Don’t You Make My Brown Eyes Green: Overcoming Envy

Published: Jan 27, 2023  |  

Actor-writer-producer and author

Illustration by Nikki Muller 

There are many things that can stand in the way of your success. Societal barriers, lack of motivation, even just plain bad luck. But there’s a major issue that could be blocking your path without you even realizing it…and it’s something you can change! Hoorah!

Envy. It’s one of the most natural human emotions, but it’s so toxic, it’s considered one of the “deadly sins.” Now, I’m not religious, but that sounds pretty serious. And I have seen—from both sides—how deleterious it can be. So, if you’re prone to visits from the green-eyed monster, or have had that eye trained on you, I hope the following can be of service.

See, in my youth, I was one jealous little bitch. I had heaping gobs of entitlement, topped with a giant penchant for comparison. THIS person was getting such and such, why wasn’t I getting so and so? It was ironic that I felt like I deserved some great reward (h/t Depeche Mode), because I’d honestly done very little to deserve any such thing. I remember, in my early twenties, being at dinner with my friend who had just booked a small part on a soap opera. I was furious! He did acting on the side! It wasn’t even his “thing”! I felt mortally wounded, and didn’t hide it from him. Why he remained my friend is confounding. I think he wanted to touch my butt.

Anyway, he didn’t try to steer me right, but I’m grateful for a stranger that did. In the waiting room for some small job I’d booked, there was a commercial playing on the television. Not realizing how ugly this trait of mine was, I asked aloud why the woman in the spot had been hired, and why couldn’t it be me. Well, dear reader, I was so openly and roundly shamed, that it ultimately changed my life.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There is no use scorning someone for their success. In fact, if you do, you are not calling that success to yourself. Think about it. You don’t hate the person, you hate their success, so why would such spoils come to you?
  • You can’t compare yourself to anyone. Everyone has a different journey. Your reward may take longer, but if you become bitter, it’s unlikely to come at all.
  • You’re not entitled to anything. Nobody is.
  • It may be hard to hear of others’ success at first, but force yourself—and it will take force—to be happy for them. Truly. Don’t follow up their news with a complaint of your own frustrations. It will take some time, but eventually, it will come naturally.
  • Remember that you never know what someone else is going through. Someone who seems to be on top of the world could be in the depths of despair. Don’t wish for someone else’s path. Forge your own!
  • If someone has something you want, embrace, rather than scorn them. Learn their tricks of the trade. Remember that a rising tide lifts all boats, so don’t sink yourself.

Now, what if you find yourself being the object of envy? I’ve seen some people thrive on that (good for them, I guess…?) However, once I changed my attitude and things started happening for me, it was very uncomfortable to find myself with that green eye trained on me. In response, I shrunk myself so small that I almost disappeared. Don’t do that! If you find people—even those who are friends—responding to your success with envy, then they are not your friends. You deserve people in your life who will celebrate your wins as if they are their own. You will learn who your champions are. Share your good news with them: not everyone needs to know.

Also, should the envious eyes fill you with imposter syndrome, remember that you deserve your success. You worked hard for it. Never take it for granted, but know that if it came to you, it is as intended.

No matter which side of the resentment you find yourself on, you can battle the monster with heaping servings of humility and gratitude. Be thankful for what you do have and for what could be. Success isn’t limited, there’s plenty for everyone! Everyone except that monster.

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