I find myself looking at people who have the kind of success I want and thinking “they don’t deserve it,” “they aren’t even that good,” or even “think of everything I could do if I had what they had.”
Usually, these thoughts are tied to my dream of being a Catholic speaker and writer. When I see people living my dream, it’s hard not to hate their success. I’ll attend conferences where the main-stage speaker finishing giving their talk and my first thought will be “I could have done better than that.”
I’ll scroll through Catholic blogs and think “how did they get so many readers with website design that bad?
Last week I found myself on the Instagram account of a Catholic guy with thousands of followers, who regularly uploads staged photos of himself praying. Seriously?! What is the dude praying about while his friend awkwardly hovers over him taking photos? That at least a dozen people will comment “amen” on his post?!
I’m not proud of these thoughts. They’re arrogant, negative, and selfish. They’re all the more hilariously bad because I want to be a Catholic speaker. I want my life to be about bringing people closer to God, making a positive impact and helping them to break the bad habits weighing them down.
Yet here I am with my own heart all twisted up by envy.
WHAT IS ENVY?
The Catholic Church defines envy as “sadness and arrogance at the sight of another’s wellbeing and the desire to acquire unjustly what others have.”
The core takeaway is that envy is a kind of sadness. It takes something that should bring you joy, the success of those around you, and twists it into something that brings you down.
Not only has envy made me hate other people’s success, it’s been a roadblock to my own. The time I spend resenting the success of others is time I’m not thinking about how I can achieve my own success. Envy makes me reluctant to collaborate with those that I’m jealous of, even though they’re the best people to help me achieve my own goals.
What I’ve come to realise is that if I want success, if I want healthy relationships, if I want a life filled with joy, I’ve got to kill envy. How? Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the book that sums up what Catholics believe) gives us 3 fantastic strategies:
1. FIND JOY IN THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS
Whenever you witness the success of someone else and your mind immediately leaps to sadness or frustration, pause.
Consciously remind yourself why that person’s success is a good thing – because they’re your friend and you want them to succeed, because you can learn from their success, and because their success shows that success is achievable in your chosen field.
This is one area where I’ve found the “fake it til you make it” mentality to be quite useful. When I realised that envy was a big part of my life, I decided to make one simple but incredibly effective change in how I responded to the success of others:
Every time I had an envious thought, I would consciously affirm someone, ideally the person whose success I envied.
Thought follows action. By using my envious thoughts as a prompt to affirm someone, I was reminding myself why their success was a good thing.
With this simple act, my sadness was banished – both because I began to find joy in the success of others and because I knew that I was taking a small step towards killing envy in my life.
Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly relationship advice,
date ideas and the latest blog posts.
2. GROW IN HUMILITY
If I’m being honest, the reason I hate other people’s success is usually pride. There’s this belief that the other person doesn’t deserve their success, or even if they do, there’s someone who deserves it more – me!
Growing out of this “why not me?” attitude has required me to grow in humility. One of my favourite quotes by C. S. Lewis is “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Humility isn’t about false modesty. It’s not about telling myself that “I’m a terrible speaker and writer, no wonder I’m not successful.” Because that isn’t true. I know I’m talented in both of these things, and that with consistent hard work I can continue to improve.
But when I look at another speaker and I think “they don’t deserve it” or “I could do better”, I’m taking their success and I’m making it about me. This is the crucial distinction between envy and humility.
In response to someone’s success, envy gives the pitiful cry “what about me?!” Humility asks “what about them?” How hard must they have worked to achieve this success? Doesn’t that deserve to be celebrated? Isn’t that something that I could learn from?”
3. TRUST IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE
God has a plan for my life – a plan that is going to bring me joy, use my strengths, and allow me to positively impact the lives of others. He has a plan for you too.
What I am constantly having to remind myself on this journey is that if I truly believed in God’s plan for my life, I wouldn’t be envious of the success of others. I would be content, trusting in God’s providence for me.
This trust doesn’t just happen. It flows out of my relationship with God.
Think of the people you trust most in this world – your close friends, your family, your significant other. The reason you trust these people is because of the relationships you have with them, deep relationships that have endured over time.
If we want to trust God, we need to build that same kind of relationship with Him. We need to intentionally make time each day for prayer. We need to build our reflex of turning to God in times of struggle.
When thoughts of envy start creeping in, this can be as simple as pausing and praying “God, help me to trust in your providence.”
ONE FINAL THOUGHT…
Trust in God’s providence does not mean trusting that God will provide exactly what I want. It doesn’t mean fervently believing that God will provide me with a $100,000 job or a million followers on Instagram.
Trust in God means trusting that whatever happens, God has a plan for my life. External success isn’t guaranteed, but if I’m giving 100% to what I believe God is calling me to, then whatever happens will be firmly within His plan for me. That’s enough.