One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “Dear boy, the battle is between the two ‘wolves’ that exist inside us all.
One is Evil.
It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good.
It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
I’ve wasted many an hour feeding the bad wolf, specifically the bad wolf of envy.
Let’s be clear here, envy is that unpleasant yearning for what you don’t have. Jealousy, meanwhile, is the fear (real or imagined) of losing something you have to someone else.
It’s rife in this online, super-connected world. Every benign stop-off on Facebook turns into a stressful contest or a spiral of misery as curated lives float down your screen in a blur of pictures of fabulous people having a fabulous time in fabulous places.
Hours of time, the only currency I’ll never be able to earn back, has gone into repeatedly stopping off at other people’s websites, reading their blogs, buying their stuff, signing up for their newsletters, scanning their sales pages…all because I wanted want I believed they had.
A bigger audience. Better wordsmithing skills. Design cred up the wazoo. More clients. Shit-hot testimonials. An e-course that turned out to be the digital equivalent of being licked by kittens.
And it’s not just in the tiny clique of online business where I’ve let envy live rent-free in my head.
How about the battleground of our bodies?
She’s got smoother skin and less cellulite than me = I lose. Her boobs are smaller than mine = I win. She’s two sizes smaller than me = I lose.
My search for victory, security, adoration, love, esteem and high praise always ends in feeling less than, lonely, anxious, insecure and filled with self-loathing.
The problem, of course, is that we’re hard wired to compare ourselves. It’s proved a useful survival skill. It’s never going to go away but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring a mega-dose of compassion and self-love along for the ride.
So when the comparison part of my brain goes on the rampage, here’s what I do:
Celebrate My Rivals – when I see someone I admire putting some fabulous thing they’ve created out into the world, that familiar stab of envy still gets me. “Urgh…why not ME? Look at them all doing great stuff and shit” says the comparison part of brain, with a healthy dose of contempt.
Now when I hear myself going that road, I pause and notice how it feels in my body. How does it feel to embody envy and contempt? Usually it feels tight, constricted and contracted.
So even if I don’t feel like doing it right in that moment, I’ll retweet that link to their sales page. I’ll recommend it to someone I think could benefit. I’ll send them a note of congratulations.
And if it’s body envy…? I’ll say silently to myself “Good for her for taking great care of her body, she looks fabulous. And it’s good to be reminded I want that for myself too!”
Practice An Attitude of Gratitude – When I’m caught up in envy, feeling small and insecure and like nothing I do is of any value, I head over to my “I am awesome” folder in my inbox.
In there are the emails of gratitude I’ve had from clients, friends and complete strangers who’ve read something I’ve written and who’ve felt compelled to thank me.
Reading their notes of thanks creates a positive upward spiral of gratitude because I’m grateful in turn to them for their kind words, for letting me know that something I said or did was of service to them.
And if it’s body envy…? My do I have a lot to be grateful for. I’m healthy despite having inherited a high risk of developing cancer. I’ve got eyelashes so long people often ask me if I’m wearing falsies. I’ve got long, strong arms to wrap around my man and let him know I love him. I’ve got long, strong legs that take me wherever I want to go. My body shows up for me everyday…even when I’m not being so hot at showing up for it.
Become A Detective – the flipside of envy is that it can shine a light on the things you want.
When I see someone with hundreds or even thousands of Facebook fans and feel that tightness creep up, I can pause and acknowledge that I want that too.
When I see someone putting themselves out there in the world by creating value on their blog and with the programs they create, I can start to map out how I want to show up in a bigger way and speak to more people.
And if it’s body envy…? I can look at my own fitness goals and decide if they’re still the ones I want to be pursuing. I can look at whether what I’m putting into my body is what it truly desires. I can be still for a moment and lean into the discomfort…is that what I really want? Am I willing to make the sacrifices it takes to have the body of an athlete? From that point, I can recommit to what I do want, what feels good to just me.
What about you? Share with me in the comments how you deal with envy.