Envy management? The first thing that would course through your mind is: “why should that matter?” Why, for instance is the justification behind someone else looking at you and wishing he/she has achieved up to what you have achieved. The ‘quantum’ of your achievements is not the point. How do you really channel ENVY, just like most greats – the Sir Walter Raleighs and the J. Turners.
Of all the disorders of the soul, envy is the only one no one confesses to – Plutarch, c. A.D. 46-120
Humans in general have a hard time dealing with a feeling of inferiority. In fact, when you come in contact with someone who surpasses, you realize that we are not as brilliant as we had formally thought.
This excerpt was lifted from “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene, and it highlights one of the most brilliant men in the court of Queen Elizabeth of England:
Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the most brilliant men at the court of Queen Elizabeth of England. He had skills as a scientist, wrote poetry still recognized as among the most beautiful writing of the time, was a proven leader of men, an enterprising entrepreneur, a great sea captain, and on top of all this was a handsome, dashing courtier who charmed his way into becoming one of the queen’s favorites.
Wherever he went however, Raleigh could not understand the stubborn opposition he faced from other courtiers. He did not see that he had not only made no attempt to disguise the degree of his skills and qualities, he had imposed them on one and all, making a show of his versatility, thinking it impressed people and won him friends. In fact it made him silent enemies, people who felt inferior to him and did all they could to ruin him the moment he tripped up or made the slightest mistake.
In the end he was executed for treason. But as Robert Greene well noted, “envy will use any cover it finds to mask its destructiveness“. In this context, the cover used on Sir Walter Raleigh was envy.
What strategies can you use to deal with envy, especially when you have some natural talent, not easily accessible by most people?
#1 Strategy: Dull your colors
The painter J.M.W Turner in the early 1800s was known for his use of colors. However, he discovered that his incomparable color skills made other artists afraid of hanging their paintings next to his during exhibitions. This was a dicey situation. Such fears may later lead to envy of humongous proportions.
What strategy did he employ? He intentionally made his color mixed duller – dampening their brightness, to cater for other artists.
The genius behind this strategy is that not creating an excessive air of superiority will make your progress all the smoother. There is a temptation to want to show your abilities. Never forget to dull your colors at some point.
P.S: This does not in any way include when you go job hunting, that is, in situations where you have to prove yourself to a superior. This strategy should be applied when you are on a level playing field with your contemporaries.
#2 Strategy: Be wary of some forms that envy takes
Envy is like a chameleon. It knows how to blend into circumstances unnoticed. Being wary is a strategy you must have in your armory at all times. A man who is constantly unaware will rarely be caught unawares.
The first of them all is excessive praise – flattery. This is a very sure form that shows that the person excessively praising you envies you. You are either being set up for a fall – because it may be impossible to live up to their praise – or they are inadvertently sharpening their teeth behind your back. Notice the catch-phrase – “Excessive Praise”.
P.S: This should not give imply any form of paranoia or other forms of suspicion that weakens one’s sense of judgment and gives rise to unfounded ideas.
The second of all is hyper-criticism. Criticisms are welcome especially when you want an unbiased and unflinching opinion about something. But when it takes the form of slander and the temptation of mudslinging, the best thing is to ignore.
Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay – Thoreau
#3 Strategy: Accept the fact that there will be people who will surpass you in some way
Just like I noted in my article “The Black Man in the Coffin”, accepting a situation doesn’t mean taking the situation as final. It simply means being realistic as to the present reality of your condition. For instance, before you go to the hospital for treatment, you must first accept the fact that you are ill. No two ways about it.
Coursing through life, there are always those who will surpass you in gifting and ability. That is one fact you must accept. The other side of this is that you must accept the fact that you MAY envy them – whether we accept it or not.
What should you do about that?
Envy is bi-directional – it goes in two directions. Forward and backward. Inward and Outward.
When envy goes inward, it poisons the soul. When it goes outward, it spurs and moves you to greater heights.
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When it seems you are becoming envious of someone, expel it quickly. It is only in expelling them, that you are cured from the ills of envy.
What are your views about this?
**Let others learn from your experience.