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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

Ask Havi #32: Green monsters. Dealing with envy.

Ask HaviNote: it is almost impossible to get on the Ask Havi list. Though of course you can keep sending scarves for Selma. She loves them.

Yay. First dinner in the sukkah last night! Please note that I did NOT get eaten by moths/bears nor do I have sauce on my dress. Calling this a total success.

Breakfast out there, though? Somewhat less romantic.

Okay. On to the monsters.

The topic. It is a big one.

A lot of stuff coming up lately in the programs I teach. Related to feeling uncomfortable when other people are successful. Or appear to be heading that way.

Some of these questions are about what you can do when you’re feeling anxious because you’re intimidated by other people’s success.

Some are more about jealousy. Or the more existential I’m not good enough crisis.

Anyway. I have way too much to say about all of this, even without trying to define the elusive thing we call “success” or venturing into Imposter Syndrome territory. So this might have to be a series.

But today it’s envy. And what to do when it shows up. And even if envy is not your issue, you can apply some of this to other situations as well.

Legitimacy. Again!

I know. We always start here. But only because it’s such a good place to start.

When you encounter other people doing their thing and shining at it, sometimes you get reminded of the ways you want to feel radiant and appreciated and acknowledged. You see everything that seems to be missing.

And it’s unbelievably painful. It’s also REALLY NORMAL.

I have these moments too. So do the most fabulously self-aware people that I admire.

Feeling envy is a normal and perfectly acceptable part of being alive. We don’t want to have to stay there, because the staying there is not fun and it doesn’t help.

But discovering that you’ve landed there? Not a big deal.

The next piece.

If legitimizing being where we are is the first step, the second step is releasing as much guilt as we can stand about the fact that yes, we are still there even though we don’t want to be there.

Luckily, it’s the acknowledging and the legitimacy that eases the guilt.

If it’s natural and normal that I would feel envy sometimes, then maybe I’m not a despicably horrible person for not being able to stop feeling it yet.

This is where I forgive myself if I can. And if I can’t, I can’t.

The art of releasing guilt needs another sixteen hundred blog posts. But I’d start with something like this:

“Even though I really don’t like feeling this way, I am allowed to have envy. It’s not the end of the world. I’m not an awful person. It’s a temporary thing, and I’m learning about it so I can move through it.”

Then it’s about shifting focus.

One of my wisest teachers used to say (she probably still does):

Build your own tower instead of knocking theirs down.

There are enough people in the world who take pleasure from trying to sabotage each other’s towers. We’re not going to do that.

So the new point of focus becomes:

  • What do I need to do to strengthen, support, encourage and love my own thing?
  • What do I need? What does my project need? What can I do so that I feel safe, supported, comfortable and loved?

Normally I wouldn’t ask these out loud, because they can be used as what I call “inspirational harassment”. Like the well-meaning motivational things people sometimes post on Twitter (“What are YOU going to do today to blah blah blah?”).

But in your own head … these can be really useful questions. And if not, don’t use them. Make up better ones.

The point is: we’re shifting our focus from “Aaaaaagh they have what I want!” to discovering what options we have: “What can I do to build my own thing?”

You can use Metaphor Mouse for this!

One of my clients recently noticed that she was trying to pull herself out of envy mode by saying, “Okay, I’m going to run my own race”.

But that was not fun.

Because running a race — for her — included elements like [+ sweaty] [+ exhausted] [+ miserable] [+ competitive] [+ can’t stop] [+ resentful] [+ no purpose] and [+ despair].

So we used Metaphor Mouse to deconstruct running my own race, and came up with exploring my new city instead.

Now working on her own thing has the qualities of [+ fun] [+ curiosity] [+ I can take my time] [+ resting] [+ discovery] [+ homebase] [+ joy] [+ appreciation] [+ hidden mystery] and [+ sweetness]. And she’s not obsessing over where everyone else is going.

Your metaphor mileage may vary, but I bet there’s something good in there.

The advanced practice.

When it’s possible, we work with it. When it brings up too much stuck, we drop it.

But here’s the concept. With bonus cliches!

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

It’s true. The fame and fortune of the person you’re currently envying often as not ends up being useful for you.

I can feel envious of Jen Louden’s brilliant books. Or I can celebrate with her because I love her, and remind any small scared selves that Jen is awesome and is totally going to write the best blurb ever on OUR brilliant book.

Her glow adds to mine. My glow adds to hers. It’s good for everyone.

And if there’s interest in someone else who shares your message, then there’s going to be interest in your version, too.

Of course, we’re all human.

Even on my best days, when I can happily rejoice in the good fortune of people I admire and care about (whoo! advanced practice!), I’m still human.

So I’m not necessarily always capable of being truly happy for someone whose message I don’t like when it receives attention and praise.

But that’s okay.

You don’t have to be all joyous and fake confetti-throwing if you don’t feel like it.

You can still go back to building your own tower, though. And reminding yourself that there is room for you too.

