Envy as Social Construct | How to Find Inner Peace

Jessica Lewis
September 27, 2016

Jealousy makes life be an endless competition with those around us. It is unhealthy, extremely unpleasant and triggers the beginning of a game in which no one wins because everybody has something to lose. Envy originates from a feeling of lack deep inside us. We are not good enough, we must do more and better than those around us. All these “must” are little lies put on repeat in our minds. But why does envy appear? Out of all emotions, why is it one of the most intensely felt? What is there to do if we want to conquer it? People frequently ask themselves these questions. Some of them remained unanswered for most of one’s life, unfortunately. Peruvian medicine people and shamans say that if one fears something he should go straight to it and make some sort of contact with it. This way, what we fear will vanish. Most of our worries come from little self-confidence and poor self-esteem. The mind uses these two as a fuel for fear.

Still, envy is just another feeling with a frail basis when putting face to face with real life truths. All we need is a bit of courage to deal with the little green monster.

How Does Envy Works?

David Hawkins, an American psychologist, stated that consciousness is structured in levels. A primary emotion represents each of them. Some are negative, so people feel bad while experiencing them. In addition to that, a negative emotion triggers another one’s occurrence.  When one feels envy, there is also  the fear that others may be better; moreover, one can stop himself from doing something if he feels he is not good enough. We see here how a simple thought of envy attracts fear and lack of initiative. This eventually leads to a generally harmful attitude towards oneself. Likewise, there are also good levels sustained by positive feelings such as courage, acceptance and, probably the most powerful, love. Pleasant feelings induce a state of peace and wellness, in contrast to the negative ones.

Envy is part of the lower levels. Most people, even the nicest ones, feel it. Envy says: “She is good so I must be better. He has this, I must own more.”

David Hawkins explains how thoughts influence us and those around us just as much. Be it a good or bad one, a simple thought of either envy or love causes changes in one’s behavior. Here is an example to understand the connection between thoughts and the external world. There are 50 people trying to enter university. They all want to become surgeons but there are only 20 available places. The well-prepared ones are expected to obtain them.  Now, the mind’s complex mechanism of action interferes.

Aside from the conscious thinking process, there is also an unconscious one. People call it the subconscious mind. Consciously, the 20 future students feel happy and fulfilled. They have reached their goal. Unconsciously, they are bound to feel bad, because the mind knows they have obtained something others lost. The feeling of loss makes them unconsciously feel guilty. The psychologist goes even further and states that, by being energy, our subconscious mind receives thoughts under the shape of vibrational waves and turns them into more thoughts. It is impossible for one to feel satisfied, given that others lost.

People are social beings. In spite of the fact that individuality is promoted more and more in the mass-media, people have always functioned better in groups. There are over 7 billion people on Earth at this moment. We were created to interact with each other and help one another. Competition is useless because the individual’s well-being naturally implies that of the group.

Envy stems from this need to be better than those around us. We are taught to compare with almost anyone ever since the first moment of life. A spermatozoon competes with many others in its attempt to reach for the ovule and fertilize it. After being born, doctors give the baby a grade in accordance with the Apgar score method. A number summarizes the newborn child’s general health and appearance. In the kinder garden, kids’ height and weight are often times measured. Following the adult’s reactions, they understand that some measurements are better than others. In school, grades become of utmost importance. Everyone wants to be the best in class. Then, kids become teenagers; most of them suffer from anxiety and depression, because they think their value depends on something external. Teens turn into adults. Now, the will to succeed is even stronger. The need to obtain better jobs and results is more intense.

The more competitive and efficient someone is, the higher the salary. Envy is bound to appear in any of these situations. Even the most confident businessman is sometimes prone to experience it. If only it were so simple to remove the thoughts of envy from one’s mind. Unfortunately, the thoughts only become stronger if we offer it our attention by trying to remove them.

Community Heals the Individual

The best ally we have against envy is our power to acknowledge that we are unique and therefore incomparable. Afterward, we should realize that our happiness as individuals is dependent on the groups. The western society with its advanced technology and yearning for continuous evolution, focuses maybe too little on this concept of “group”. The individual enjoys the spotlight.

On the other hand, countries in South Africa rely on the notion of community. There, envy is something people can work on in order to overcome it. African tribes in particular do so in regards to any negative emotion.

