Envy: A Poison of the Soul

Envy can be a dangerous emotion. No one is immune to this green-eye monster, but we must learn how to control it. ISV Ambassador and Correspondent, Sarah Naji Alyasiri explains more.

[quote]“The wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring” Victor Hugo[/quote]

When you embark on a journey of success, or when you have talent, grace, style and charisma, you stand out like flies on a horse’s tail. The success and grace always provoke jealousy and envy. An envious person can pick you out in five seconds. Pick you out, hate you, break your spirit, and bring you down.

What is envy? Envy is a very dangerous emotion; it brings out the worst in everyone. Envy can be defined as an emotion which occurs when a person lacks another superior quality, such as intelligence, beauty, attractiveness, social status and the like; or may lack either achievements or possessions, and either desire it or wish that the other would lack it. Envy exists when people want something that another person has. Envy is a feeling of grudging admiration and desire to have something that is possessed by another. The universality of envy indicates that it might genetically programmed.

Image courtesy of www.bloggerclick.com
Image courtesy of www.bloggerclick.com

Feelings of envy do not stem from hating other people or from being an evil person, but they usually stem from the inferiority feelings you experience when you see someone else doing better than you. Envy has to do with feeling unhappy about the success of someone else, or about what they have and, at the same time, secretly feeling inferior yourself. It results from remembering that we are no good or that we cannot do what he or she did. For instance, people who have emotional wounds do not feel bad all the time but they just remember the  wounds whenever they encounter something that reminds them of their wounds. When you have  an inferiority wound you will tend to remember it whenever you see someone doing things that you think you cannot do. Your wound can be a generalized one, such as thinking you are no good in doing anything, or a specific one, such as thinking that you cannot achieve financial success. The more generalized your wound is, the stronger the feelings of envy will be in your life. The type of inferiority is not the famous inferiority complex, but it is rather a belief that you are not good at doing something or at least not as good as your friends. All people have weak points and all people might envy others at some points in their lives, but what differentiates some people from others, is that some will use the feelings of envy as a motive to make bigger achievements, while others when they fail to compete or they know that they will never achieve what the envied person has, they just want to harm the envied person and try to destroy him or her because that person represents what they cannot have.

The circumstances in which you might be envious will always involve a social comparison or competition between yourself and another person. Such competition and comparison with others by which you measure yourself and your self-evaluation is destructive. Since envy is triggered only when one comes up short, that’s part of the reason why it is experienced as such an ugly emotion.

Envy has evolved to help us as an emotion that enables survival of the species, because it creates thoughts and feelings of wanting more than what one has and, therefore, evoking a sense of advantage and/or power. The thoughts and feelings that are evoked when the emotion of envy is triggered in your brain can make one experience animosity toward that person and anguish within oneself.

Image courtesy of www.themoosestore.com
Image courtesy of www.themoosestore.com

Envy has many manifestations, and some of them are hidden dragons. The enviers will not come and tell they are jealous of you; their jealousy will appear in the form of hatred, resentment and gossiping. The envy they have toward you will spill out of their mouths in the form of no constructive criticism, and rude treatment or disrespect of you; the next time you hear that someone was gossiping about you, there is a big possibility that this person is jealous of you and that he or she found nothing better to do other than talking about you in your absence. If you are envious of someone you may want to put them down, as though this will raise you up or lower everyone else’s opinion of them. Some enviers may project their own feelings on the envied people by gossiping about them, making them take on the role of the envier. Verbal jabs, undue criticism, spreading of false rumors and lies, persistent nagging, and other methods most commonly resorted to by most of us to destroy the person we envy. There is a lot of damage done, the flavor of envy is ugly.

In order to adjust measurements that will neutralize envy, those who envy you will have to diminish you, elevate themselves, or do both. It can manifest in a person is talking about you behind your back, tearing you, your achievements, and your relationships down. According to Oliver Stone, “Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the  power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that.” With envy, “the gap is between what you have and what the other person has—the other has something you want to have but do not have,” so the goal becomes to reduce this gap by bringing the other down (through harming them), or bringing yourself up. So oftentimes this emotion results in aggression, in envy you want to harm the person because you do not want them to be superior over you. Envy is an emotional pain, and oftentimes emotional pain translates into physical pain. It’s so painful to be inferior to someone else, that you cannot tolerate it. The goal of the envious person is to reduce the pain, and they will do everything that will help them to reduce the pain, even if it involves doing something nasty likes spreading a rumor or backstabbing someone.

Intense envy can turn into hate, anger, or violence. People should understand what can trigger envy. Some people can have things or do things in life that others cannot. They even desire what others have, but do not quite know how they themselves can achieve those things. When haters cannot figure out why they lack the things they lack or how they can get the things they lack, they become very angry individuals. To help themselves cope with this sense of frustration, they hate. Envy can lead to hate. This leads to violence and destruction. It is as simple as that. As we have seen, envy can spring up anywhere! The crude thing about envy is that it does not end till the other person’s quality or possession that caused the people to envy him or her is completely destroyed.  Envy destroys good, the destroyer thinking of nothing, but the satisfaction of his or her envy. Even then, the envy does not end; people can envy anyone. From there, they can hate or destroy him or her.

Researchers found that people are more likely to think about a person they envy, pay attention to details about them, and correctly remember that information much more than they would with  someone who is not envied. Envy makes people preoccupied with comparison and repeatedly measure their self-worth against what they perceive to be another’s.  Although envy can motivate someone to damage the position of the person who is envied, either in their imagination or reality, their envy can also make them work harder to attain what the envied person has. Envy, or jealousy, can have a corrosive effect on a friendship and it is not always out in the open, but rather wrapped under layers of passive aggression and veiled hostility. Some of friends may be green with envy.  Envy, or jealousy, can come in so many different forms. One might experience something good in his or her life, lose weight, fall in love, or get something published in a magazine. People want to share the happiness and achievements with their close friends, the people who hope will be happy for them. Their friends’ lack of shared excitement leaves the individual wondering what he or she did wrong. They say that tough times are when you find out who your real friends are, but we actually find out just as much when we are experiencing success. When our world expands, that makes them feel uncomfortable. To them our happiness is a constant reminder of their unhappiness.

Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com
Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com

No one is immune to the green-eyed monster. While envy is considered to be a bad emotion, it is also an extremely important one. People should not want to be devoid of the ability to feel envy, just like they should not want to be devoid of the ability to feel pain, because pain alerts us to what is dangerous around us. Because envy is all about relative status compared with someone else, it is a very important emotion that has many functions in terms of survival and keeping one’s relative status. Competitiveness seems to be highly related to envy, though it is not known which causes the other. It can help to create distance between the envious person and the envied other. If we let envy turn inward, it poisons the soul; expel it outward and it can move us to greater heights. Those who are hypercritical of us, or who slander us publically, probably envy us as well. We can win our revenge by ignoring their presence. Once envy reveals itself for what it is, the only solution is often to flee the presence of the enviers, leaving them to stew in a hell of their own creation. As Thoreau once said, “Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.” We should enjoy our success and abilities.  Let the jealous haters be burned by your fire, and do not forget to kick them out of your life.  


international student voice magazine Sarah AlyasiriSarah Naji Alyasiri

ISV Ambassador and Correspondent





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