Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

8 Ways to Overcome Envy


I know that the fastest way to despair is by comparing one’s insides with another’s outsides, and that Max Ehrmann, the author of the classic poem “Desiderata,” was absolutely correct when he said that if you compare yourself with others you become either vain or bitter, or, as Helen Keller put it: “Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.”


But Helen and Max don’t keep me from going to the land of comparisons and envy. Before long, I’m salivating over someone else’s book contract, or blog traffic numbers, or Today Show appearance. Then I have to pull out my set of directions–these 8 techniques–that will lead me out of the continent of jealousy and home, to self-acceptance:

1. Get more information.

Most of the time we envy one quality about a person, and we presume the rest of her qualities are as perfect as the one we want. That’s usually not the case. Think Rain Man. Boy did he know how to count those straws and play poker. But his social skills needed some fine-tuning, yes? Do some research on the person you want to temporarily destroy and you will find that she has her own set of problems and weaknesses. Moreover, if you consider her success in context, you’ll see that she hasn’t always been a superstar–that maybe, just maybe, back when you got a blue ribbon for the fastest freestyle swimmer in the 7 to 8 age group, she was afraid to dive in the pool or couldn’t figure out how to swim without getting water up her nose. My point: you don’t have the full story. Once you do, you’ll feel better. I think.


2. Compliment her.

“WHAT?!? You can’t be serious,” you’re thinking to yourself. Actually I am. I have tried it numerous times and it works. Last year I came across a blogger I envied. She had two degrees from Yale. (I scored 1,000 on my SATs). Her books were bestsellers. (I had just received a royalty statement that said more copies of my book were returned than sold.) Her Technorati score (blog traffic) was, well, much better than mine.

So…. I did something very counterintuitive. I e-mailed her to tell her how impressed I was with her, and I would very much like to interview her on Beyond Blue. When I started reading through her blogs, I found this great story about her feelings of insecurity regarding a fellow writer whom she felt somewhat threatened by because he was writing on the same topics as she was. What did she do about it? She contacted him and took him out to lunch.


I couldn’t believe that she had moments of insecurity too! I mean, she’s got two Yale degrees! Nowhere in her bio did it mention insecurity. But by complimenting her, and connecting with her, and dare I say befriending her, I learned that she is just like me–with some outstanding strengths but some fears and reservations and insecurities, as well.

3. Do one thing better than her.

This suggestion comes from Beyond Blue reader Plaidypus who wrote this as an assignment I gave everyone to list what they believe in:

I believe that if you don’t succeed at first … you keep trying… and that failure teaches us about success… I believe that laughter is the best medicine… I believe that the best revenge against your enemies is to dress better than them…


I absolutely loved the “dress better than your enemy” directive because it reminds us that we can always find one thing that we can do better than our friend-nemesis. If matching designer outfits gives you a boost of confidence, knock yourself out! If competing in a triathlon just to prove that you are in better shape than your mean cousin with a great figure, sign up! .

4. Put the ladle (and the running shoes) away.

Early on in my writing career, my mentor Mike Leach would say to me (when I panicked at spotting a more popular book on a certain topic than mine): “Her success doesn’t take away from yours. … Her numbers have nothing to do with yours.” I always remember that when I start thinking like a gerbil … that there is only one food bowl, and if you don’t get to it first and take as much as you need for an entire year, you and your whole gerbil family will die. Or, if you’re Italian, mom has made one pot of pasta, so you had better dig in and eat before your selfish brother ingests your portion.


I repeat: one person’s success doesn’t rob another of success. In fact, success can often breed success.

5. Learn from her.

Your enemy-friend is doing something right if she has your attention. There is a reason you are threatened. So, get out your scribbling pad and take some notes. If you want to network with her confidence and charm, then study her at a cocktail party. If you envy her fluid writing style, buy a few of her books, and dissect her sentences just like you did the pig guts in Biology 101. If you want her 36-24-36 Disney Princess figure, ask her what she does for a workout. If she responds “nothing but eat ice-cream,” you can ignore this and keep reading.

6. Go to the core.


Whenever I’m scheming to take down some chick who could (in my head anyway) destroy me with her success, or start in with the self-loathing because I don’t do something as well as my cousin’s best friend’s fiancé, I know that it’s time to go back mentally to my hospital room at Johns Hopkins psych ward, where I found myself.

“What has become of me?” I cried to my writing mentor Mike over the phone just after the doctors refused to release me and told me, despite my impressive argument, that I was, in fact, “one of them,” and that, as one of them, I needed to return to the community room and stay for a few nights.

“I used to be successful. Now I’m sleeping in a room next to a 65-year-old man banging his head on the wall who has been hospitalized for a year,” I said to Mike.


“It doesn’t matter,” Mike responded calmly. “None of it matters – the writing, the accolades, the success. None of it matters. Not in the end.”

Somehow I believed him. And when I get frenzied and tied in a knot about the most ridiculous things, I go back to that moment in time. And I believe him again.

7. Find yourself.

For those of you without a point in time like my psych-ward “special moment” you need to create one. All you need to do is to be quiet for a few hours in a peaceful setting (I suggest some woods or a nearby creek if you’re not afraid of ticks), and introduce yourself to yourself. “Self, meet Self. Nice to meet you, Self.” Then you guys have to become friends. How? Think about all the things you like about yourself. Get out your self-esteem file and read it. (If want more information on starting a self-esteem file click here for instructions.)


During this time, give yourself a pep talk. Pump yourself up. Maybe sketch out some goals for yourself. What do you need to do to be able to go forward with more confidence? What specific actions will allow you to believe in yourself a tad more?

