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One of my favorite episodes ofTiny Toon Adventures episodes deals with a "green-eyed monster," and it offers a great lesson in the power of envy, of seeing what someone else has and wishing it were yours, or thinking somewhat differently about the person because he or she has something that you don't have.  Envy is so strongly related to jealousy and covetousness that many of us, myself included, have a very difficult time defining the lines that separates the terms.

I've been fortunate, in a way, to have grown up without a great deal of envy.  In my case, though, the lack of envy was brought about by the presence of a defeatist attitude--I've always considered most things out of my reach, so it's never been worth the effort to envy anyone.  (This defeatist attitude is a common trait of adult children of alcoholics, I've since learned.)  There are some things that I've envied, such as the ability to feel confidence in oneself, the ability to express oneself well, and the ability to be able to form strong friendships and keep them.  I've also envied people with strong families and a sense of roots, a sense of stability.  But even these things have seemed so far away from possible for me that I haven't wasted a lot of emotional energy on feelings of envy.

I suppose the most insidious aspect of envy is the "I wish I were" or "I wish I had" attitude that reflects dissatisfaction with our current situations.  

As soon as I see someone else who's able to enter a crowd of people that he or she has never met before and carry on conversations and meet people immediately, I start to think, "I wish I were like that," or "I wish I could do that."  When I see that kind of person, I wish that I were somehow different, that I were in some ways like that person.

But the bottom line is simple:  I'm not like that person.  I have a hard time in crowds, and friendships take a long time to develop in my life.  That's the way I am, and things are fine that way.  I am who I am, and I have to accept that or change it.  But feelings aren't immediately changeable.  Yes, there are times when I'm feeling particularly "up," and a crowd to me is nothing more than a bunch of people I'd like to meet, and I can function fine in that crowd.  But that's a part of me that's out of character--normally I'm not so outgoing.  And to spend time wishing that I were like someone else who's different from me is to waste time--if I truly wish to be that way, then I'll take classes on functioning in crowds, and I'll study methods for meeting with people and talking with them.  But even if I do that, I know that in many ways, I'll be working against my nature.  I'm a reserved person, and I'm fine with that.  The trick for me is not to feel that "I wish I were" like someone else when I see behavior that I'm not capable of.

There's only one antidote for envy:  self-acceptance.  Be who you are and love it.  You were made that way for a reason.  If you want to change something and you feel it's important to do so, then do everything you can to change that aspect of yourself.  But don't try to change who you are.  You're only fooling yourself if you think you're doing so, and you'll fool very few others, who will be able to see through whatever mask you put on.  Yes, this person's more attractive than I am, but so what?  I was made to look the way I look.  Yes, this person has a job that gives him or her more prestige than mine, but so what?  I love my job, and if I want that prestige, I'll go back to school and study whatever I need to learn to get such a job.

It's kind of funny (and kind of sad) how many people think that God is infallible and can't make mistakes; yet you'll find these same people out "correcting" God's mistakes through facelifts, breast enlargement, plastic surgery, or the like.  You'll find them making their lives miserable by buying a car or house that they can't really afford, thus creating future financial problems.  You'll find them losing weight to the point of becoming sick, and you'll find them discouraged when their "new look" doesn't bring about the results they thought it would.  You'll find them telling inappropriate jokes because they heard someone else tell the same joke, and that person got a good response, and they want to be viewed in the same way that person is viewed. 

People hurt themselves and sabotage their chances at happiness all the time because they envy someone else who seems to have all the qualities that they wish they did.  Please don't let this happen to you.  Accept yourself for who you are, and don't try to be someone else or reach someone else's standards.  You are who you are because you're supposed to be.  If you feel you can improve in some ways, then work at improvement, but always take time to take stock of the many, many positive aspects of who you are. Be aware that envy is a sign (or cause) of dissatisfaction, so use those feelings of envy as a gauge--do they represent something I truly need or would like to change, or do they represent a fundamental aspect of who I am, and I would be doing the world and myself a disservice by changing that particular part of myself?  You have many great qualities--take them for what they are, and don't belittle them for what they aren't.


As iron is eaten away by rust so the envious are consumed by their own passion.



Envy, the meanest of vices, creeps on the ground like a serpent.



Those who envy admit their inferiority.

Latin proverb


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One of the few benefits of growing older is that
envy is replaced by admiration.

James Pope-Hennessey


There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much
destructive feeling as moral indignation which permits envy
or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.

Erich Fromm


Envy has the ugliness of a trapped rat
that has gnawed its own foot in its effort to escape.

Angus Wilson


Envy is an insult to oneself.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko


It is never wise to seek or wish for another's misfortune.
If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape,
it would be the shape of a boomerang.

Charley Reese


Spite is never lonely; envy always tags along.

Mignon McLaughlin


Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope.

Josh Billings


Believe all the good you can of everyone.  Do not measure others by yourself.
If they have advantages which you have not, let your liberality keep pace
with their good fortune.  Envy no one, and you need envy no one.

William Hazlitt


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When envy consumes us, we are unable to love, unable to appreciate
others.  Envy opens the floodgates to our darkest emotions
and our most mean-spirited inclinations.

Melvyn Kinder


Envy ought to have no place allowed it in the hearts of people; for the
goods of this present world are so vile and low that they are beneath it;
and those of the future world are so vast and exalted that they are above it.

Charles C. Colton


For all the unkind things said about envy, it would only be fair to acknowledge
that not all envy is destructive.  If envy leads us to work hard and to improve
our skills, it becomes a stimulant to self-improvement.
God has given us no quality that cannot be used for good.

Sidney Greenberg


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Envy is part of the secret life.
   In the public and private realms, envy has long been considered a
sin infused with jealousy and a tendency to covet, which thou shalt
not, especially in the case of thy neighbor's wife, and whatever.  Still,
in the sanctuary of our solitude, we envy.
   There are degrees of envy.  The "Lord-I-wish-I-could-do-that" envy
that is carried on with a light heart and good humor is harmless enough. 
Most envy that doesn't lead to theft and manslaughter is OK.  Affirmative
envy that reflects delight in the fringes of human achievement is a
pleasure like bittersweet chocolate.  You have to develop a taste for it.

Robert Fulghum
Maybe (Maybe Not)

When envy is in your heart, your neighbor's hens will look like turkeys,
and your neighbor's cabin like a castle.  Envy enlarges everything.

Fred Van Amburgh


It would be an error to try to build the Kingdom of Heaven upon envy.
For nothing that is founded on envy can thrive; it must have another root.


Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness
and self-worth.  Each of us has something to give that no one else has.

Elizabeth O'Connor

The surest proof of being endowed with noble
qualities is to be free from envy.

La Rochefoucauld


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If we but knew how little some enjoy of the great things that
they possess, there would not be much envy in the world.

Edward Young

Our knowledge of what the richer than ourselves possess, and the
poor do not, has never been more widespread.  Therefore, envy,
which is wanting what others have, and jealousy, which is not wanting
others to have what one has, have never been more widespread.

John Fowles


There comes a time in every person's education when
we arrive at the conviction that envy is ignorance.

Ralph Waldo Emerson




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