Envy – Beware the fragile ego September 11, 2023 by Riston Envy is one of the most dangerous and insidious vices that a person can experience. Generally, feelings of envy are elicited by feeling in some way inferior to another person, coupled with the desire for their superior qualities. Often, envy can inspire one to become friends with the person they envy, but this is generally only to mask the deep sense of insecurity and hostility they secretly harbor. Over time the often excessively friendly facade tends to give way to sabotage, malice, and betrayal. There are two basic types of envy – active and passive envy. Passive envy is something everyone experiences daily when seeing others who are in better positions, or have qualities they admire but do not possess. The passive form of envy is common, but generally manageable and can be kept largely to one’s self. The active form of envy is dangerous and often ends up causing real harm to individuals who may generally be undeserving of the treatment it engenders. The best strategies for mitigating one’s vulnerability to envy, in both one’s own sense of emotional balance and in defense against that of others, is to understand it and to become aware of its manifestations. Some of the signs of envy are: Microexpressions – The latin word for envy is invidia, meaning “to look through a person with eyes like a dagger”, and is strongly linked to the concept of the evil eye. The expressions of envy are almost always characterized by a sudden look of hostility or disappointment, like a child being cheated, when hearing of any good fortune befalling the object of this emotion. Poisonous Praise – Another expression of envy is to elicit strange, paradoxical, and confusing praise. This praise will often come off as a compliment, but with some quality that seems unnerving. Conversely, if misfortune arises in the envied’s life, the envier will say something that is at face value compassionate, but leaves a discomforting effect. Backbiting – Gossip is a common cover for envy. If in a social situation where much of the group begins to seem unexpectedly cold, this may be indication of gossip. The Push and Pull – Enviers often try to become friends with those they envy, but mostly as means to gather material that can be used against the object of their envy. In this scenario, the envier is much like a prosecutor, gather evidence, no matter how trivial, that they can use to undermine and sabotage the other. Often these slights and offenses will be things beyond the envied’s control, or completely circumstantial unblameworthy. Envier Types The Leveler – These types are generally entertaining to be around, and are great at deflating large egos and the powerful. Where this envier is problematic is that they cannot recognize excellence in anyone, and seek to pull others into their own pit of mediocrity (crab mentality). The Self-Entitled Slacker – Persons exhibiting this type hold the general outlook that they are naturally entitled to praise and respect, but are almost always unwilling to put in any real work to realize the ends that would earn them that level of esteem. They are willing to sabotage anyone who earns praise through hard work. The Status Friend – These types are motivated by a belief that material possessions are the primary determinants of personal worth. If they are poor, they will pass off their lack of means by playing the role of the hippie or ascetic. Around these types, it is always best to downplay gains and good fortune in order to avoid triggering envy. The Attacher – Attachers tend to seek out and attach themselves to extremely successful and/or powerful people. They will ingratiate themselves into the good graces of their marks through flattery rather than competence, and will use those relationships to gather dirt on and tarnish the reputation of their victims. The Insecure Master – Achieving higher positions can trigger anxiety and insecurities in some people, and these types will often have a tendency to view high-performing underlings as a threat. They will attempt to sabotage the career of the those under them whom they feel are a threat. Best to avoid working for people like this. Recognizing Signs of Envy Envy most often comes from others who share similar professional goals. To avoid stirring passive envy into active envy, it’s best to downplay our successes somewhat; invoking the role of luck in our success is generally the most useful strategy. Social media, specifically many people’s tendency to show only the most idealized versions of themselves on social platforms, has created an environment where envy is more ubiquitous than ever. Identifying envy in both self and others is one of the most important skills for navigating social circumstances in this age. One important note is that there is a lot of overlap between deep narcissism and envy. Deep narcissism betrays the lack of a coherent sense of self, while envy can indicate a lack of purpose. […] Beyond Envy Nearly everyone experiences some degree of envy in life, and completely eliminating this emotion is impossible. The ideal is to try to transmute envy towards more productive ends. Some of the strategies for doing so are: Move closer to the object of your envy – The goal here is to gain insight into the relative disadvantages present in the lives of those we envy, which are often concealed behind the chimera of public persona. The idea isn’t to denigrate the person, but to realize that often those things we envy come with a price. Engage in downward comparison – Instead of focusing primarily on those who are better off, try looking more at those who are worse off. The idea here is to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude for what we do have. Practice Mitfreude – Instead of experiencing schadenfreude over others misfortune, we should exercise our empathy by more strongly feeling joy at the success of others. Transmute envy into emulation – We cannot eliminate envy from our psyche, but we can use that energy to try to achieve the qualities we envy in others. This requires first the confidence in our capacity to achieve more, and second an strong work ethic. The envious are often almost always extremely lazy. Admire human greatness – It is helpful to find a series of persons who have qualities you admire, and to experience a sort of mitfreude in celebration of their achievements. Admiration is the polar opposite of envy, and meditating on the emotion of admiration can help mitigate that tendency.