, it can actually spur you on to outstanding achievement. After all, let’s face it, feeling envious may be one of the quickest ways of shaking off your well-settled complacency and setting the bar higher for yourself.

In the revolutionary medicine-world novel The Citadel, written by A. J. Cronin, when the young protagonist Dr. Manson complains to his wife about a senior doctor and asks her if she thinks he, Dr. Manson, is envious of the older man because of his higher medical qualifications, his wife Christine calmly agrees. She then goes on to tell him matter-of-factly that maybe he would deal with the situation better if he were to study further and get the same or higher qualifications. Although Manson is piqued at that moment, he does eventually realise the truth in her words.

Leveraging envy

So what can tip the scales against the negative effects of envy to more beneficial effects? Like most negative emotions, the first and foremost step to counter the potential ill effects of that emotion may be to acknowledge the truth of it. Admitting to yourself that you feel envious and may not be completely fair to the person in question by calling them just plain lucky is a great first step. Stepping out of your denial lets you focus on the more important issue at hand: what are you going to do about it?

In some situations, there may not be much you can do. In such a scenario, merely admitting to yourself that you are envious may lift a burden and free you to admire the person’s success. In other situations, you can use the emotion to try and figure out what else you need to do. It could be changing jobs to get a better opportunity or working harder at the same one for better results. It could be that you need to set aside some time every day to pursue your long-term goals.

Life is simply too short to sit back, crib, and gossip about the success of others. Why in the world would you want to live vicariously anyway? It’s your life, and like Saif Ali Khan would say, make it large!

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