How to Turn Your Envy Into Your Strength

Break down the secrets of people you’re jealous of and apply them to your work to see fabulous results.

How to Turn Your Envy Into Your Strength
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Break down the secrets of people you’re jealous of and apply them to your work to see fabulous results.

I get it. No matter how hard we’re working or what results we’re achieving, all of us get envious of people who have it better. Sometimes, we might be envious of another person’s talent, credentials, or simply the personal brand they’ve built over years.

“Why them?” we keep asking ourselves. “Why not me?”

As Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D. puts it, “We tend to envy people with whom we compare ourselves. We envy achievements that we think are possibilities for us — but we don’t feel confident in achieving them. We are more likely to envy someone when we think that their advantage is not deserved, since our envy often carries with it the sense of injustice.”

I’m not immune to it, either. There are several writers and content creators I’ve felt envious of along different points in my life. Sometimes, my envy forces me to think dark thoughts: They don’t deserve this. Why is my talent never noticed?

“Welcome to the wonderful world of jealousy. For the price of admission, you get a splitting headache, a nearly irresistable urge to commit murder, and an inferiority complex. Yippee.”
― J.R. Ward, Dark Lover

Truth is — dark thoughts never lead you anywhere. But making something good out of your envy can.

Of late, I’ve been taking conscious steps to turn my envy into my strength. Feeling jealous is natural. But you can get over it and use the emotion to your benefit. This article lays down the steps on how you can do it too.

Observe From A Distance

Look at what they are doing and how it’s different from your methods. Sure, they might already be accomplished in their fields and it might appear they are lightyears ahead. But when it comes to success on any platform, it can always be broken down to certain meta habits.

When I was starting out, there were a lot of writers I admired. Looking at the way they titled their stories felt like they had it all figured out. As if no matter how hard I tried, I could never be where they are. But I stuck on and observed their writing style. I read through the pieces on their profile, scrolling down to the ones from even a year back. This not only gave me a glimpse into their journey but also reassured me that they didn’t start out being “perfect”.

Every expert in every field started from scratch. Observe their journey from a distance and learn. Delve deep into their history and try to reverse-engineer their methods. You may or may not be able to emulate their success. But it will definitely be a learning experience.

As author Jessica Stillman writes in Forbes magazine, envy can be used to fuel self-improvement.

“When our envy is rooted in things we cannot change about ourselves, such as a difficult childhood, a traumatic event, or certain health conditions and disabilities, using envy to motivate self-improvement is more likely to dig us deeper into frustration and self-blame. But sometimes envy alerts us to things that we want in life that are potentially attainable.
“You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Dissect their Success

Aside from observing the quality of their performance, analyze their quantity.

  • How many projects per month (or week or year — depending on what field you’re in) do they complete?
  • How do they structure their performances (For example, if you’re analyzing a successful moviemaker, try and dissect how the timeline in their movies pans out: is the narration linear or non-linear? To what effect do they use “show don’t tell”? How have they placed and deployed their Chekhov’s Guns? etc.
  • How active are they on social media platforms? What kind of content do they post and how frequently do they show up?
  • Is there a recurring theme in all their performances that has become synonymous with their personal brand? Think of your forte and how you can implement it to become the most well-known in your chosen field.

As a new writer, I understood that quantity leads to quantity. I wrote a lot of articles and stories on the internet every single day for 6 months. Not everything I wrote during those days is good. But they helped me build a writing habit and improved my skills insanely. They also helped me establish credibility for myself — something I’m thankful for even today.

Detach, Detach, Detach

Before you let envy burn you up from the inside, pause for a moment, and ask yourself:

  • Have you really worked as hard as the person you’re jealous of?
  • Is their success hurting you in some way?
  • What’s stopping you from reverse engineering their meta-habits and using them for yourself?
  • Do you really want what they have, or are your goals and motivations different and you’d be happy with something else?

As psychotherapist Amy Morin puts it, “Write down your definition of success and know your values. Recognize that other people are working on their own accomplishments. Their achievements don’t have to diminish or minimize your own. Keep your eyes on your own path to success. The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.”

“A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it.”
― Lionel Shriver, Checker and the Derailleurs

The thing about jealousy is that it blinds your judgment and forces you to be hard on yourself for not having what someone else has. If you try to put it to better use than simply hating them for who they are, you can make significant progress in whatever project you’re working on.

Final Words

I know these secrets. I know the benefits of turning my envy into my superpower. But no matter how much I talk about it, there are times I still succumb to the darkness. In moments like these, I consciously distract myself and direct my thoughts elsewhere.

As an old Cherokee fable goes, there are two wolves inside each of us. One is evil — he is anger, envy, greed, and arrogance. The other is good — he is peace, love, hope, and humility. These two wolves are constantly engaged in a ferocious fight.

Which wolf will win, you ask?

Simple. The one you feed.

Don’t feed your envy. Turn it into something positive instead.

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