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!

The Fluent Self