How to Banish Envy

I was reading one of my friend’s Facebook posts, and I said to myself again, “She is leading my writer dream life.” If you’re in the arts or entrepreneurship, you have at least one friend like this. Someone whose work you admire and whose talent you would never dispute. Someone who you genuinely like . . . a lot. But he or she has something you have always longed for and striven for, yet never achieved, and some part of you envies that.

You tell yourself that envy is counter-productive, that you could sit around envying someone all day and it would accomplish nothing. You know you are better off focusing on doing your best work and reaping whatever rewards it brings your way. You remind yourself to feel grateful for what you have. You tell yourself that it’s not nice or Christian or enlightened to envy and you should rise above it. You convince yourself that maybe that person just has better luck than you. Or you give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have worked longer or harder than you. But no matter how much you try to out-distance your envious thoughts, sometimes they still catch up to you, and you look at your friend’s latest accomplishment and sigh.

But you still buy every book this friend writes and see every play she acts in and show up at every concert she performs, because you know she is that good, and the artist in you can’t stay away from great art. You hug her and tell her you are so proud of her, so happy for her success. And you are! And the next day you return to your desk or studio and hope and dream to one day achieve what she has.

But if you surrender to the work, those thoughts melt away. You feel the thrill of creation and settle into your natural rhythm, and you know that what you are doing is what you are meant to do. And she is doing what she is meant to do. And while her art may touch millions, your art may touch only a few, and none of that matters.

What matters is that when you go to bed that night you sleep knowing you have not turned your back on your own gifts out of petty envy and useless comparison. You have not short-changed yourself by pining to be something you are not. You have spent one more day in pursuit of art that only you can produce, and somewhere, someone is envying your courage to do just that.