Carlie, a recent nursing graduate, has been working on the mental health floor of her small, local hospital for the last six weeks. While excited to be working in the job of her dreams, she says she can’t help but think about her peers – not just how much they’ve accomplished or the awards some of them have received, but also their physical presence, their relationships, even their things, “like what cars they’re driving, the bags they have, ridiculous things like that.
“I’ve always been an insecure person, I know that,” admits Carlie. “But I don’t resent people for what they have… I just get really down on myself for not having some of those things. Logically, I know I should think about the fact that a lot of them are older than me, or their circumstances are different, or like, who knows what their lives actually look like outside of what I can see, but my envy isn’t logical, you know?
“I get depressed I’m not where they are, and I’m anxious that they don’t like me or won’t like me once they know I’m not like them.”
Although depression or anxiety are rooted in many things, one of them is certainly envy. Often mistaken for jealousy, which is feeling threatened that one’s position will be lost to someone else, envy is a discontentment, a feeling of wanting what someone else seems to have. And because of this discontent, people may be led to feeling depressed because they regret not doing what they think it must have taken to have that special thing, or anxious because they don’t know how or if they will ever achieve that special thing.
Envy does something else, too: it makes us forget what we do have, what we have accomplished, and who we are.
When we’re frequently comparing our lives to those of others, when we’re feeling frustrated or inadequate over who we are, when we feel inferior or afraid all the time – that’s a good sign we’re dealing with a nasty bout of envy.
But there’s a way to shift our mindset and move away from this terrible feeling.
First, we can ask ourselves some questions.
•When I’m envious of others, what is they have that I wish I had?
•Why is that important to have?
•Have I ever had this?
•What can I do to be more skilled or competent so I can get closer to achieving this thing that I want?
•How does it feel when I compare myself to someone else?
•What feeling can replace this?
•What do I have that’s going for me that others might wish for themselves?
When we’re conscious of our thoughts and allow ourselves to think about how we’re feeling, without judgment, often we can find our way through it rather than remain trapped in it. That shift in thinking is often the first, and very important, step toward feeling better.
If envy, however, is making your depression or anxiety worse, it’s always a good idea to contact your therapist and work through your feelings with their professional guidance. There may be other things at play here, and a mental health professional will be your best bet at untangling what’s going on – and help you get to where you want to be.