The Evil E’s: Envy Defined

Let’s continue with the Evil E’s (Ego, Envy and Entitlement) and move to Envy.

“Envy is the most stupid of vices, for there is no single advantage to be gained from it.” – Honore de Balzac

I love that quote, because it tells it like it is. Envy is based on comparing yourself to others one subject at a time as your sole basis for happiness and self-esteem. Using that logic, it’s impossible to ever be happy. Someone is always “better at” or “has more of” something.

There are many examples of how Envy is almost built into human nature. Economists Sara Solnick and David Hemenway recently conducted a few studies on the subject. They did a survey where they asked participants if they would rather earn $50,000 a year while others make $25,000, or earn $100,000 a year while others get $250,000? The majority of people selected the first option. They’d rather make twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as they could have.

In another situation, people said they’d rather be average looking in a community where no one is considered attractive, instead of merely good-looking in the company of stunners. Envy does that to people. It makes people drag themselves into the mud in their attempt to drag others down even lower. 

In last week’s post, “King of the Hill” vs. “Mountain Climber” this is what I was talking about. Concentrating on your own attributes and focusing on improving the fortunes of those around you, is a much better formula for generating success and satisfaction than trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t begrudge other people for their blessings, instead, count your own. I could whine about my childhood or life, or I could focus on the great things with which I was blessed. Sure, I had tough times. But I’ve also been able to travel the world to see how lucky in life I have been. I was born healthy. I have parents who valued education. I won the birth lottery being born into the United States instead of a third world country.

A person with excessive Envy is not happy unless they have the best of everything. They do not notice the “perks” or benefits they receive. There is always someone around them they perceive as getting more or getting luckier. They focus on others’ cars, homes, raises, titles, family fortune, etc. Since their self esteem is based on comparison to others only, they tend to want to surround themselves with people they believe don’t compare favorably to themselves.

As a manager or leader, they will not build a strong team. They will break down or attack anyone they perceive as a “threat.” This attitude creates a lack of trust and a low performing team. As all opportunities for promotions and raises stem from the success of a team, they actually limit their own success as a result.

For this very reason, I look at who people surround themselves with when I’m estimating the ability of a person. A person with self-confidence and a lack of Envy, will be surrounded, at work and in life, with good, strong, successful people. To eliminate Envy, you must focus on your own self-confidence. So, focus on your own good fortune and strengths in life. Be thankful. Be happy for others. Help others, and yourself develop and succeed. It can only lead to a happier, and likely more successful, life.