Wednesday, December 9, 2015

When to Listen to Envy

The last time I remember being intensely envious was when I found the instagram feed of someone I briefly knew from childhood. She now has a big following for being a beauty/lifestyle/fitness online personality. I remember looking at her abs, feeling a sense of envy slowly radiate through me, but I couldn't stop looking at the pictures. And then I ended up doing something I've raaaaaaarely done in my life.

I put my sneakers on, and ran outside.

I ran and ran, until my thighs were too itchy from the sudden rush of blood to my capillaries, something they're not used to. I went back home, still in the same doughy body, but somehow, I felt a lot better.

Now, I'm still no runner (I still prefer forms of exercise that don't make my jiggly bits bounce around like they want to leave my body) but when I think back to that memory, I remember it fondly. 

Isn't that odd? 

Envy isn't something we think of as a positive thing, yet it can unlock things that are otherwise inaccessible to us when we are complacent and content.

The trick is to accept envy, and to not stop there.
Think of envy as that stretch of road in a different city from where your final destination is, that welcomes you and then says goodbye because where you ultimately need to be is somewhere farther along the road.

There's someplace else you gotta be, but sometimes you just have to pass it by to get there.

What is there to see in that stretch of road? What redeeming factor could a crappy feeling like envy possibly have? 

It bares your own deep-seated desires in front of you. It lets you know yourself better, and possibly point you towards what you need to do next.

I remember this memory fondly because that's the turning point for me when it came to my relationship with envy. It ultimately transformed it from an unhealthy source of self-loathing, to a tool I now use to point myself to parts of myself that might need more attention.

Nowadays, when I feel myself get envious of someone, I:
  1. Stop, acknowledge, and welcome the envy. "Hi, yes envy. You are here because I saw someone really fit on Instagram and I feel like a lazy slob."
  2. Ask myself what part of the thing I just witnessed roused desire (/covetousness) in me and why. "Possibly I'd like to be healthier. Possibly I want to look as good in clothes! Probably both of those things."
  3. And finally, I ask myself if there is realistically anything I could do now, or soon, that could make me come closer to that thing's realisation in my own life. "Ideally, I'd exercise and eat as healthy as she does! But I know myself; I'm a lot more laid-back and cannot be bothered to be so strict with myself. Simply taking care of my health a little more would probably be enough. Maybe I should go for a run right now, just to get some exercise."
After that, any sort of bitterness I might have towards the person just goes away, or gets replaced by appreciating, and then excitement and motivation for my own life. I have to say though, a lot of the time now, I bypass the bitterness altogether and get straight to appreciatin'. 

Here's a simple example of the sort of mental process that goes on:

"Ugh. He draws SO WELL! What makes it so awesome? Oh yeah the way it looks so effortless. I should practice more. I'm glad to have this guy on my feed. So inspiring."

I try hard to stop myself from self-depreciation, and lately I haven't been needing to try very hard: it's started to come more naturally to me, and it's really very nice. Even though it took a while to get here.

When we try to understand envy at its core and let it reveal to us our true selves, we open ourselves to the possibility of transforming its role in our lives from being a competitive, destructive force into being a cooperative, and possibly nurturing one. Because we let the people that we envy influence us for the better while observing their lives. Instead of being a reason to tear each other down like it usually is, envy could then build us up.

This will not always easily be the case, of course, and there will be times where we get stuck with being envious of someone. There are just some things we will wish for ourselves that are more attainable for other people. We are especially vulnerable to this when we haven't taken enough time to truly know and accept ourselves. When we are out of touch with our own paths, we don't get to adapt insight to fit the mold of our unique journey, because we don't know what it is. Instead, there would be a tendency to superficially imitate and copy our sources of envy instead of adapting the important substance or element that is lacking in us, and is the ultimate source of the envy.

(Like being tempted to buy a skincare product used by someone with great skin instead of just using the good ones you have more regularly, Bea!)

Sometimes, that can be good enough for the mean time, but we will soon have to face ourselves and our true lives. Unfortunately, self discovery is something that is somehow just meant to be potentially painful and uncomfortable. But the rewards are always well worth it! There is always a feeling of invincibility and expansion that follows a successful round of self-reflection.

So face your envy. In fact, embrace it! Let it be your friend. Don't hide it or hide from it. Take its hand and let it lead you to a better self.

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