Because what it comes down to is this:

It’s worth finding out what you’re really scared of.

That there might not be room for you? That you have endless possibilities? That what you have to say isn’t important? Or worse, that it is?

Those are the sad, scared selves and/or the fuzzy monsters worth having some conversations with.

And in the meantime, we get to work on our stuff. And do some tower-maintenance. And wear our crowns and our costumes and dance the patterns and not be so hard on ourselves. Or at least try.

Comment zen for today.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff.

People vary. So use what you can and discard the rest. Try things.

And my wish for you is this:

May your tiny, sweet thing receive all the love and support it needs. And may you break all the rules, do some damage, laugh your head off and dance, dance, dance!

17 Responses to Ask Havi #32: Green monsters. Dealing with envy.

  1. dara says:

    This is so stunning and gorgeous and drenched in clarity. You are the Queen of transforming what seems rock solid into a medium with which one can sculpt.
    .-= dara´s last post … The Worst Thing You Could Say to a Sister &8230 and the Best =-.

  2. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat
    says:

    “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

    Thank you for that, Havi. That’s super-helpful on both sides of the equation — not only when I feel stuck because I’m envying someone who has what I want, but also when I’m feeling stuck because I don’t want anyone to envy me. A rising tide lifts all boats.
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … Equinox =-.

  3. steph says:

    Oh, thank you, Havi!

    Today of all days, thank you. I’ve been telling myself variants of a lot of these things in the last couple of weeks as I’ve been struggling through some dark spots (which have included envy, but have mostly been existential I’m not good eough crises). Somehow hearing it from someone else almost always feels different, though. I’m not sure if it’s the slightly different way of saying the same thing, or if it’s the fact that it’s somebody else saying it (so of course it must be true!), or both (I suspect, for me, it’s both).

    In any case, this is really helpful for me to hear today.
    .-= steph´s last post … good things 15 =-.

  4. Paul
    Twitter: neonpaul
    says:

    Thanks Havi,
    This post has come at the right time for me. I’ve found myself recently being jealous of other people’s relationships, especially with those who I’d previously felt very close to. And it’s not a good feeling, I’d much rather be happy for everyone.
    I’ll try putting these thoughts into practice. :)
    .-= Paul´s last post … Letterbomb =-.

  5. Heidi says:

    Oh, Havi, I hope this gets to be a series! I’ve had the Green Monster around lately in a big way… some relief came when Clint Eastwood stopped by and we had an impromptu meeting of My Inner Council Inc. But oh my, this green stuff is so The. Hard.

    In particular my hard seems to be around wanting certain people’s recognition, for *them* to tell me they adore me, believe in me, want me to write that book already, whatever… Green shows up when I see the people I want that from giving it to other people… It’s not that I want to take other people’s love & recognition away from them at all… But more that I want to be included. I want to play, too. Something like that.

    And then the longer I stand on the side feeling green about the game going on without me (and yes, I am most probably the one leaving me out) the more self-conscious I feel about any interaction whatsoever with any of the people involved… And, ow! ‘Cuz they happen to be my beloved people! Know what I mean?

    So yes, thank you for writing this. So much! And I pretty please hope there’s more.
    .-= Heidi´s last post … Oh- hello! Clint Eastwood is here Thankgod =-.

  6. Beth says:

    I feel like if every child had someone to tell them this, the world would be a much, much nicer place.

  7. Rupa
    Twitter: theyogaofliving
    says:

    Havi,

    I loved dara’s take, that you are “the Queen of transforming what seems rock solid into a medium with which one can sculpt.”
    I hope you use IT as a blurb on your book. Or somewhere. :)

    The Green Monster more often wears an existential hat for me. She’ll knock on my door when I catch myself comparing myself to others. Then it’s just a slippery slope…

    It starts rather benign.

    I’ll think, “Oh, yes. How nice. I’m capable of that, too,” or “I can do that!” and then at one point, I encounter (inevitably) “Wait. This is beyond awesome. I don’t think I could do it.”

    And then, “Nope, I definitely could not do that.” Green Monster gives my house key to her sister, Inferiority Monster, who checks out what’s in the fridge and finds herself a comfy spot.

    Like this post of yours today: So sparkly, so spot-on, so full of wisdom and grace. I could not have written it, thought I.

    Of course, that would be impossible because I’m not you. I’m a big fan (bordering on groupie) with superpowers of my own.

    Which you so often help me to remember.

    Thank you, kind soul.

  8. laine says:

    I get jealous. But usually I first think that I just plain don’t like the person and I think about how annoying and stupid they are. And after a while I’m like, “wait, this is what you feel like when you are jealous.” And then I’m like “oh, yeah. I guess I should just keep my eyes on my own paper.”

    When it’s a friend I’m better able to be happy for their success, and remember that their success doesn’t mean less for me. With people that aren’t my friend, I’m still at keeping my eyes on my own paper. It takes longer to get to the their success doesn’t take away from mine.