8. Do your best.

The ultimate weapon against jealousy and envy is simply to do your best. Because that’s all you really can do. Your friend-nemesis still may run father than you, swim faster, and sell more books. But the only thing that matters is that you have done the best job that you can do. Then you can breathe a sigh of relief and feel some satisfaction.

The fourth (and final) agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, “The Four Agreements” is “Always Do Your Best.” He writes:


Just do your best–in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.

  • Your Name

    The best blog EVER is
    Instead of being envious, I want to BE her! She’s an accomplished writer, photographer, homeschooler, chef . . . and beautiful to boot!

  • Your Name

    I like that picture, too! I posted it on my blog last year, for a piece about jealousy,

  • John McManamy

    Great piece, Therese. As someone who scored in the 400s on my math SAT I was really really envious of your outstanding SAT achievement. It used to really eat at me. I really tried. I did all the things you recommended, including dressing better than you. Then I realized: I SING better than you.
    Yeh, I know, you wanna forget all about The Singing Blogger Smackdown, but it was healing for me. At last, I bested my nemesis (that’s you). I could relax, focus on other things.
    In fact it changed my life. People remark on my kinder gentler nature. Mothers stop me in the street, holding up their babies for me to kiss. Last Sunday, in fact, I was the only guy in the company of 23 incredible women. …
    Wait! You were there, too. (Katherine Stone’s Mother’s Day Rally on Postpartum Progress.) You were one of those incredible women. And you know what? I still sing better than you. :)

  • Teri A

    Great post Therese, it reminded me of a few things I need to be doing.
    And so glad, each time I read your posts, that you are doing well. I too, wanted, still want to be a writer. But now I am doing something I really love which is studying Landscape Design. From a Trauma/Neuro Intensive Care Nurse–to my stint in the psych ward-to being diagnosed bipolar, to finally achieving some success in school, I can’t think of one person, except my brother whom I envy. He’s a computer engineer and making a boat-load of money and has for years. I was always the over-achiever in school, straight A’s, and he couldn’t/wouldn’t read by the time he was in 3rd grade. Oh, how life situations change. Now I’m off my parent’s Power of Attorney for Health Care (me the nurse) and I am not executor of the will. Kind of hurts being the oldest, but I am definitely seen as the “failure” in my brother’s eyes and my family. “Not stable enough to handle the big decisions.” This drives me crazy. Even though I’m stable now on my meds, I’m still treated like a second class citizen by them. Very few of my friends, know what I went through, and still see me now as the same ol’ Teri. But it hurts me that my family see’s me as they do. They don’t see me as recovered. They barely recognize my accomplishments now, as I see them–HUGE! My successes are only recognized by my friends down here, and my facebook friends from my hometown. So when I started this note, I felt pretty darn good about myself, but now I recognize there are some lingering darts of envy in me, and it makes me mad.

  • Chatelaine

    Very good post – the one on enjoying the success of others comes from Buddhism and yoga, I believe. I struggled with envy for years, then was directed to a book that said that envy makes those of us doing the envying smaller, and that it is based on a lack of self-esteem that wants to take the other down, instead of lifting ourselves up. I once heard an Indian meditation teacher speak on a traditional woman’s name, Anasuya, which he said meant “she who is without jealousy.” (or envy, as we often use the word jealousy to mean envy) He went on to say something like, why should an orange envy an apple? Why should a lily envy a rose? Each is precious, valuable, and beautiful – it is what it is and not less than the other. (Even if it’s a hippo should not envy a gazelle! :) He based it on a teaching from the Bhagavad Gita about “one who is without envy.”

  • PJ

    Surprised to find such obvious grammar mistakes in this author’s article. Who’s her editor?
    I also didn’t understand #6. Is this author a former psych patient?
    Liked #5 but couldn’t help but think, “God, what kind of insecure, self-hating, mentally debilitated mind is this author addressing? If someone is THAT jealous of another’s looks/accomplishments/etc, they should seek professional help to find out why they are harboring such an inferiority complex.”

  • Bruce Kolinski

    As Thomas Edison once commented after several thousand tries at the light bulb. “I have never failed. I simply learned another way that doesn’t work.”

  • Leann

    Therese – thanks for keeping it real! I continue to be inspired by your insight and your work. I am privileged to be getting to know you.

  • Carla

    Love the brutal honesty in your writing with healthy doses of humor; had me laughing hysterically; which of course is always the best medicine.

  • Lisa

    PJ, I’m gonna guess you’re a man, if #5 is that completely foreign to you…and also, that you are fairly young-or haven’t done a lot of living. There is much to be learned from someone who has hit their bottom and isn’t afraid to share it, even if it was in a psych ward.

  • Hope

    Hmmm…I thought I was the only one who suffered from occassional attacks of envy. Glad to know I’m not alone!

  • Holly

    PJ, I agree with Lisa. Based on your comments you really need to re-read the blog until you get it. Your diatribe can only be seen as an attempt to make yourself look better by putting someone else down.
    As usual Lady Blue your insights are helpful beyond compare. Thank You.

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    Amazing, I found your site on Yahoo looking around for something completely unrelated Hip Hop Clothingand I really enjoyed your site. I will stop by again to read some more posts. Thanks!

  • Your Name Damaris

    Lady Blue – I really needed this post on envy – been too envious of an older woman with whom I work… rather than envy her lively spirit and skills, I need to step up to the plate, always do MY best, as you well advise, and Use my own God-given Gifts…don’t waste time envying her’s, they are just different from mine, not better. God Bless your work!

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    I have never read such a wonderful article and I am coming back tomorrow to continue reading.

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    Pretty good post. air max I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  • asics outlet

    I agree with Lisa. Based on your comments you really need to re-read the blog until you get it. Your diatribe can only be seen as an attempt to make yourself look better by putting someone else down.
    As usual Lady Blue your insights are helpful beyond compare. Thank You.
    Read more:

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