I’m just going to say it.
Some of us are frozen in time and space because of jealousy.
Some of us are so gripped with envy that we grasp and sabotage and act in ways unprincipled, just to get what we “want.”
The ick fairly drips when it comes to jealousy and envy.
Yet, it’s totally human and I’ll bet you that we’ve each run up against jealousy, the fear that you’re going to be betrayed and lose something important at the hands of someone else, and envy, which is the feeling of longing for something that someone else has.
We use these words interchangeably but they are quite different.
But here’s the good news – both can teach you tons about what needs changing in your own life.
Let’s look at envy. Suzanne (of course, it’s not her real name), came to me for some coaching to improve her relationship with her boss. As she gave me the overview of her situation, she mentioned her Mortal Enemy At Work, Cathy. Cathy was a brown-nosing, idiotic, unpolished jerk who totally rubbed Suzanne the wrong way. Now, I know a coaching moment when I hear one, so I asked Suzanne to do this exercise:
The Envy Map
On a piece of paper, write down everything that ticks you off about the biggest jerk in your life. Don’t edit or soften your feelings – put it all down. Be thorough. Be ruthless. Put it all out there.
Suzanne did the exercise (maybe you can do it, too, because there just might be a Mortal Enemy lurking in your life). Then, I had her read me every single item she wrote about co-worker Cathy. And a thread began to emerge – see, Cathy was the opposite of Suzanne in so many ways, and that is precisely what pissed Suzanne off. Where Suzanne was meticulous about her clothes and hair to the point of being a real Felix Unger, Cathy was more of a sloppy Oscar Madison. Where Suzanne respected hierarchy and rules, Cathy was a charming extrovert who got what she wanted regardless of the rules.
Suzanne told me a story – and her rage was palpable as she spit out the details – “We were walking down the hall and here comes the boss, Tom. I said, ‘Hello, Tom’ being respectful, and Cathy goes, ‘Hey, Tom! How’s it going? Want to grab a sandwich at lunch?’ and I was like, I cannot believe she just did that!” I asked what the problem was. Suzanne, incredulously, said, “She asked the boss to lunch!”
I believe my response was a brilliant and insightful, “So?”
The real problem, of course, is that Cathy did easily that which Suzanne had put out-of-bounds. Suzanne wasn’t really mad at Cathy – Suzanne was mad at Suzanne for being so rigid and formal that she was not able to craft a relationship with Tom.
This kind of understanding is what The Envy Map can do for any of us. When we take a hard look at the most difficult people in our lives and the things they do that tick us off the most, we get insight into some lost and orphaned feeling or experience we need to tend to.
Cathy was great for Suzanne, because she taught her how to create a better relationship with Tom. Suzanne began taking small steps, built a stronger alliance with her boss, and – guess what? – actually became friends with Cathy. Suzanne’s work stress level went way down, and she felt happier and happier. Ultimately, she was promoted, but mostly, she feels good about herself.
Envy is always an early warning signal. When you have that encompassing feeling that someone’s got something you want, the trick is to step back from plotting how to take it away from them (yes, I know what you’ve been planning) and step toward understanding what it is you’ve neglected and need to get into your life.