  9. Lilly
    Twitter: pdxlilly
    says:

    I’m enjoying this great topic Havi. By the way, great term,’inspirational harrassment’!

    For me the jealousy thing, when I let it overtake, pulls me into too many directions. I think I should be doing what other people are doing, even if it’s not a good fit for me.

    This is especially difficult on the internet where there are a bizillion interesting things occuring simultaneously!

    I have trained myself over the years (now that I’m getting older) to see the benefit of jealousy, how it points to the things I want from life or at least gives attention to the things I THINK I want from life, so they can later be examined. It’s very useful!

    We humans are so interested in being a safe animal amongst the herd of other animals, safety in the middle, all doing the same thing. Maybe we aren’t designed to all be doing the same thing reaping the same great results, and will shine at very different individual things.

  10. anita bondi
    Twitter: anitabondi
    says:

    What a delightful process you use to get to “stuff”! I am thrilled to learn this little bit about your mode of getting under the externals. That is so enlivening. I know that connecting the dots between my reactions and what’s really behind them has been a huge part of who I continue to become.

    I also really appreciate how you acknowledge the normalcy of responding with envy to other people’s success. I long for the day that I can always celebrate everyone’s success – especially when it’s for the greater good.

    I’ll look forward to reading more of your blogs now that I’ve discovered how great they are!

    blessings,
    ab
    .-= anita bondi´s last post … birthday wishes for any time of the year =-.

  11. Leila Lloyd-Evelyn
    Twitter: LeilaLEvelyn
    says:

    Ooo I have been trying to do doodles for my blog about envy and how useful it can be when we are able to observe it.

    this is a timely, deep and useful as always in an emotionally pragmatic kinda way.

    Thank you darling – vunderfull, vunderfulll!

    L x
    .-= Leila Lloyd-Evelyn´s last post … Lifes not perfect =-.

  12. Janelle says:

    Oh yes, the Green Monster. I really appreciate your insight on jealousy. It has been something I have been working on in my own life recently. Through working through it, I have also learned to truly (TRULY!) stop comparing myself to others (I think). Anyway, I am heading that way… ;) Have a great day! Janelle
    .-= Janelle´s last post … Thursday- 9-23-10 Living Well shouldnt be Hard Work =-.

  13. Cathy
    Twitter: cathyyardley
    says:

    Deep breath. Yeah, I needed to hear this today.

    My particular form of envy is a second cousin to self-righteousness. If people I like are successful, then it’s all good – I can rejoice.

    But if someone I don’t like is successful? Especially if I think they’re being successful by being sleazy/unethical/wrong/whatever? Well, then. Anger! Bad thoughts! Pulling up a lawnchair and watching for imminent brimstone retribution!

    And that’s totally NOT my job, not my point, and nothing I need to indulge in. That’s back to the guilt & judgement post, I think. Ugh.

    Will focus on nurturing my stuff, which is the only stuff I’m in charge of.
    .-= Cathy´s last post … What’s Your GMC =-.

  14. Simply B :) says:

    I have a friend with the “Midas Touch”. Doors are always opening even when ones are not being closed. My doors are either stuck shut or being slammed closed. Instead of rejoicing in the warmth she is radiating, I look for the dark & stormy Eeyore clouds that may loom in her future ~

    Thank you for this blog and the insight it brings. A very deep cleansing breathe and a gentle reminder to myself. “Remember B when you decided to get rid of those outdated pickle jars and what-not from the frig ? You decide then it wasn’t so much as cleaning as it was making room for new and exciting yummy adventures ( homemade raspberry and grape jellies – yes grown from the garden ).

    So maybe my doors aren’t stuck, maybe they are cluttered with stuff that is preventing them to open. I will start here – clearing the path to my doors. Maybe some will stay stuck and others I know will begin to open with a little help from my friend’s guiding light.

    ~warm hugs and thank you again

  15. Amber
    Twitter: AmberStrocel
    says:

    I love how gentle you are in the process of working through the hard and the stuck. It makes me feel that it is much less scary altogether. And I appreciate that so much.
    .-= Amber´s last post … Child of my Dreams =-.

  16. Jane
    Twitter: JaneOfArdis
    says:

    @pdxlilly – I *so* have that too – and often end up getting caught up in complete distractions.

    I rarely tend to envy people close to me (probably because people tend to be compelled to tell me all their woes) – it’s when I don’t really know people but can see their successes which always seem so damn easy – *that’s* when the green eyed strikes viciously.
    .-= Jane´s last post … Gratitude is not Compulsory =-.

  17. claire
    Twitter: claireofRA
    says:

    “inspirational harassment” – Ack! I may be unintentionally mildly guilty of this in my Life of Art series.

    Not my intent at all, so I’ve got a rephrase to roll out next week.
    .-= claire´s last post … Life of Art SitRep 33 =-.

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