For example, in a tribe from South Africa, when someone does something wrong, the entire community contributes so that the individual can forgive himself and be forgiven by those around him. The tribe takes him to the village’s center. After gathering around him, they remind him of all the good things he did for the community. The ritual takes place for two days in a row. This happens because they believe man is inherently good. While people are inclined to commit mistakes, it is their right to be given second chances. The community’s purpose is to remind him that  he is cherished and respected in spite of what he did. They use the term “ Nabajyotisaikia” which means “You matter to me” and then respond to one another with “Shikoba” that translates as “ So, I exist for you”.

Other African tribes share similar moral values. All these are comprised in a single word, Ubuntu, which means “humanity towards others”. The concept is becoming more popular in Europe  and America as well. Ubuntu is part of the African humanist philosophy promoted by Nelson Mandela.  People including it in their everyday life are aware of one important thing: “ I am because we are”. The individual has little chances to survive without the group. Everything is easier when one is part of a community that respects and protects him.

Ubuntu reminds people that what they are and where they are is the result of a team work. All they have accomplished throughout millennia has been done only with the community’s help. Evolution and improvement were not the results of people competing against each other. Even in the old days, bonds were created because people were more powerful together when they had to face natural disasters or wild animals. For the African tribes, every individual is precious and unique. No one is better than others. Each person has a particular role in the community’s structure. For example, if someone learns to grow edible plants, it is for the best if others are taught to do it too. Due to the harsh climatic conditions and poverty, competition would only cause damage. When everyone prospers, the collective resources grow. There is more for everybody to use. The community in itself becomes stronger and can face external threats more efficiently.

Africans can teach westerners a valuable lesson. That is, evolution does not depend on competition. If it ever has, it was either due to unfriendly conditions or because history demanded it.

The Ubuntu philosophy can prove to be beneficial every time the mind starts whispering lies into our ears. There is a positive counterpart for every negative thought. The first step in removing envy from one’s life is to introduce more positive thoughts consciously.

In many of his books, the psychologist David Hawkins reminds people that the positive ones are stronger than the negative ones. It may be hard to believe it. We are so influenced by stress and anger that the momentary feeling of happiness may not be that productive. Even so, he urges us not to believe the mind’s continuous chit-chat anymore. We must be aware we are the ones in charge. It depends on us to feed the mind with constructive emotions such as acceptance and love.

Love as the Opposite of Envy

People’s lives are the result of what they have cultivated inside themselves for years in a row. Envy does not occur out of anything. It shyly makes its first steps ever since childhood and turns into a permanent part of what we are.it ‘s hard to explain to children that some emotions are negative and others are positive. They are only aware that they feel them. The little ones are influenced more by how adults act and speak to one another. The power of example is more efficient in their case than complicated explanations related to emotions kids do not understand anyway.

As opposed to them, adults refer to envy on a regular basis. They fully comprehend the concept. This is precisely why it would be so easy to work with oneself in order to eliminate the thoughts of envy.

The best way to do so is to pay more attention and love ourselves more. And how they manifest better than through self-respect and the acknowledgment that we truly are unique beings? Self-love is revolutionary. It is possibly the most important factor in reclaiming our lives back. Little green monsters and invasive thoughts are weak in front of it. Love does not mean we should make those around us happy. This is regarded as more of an obligation, and our sole duty is to make ourselves happy.

Often times, we want to see our family and friends accomplished because we feel like our peacefulness depends on theirs. Inevitably, we link our moods to theirs. We feel uncomfortable when they are sad but we do not seem to be very pleased when they accomplish something either. Focusing on something from the outside will negatively impact the way we relate to feelings. In the absence of self-love, we cannot fully love other either.

It may be difficult to focus on oneself after years in which we have been taught that what others say and do are, for some reason, more important than our own words and deeds. Change is a slow and difficult process, but it is necessary to go through it in order to enjoy life to the fullest. As in the case of any other emotion, envy can be dealt with only if we dare to look at it and acknowledge that it is just another feeling amongst tens of others.

People should not pay much attention to it. Instead, when it surfaces, one should try and concentrate on whatever he is good at. Each of us is the best at doing something others are only mediocre at. Instead of offering all their energy in trying to be better than others at things they are not even interested in, people should perfect their skills and do only what they find exciting. We all should make a priority from treating our heart and mind with care and kindness and those around us with respect. We are here to evolve together. Minding our own business can prove to be beneficial in the long run. Life is not to be passed through complicated mental processes, but experienced in any possible way.