It is part of human nature to desire good things. 

This normal attraction to people, belongings, and situations that make us feel good or increase our comfort is by no means bad. On the contrary, coupled with restraint and wisdom, it can lead us to make choices that improve our well-being

However, there is a shadow side to our natural desire for a good life. There is always more out there, and someone else always seems to have it. Our desire for good things can warp into a desire for things we can’t have or that we feel we deserve more than others. 

A healthy desire for happiness turns to envy if we covet what isn’t ours. When we fall into the trap of comparing our lives with other people, we may start to believe they have it better.

The Psychology of Envy


Envy is a complex emotion that can be tangled up with many other feelings. Resentment, feelings of inferiority, guilt, and longing can all be part of what it means to be envious. (1)

At its worst, envy can also involve unkind feelings towards some who has what you want. This is known as malicious envy and is a destructive expression of very normal emotion. (1) When you harbor resentful or harmful feelings towards someone else, it may not hurt them, but it definitely hurts you. Those types of feelings are bad for the soul.

As an example, imagine a friend gets a new car that you really want but can’t afford. If you’re not aware of your envious feelings, they may become malicious. You might begin to think unkind thoughts about your friend, such as “she doesn’t work as hard as me and doesn’t deserve that car.” Those thoughts will likely make you feel bitter and eventually impact your friendship.

Thankfully envy can also be “benign envy,” meaning there is no hostility towards the other person. (1) This type of envy can spur us to work hard and achieve success. It can also make us more aware of what we value in life.

If you really want the same car as your friend has, you could turn your desire into positive action and pick up some extra work to save up the money you need. But, conversely, you might recognize your desire for the car, but after reflection, decide you value your free time more than the car and all the extra work it would require.

Envy does not have to be a destructive force in life when we have the emotional intelligence to see it for what it is.

The Comparison Trap

The most common trigger for envy is comparing ourselves with someone else. As social beings, we have a front-row seat to observe how we stack up to our neighbors. And inevitably, someone else always has something we don’t.

This has always been the case; however, there are new forces at work in the current age of technology and unlimited access to information. As a result, it is easier than ever to envy not just our neighbors but people not even remotely connected to us.

Social Media and Envy


Social media can be both positive and negative.

The ability to connect with far-away family and friends, the opportunity to build online communities of like-minded people, the chance to attract people to your business or brand: these can all be positive things.

However, the constant exposure to a sanitized version of other people’s lives can be decidedly negative. While we all know that technically what we see on social media is not the complete picture, the appealing images and curated content are designed to incite envy. Their purpose is to present an attractive picture of a certain kind of life.

The more time people spend passively browsing social media, the more dissatisfied and negative their mood is. (2) The effect on mood appears linked to longer scrolling sessions vs. short, intentional visits on social media. It seems fair to say that the longer we expose ourselves to the false facade of social media sites, the more likely we are to fall into the comparison trap.

When we compare ourselves to others online, it can lead to feelings of envy, anxiety, and depression. (3) The challenge with social media is to take advantage of its benefits while maintaining strong feelings of self-esteem and perspective in order to resist sliding into unhealthy comparisons.

How Self-esteem Protects Against Comparison

When we compare ourselves with others, it is most often people we perceive as being a step above us. (4)

We may feel envious when we see someone similar to us achieving success or finding happiness that we have not. Unconsciously we view them as better than us because they have something we want.

Having a healthy level of self-esteem can protect you from both comparison and envy. (1) Self-esteem is essentially your opinion of yourself. (5) When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself and believe you are deserving of love and respect. Low self-esteem is the opposite and, in the case of envy, makes you more susceptible to the adverse effects of comparison.

When self-esteem is high, it is easier to view the happiness and success of others with an open heart. Our value for our intrinsic worth and goodness protects us from comparison and wanting what others have. When we feel good about ourselves, it’s hard to feel envious.

Healthy self-esteem helps us be realistic. When we have a fair assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, we have a stronger sense of self. This keeps us grounded in our own lives and values.

Strategies to Increase Self-esteem and Stop Comparing


Feeling envious of other people doesn’t feel good. There is often a measure of shame mixed in with the emotion. When we feel envy, it is a signal that we don’t have enough value for ourselves or all the good things in our lives. 

No one wants to feel that way.

To combat feeling envy, we have to use strategies that put things back in perspective. We have to cultivate healthy levels of self-esteem and step back from the comparison trap.

Acknowledge and Explore Feelings of Envy

The first step in managing any emotion is always to acknowledge it and then consider its cause. It’s essential to dig into why you feel envy. Question why that person’s success makes you feel envious? What do you think is lacking in your own life when you see someone else happy?

Take the time to tell the Be Well app what you are feeling. Recording your emotions brings them into your awareness, which gives you more control over your response. The app will also provide suggestions for healthy ways to cope with what you’re feeling. For example, a brief meditation or movement session, some soothing soundscapes, or uplifting music can do wonders for your mood.

Pausing when you notice the emotion and questioning is essential to take away its power to steal your peace. When you begin to ask the right questions, you will find answers that guide you to grow and learn.

Practice Gratitude


Being grateful for what you have is the surest path to contentment. If you want to stop envying other people, focus instead on all the good things you have. The more you look, the more you will find. 

Being grateful doesn’t mean considering yourself better than anyone else. Instead, gratitude creates appreciation and abundance. Approaching life this way allows you to feel secure in your self-esteem and extend joy to others when they experience success.

Practicing gratitude meditations like those in the Be Well app is a healthy way to focus your mind on the goodness in your own life. When you meditate with thankfulness, you take away the sting of envy.

Take a Social Media Break

Regularly stepping away from the phone and limiting the time you spend on social media can do wonders for your perspective. 

Getting off social media halts the comparison/envy cycle. When you are not constantly confronted with the details of other people’s lives, you can be fully engaged in your own. It is also easier to gain perspective.  

What you see on social media is only a sliver of a life. People usually present their best face to the world. But, we all know there is so much more going on that we don’t get to see, and even the happiest people experience hardship.

Pausing your consumption of social media provides a chance to reorient and reprioritize what matters in your own life.

Start Living Your Own Values


While envy certainly has a dark side, it can also shine a light on what you value and want in your life. You can use this knowledge to make your life better and motivate you to go after what you want. Or envy can make you bitter and blind to the goodness in front of you.

Letting go of comparison and living a life that honors your own values takes commitment and courage. But, it can greatly add to your joy. 

Stop comparing yourself to others. Another person’s possessions or achievements do not define your worth. Instead, find the good in your own life and nurture it.