Done with Dieting Episode #144: The Upside to Envy

The Upside to Envy

Ever felt a twinge of envy? Have you ever been labeled as jealous when all you did was desire someone’s achievements or possessions? 

Let’s pull back the curtain on envy, an emotion often misunderstood and maligned, yet so deeply intertwined with the human condition. I’m turning this conversation on its head, not just acknowledging envy, but reclaiming it as a mirror reflecting our deepest desires. 

I explore the societal narratives that paint women as rivals and discuss how envy plays a pivotal role in these portrayals. It’s time to transform this negative emotion into an empowering tool for self-awareness and self-improvement.

Now, let’s talk about Schadenfreude – that umbrella term for the complex mix of emotions centered around envy. The satisfaction you feel when someone who seems to have it all stumbles. A destructive force in our relationships and communities, I explore how to recognize its influence, challenge it, and redirect the focus to building genuine connections. I’m also touching upon competition – how men and women perceive it differently and how we can break free from the cycle of envy and Schadenfreude. 

As I conclude, let’s remember the power of supportive communities. Let’s cheer for each other’s successes, offer a hand when someone stumbles, and celebrate the beauty of genuine connections. Together, we can bridge the gap and cultivate a community rooted in understanding and support.

Chapter Summaries:

Reclaiming Envy (0:00:04)

Exploring envy’s roots, distinguishing between envy and jealousy, and reclaiming it to benefit us.

Navigating Envy, Schadenfreude, and Competition (0:15:44) 

Schadenfreude is rooted in envy, affects relationships and communities, and can be challenged by focusing on mutual support and celebration.

Celebrating and Supporting One Another (0:33:48) 

Let’s celebrate successes, offer support, and build a community of understanding.

“Embrace envy as a guiding light, transforming it from a negative force into a powerful compass that leads you to your true desires and aspirations.” – Elizabeth Sherman

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What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Envy can provide insights into your deepest desires and values.
  • Envy and jealousy have distinct meanings and recognizing the difference is important.
  • Societal narratives have portrayed women as competitors, but understanding envy can foster sisterhood.
  • Envy can be transformed into a motivator for self-improvement and growth.
  • Embracing envy as a tool for introspection can lead to greater understanding and connection.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Have you ever scrolled through social media, spotted a friend’s success, and then felt that pang of envy? Trust me, we’ve all been there. But what if I told you that this emotion, which society tells us is bad or negative can actually be one of our most insightful guides. And we can use it for good.

In today’s episode, I’m exploring envy. I’m unpacking its truths, busting myths, and discovering how it can bring us closer to our deepest desires. You are not going to want to miss this. So, stay tuned.

Welcome to the Done With Dieting Podcast, where it’s all about designing the life, you want in midlife. I’m your host, Elizabeth Sherman, a master certified life and health coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, feminist coach, and specialist in women’s hormones.

Are you tired of scales, food logs, and strict diets? Struggling with hormonal symptoms and the challenges of aging, changing relationships, and entering the next phase of your life? You have come to the right place.

Here, we talk about food freedom, nurturing a better relationship with your body, and feeling great again. All without the weight of traditional dieting methods.

Through a mix of solo podcasts and conversations with industry experts, I’m here to guide you towards a healthier, happier you.

Join me as we explore ways to look and feel better and strive for optimal health regardless of where you are in your journey. But more importantly, to reclaim control, confidence, and joy in this beautiful stage of life.

This is the Done With Dieting podcast. Let’s dive in. 

Hey everyone, welcome to the done with dieting podcast, episode number 144. And today, I am talking about envy. We are doing a deep dive into an emotion that while all too familiar for most of us is rarely discussed in depth. This emotion often, whispered about in hushed tones has woven itself into the fabric of our daily lives, especially as women in a society that often pits us against one another.

Do you recall a time when you looked at someone else’s success and felt that pain in your heart? That heavy mixture of longing, resentment, and self-doubt. I know that I do.

As I started my journey as a personal trainer, I watched colleagues and friends stride ahead, basking in their successes. We had both started out at the same time. And I was like, how are they so much further than me?

And instead of feeling inspired, I felt left behind, overshadowed. Those feelings of envy became almost a daily companion, nudging me at every corner, reminding me of what I hadn’t yet achieved. But as time went on, I had a realization.

Envy as potent and sometimes uncomfortable as it is, isn’t just a negative force. It’s a complex emotion. One that carries with it invaluable insights about our deepest desires, fears, and aspirations. It’s like a mirror reflecting not just what we lack, but more importantly, what we truly desire and value in our lives.

So, in today’s episode, we’re not just addressing envy, we are reclaiming it. Together, we are going to unravel its layers, understand its roots, and most importantly, harness its power to guide us, connect us, and maybe even inspire us.

Now, before we move into our exploration of envy, it’s really important to understand the distinction between two terms that are often used interchangeably but are completely different. Envy and Jealousy. And so, knowing the difference between them can truly change how we perceive and respond to these emotions.

First, let’s talk about Envy. Envy is when we want something that someone else has. It could be their job, their confidence, their relationship, or even their new pair of shoes. It’s that feeling that bubbles up when we think, I wish I had what she has.

Now, that being said, of the seven deadly sins, Envy is one of them. So, we have a lot of shame and judgment about that word. And so, what we generally tend to do is we tend to use the word Jealous instead of it. And we use Jealous in a way that becomes playful, like I’m so jelly. Right? Oh, I’m so jealous that you went on that trip.

But jealousy is a little bit more intricate. Jealousy often, involves another person and stems from the fear of losing something or someone that we value. It’s that anxiety that we feel when we think about our partner who might find someone else attractive. Or the worry that a colleague might outshine us in a project that we’re both working on. Or when you have a friend, and she gets a new friend. Right? Those are all Jealousy.

Now, here’s the twist. Society, especially for women has muddied the waters between these two emotions. And so, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, like, oh she’s just jealous of you, when in reality it might be envy. Or how some women are often painted as jealous creatures. When it’s really more about feeling envious of someone else’s achievements or possessions.

Now, this mix up isn’t just a game of semantics. It impacts how we understand our emotions and how we relate to one another. When we say someone is jealous of our success, it’s as though they’re begrudging us or something that’s rightfully ours. But if they’re envious, it’s a signal that they too desire similar achievements or qualities.

So, it’s a subtle difference, but one that can open doors to understanding and empathy rather than division. And historically for women, understanding these nuances can make a world of difference.

When we realize that another woman’s feelings of envy point to her aspirations, rather than an inherent malice, it changes the narrative. Instead of viewing each other as adversaries, which we are often taught to do, we can start to see each other as fellow travelers on a journey with our own dreams and desires.

As we navigate through our topic today, remember this distinction and the power it holds in shifting our perspectives and relationships.

Now, growing up, many of us heard tales and saw depictions that subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, portrayed women as competitors. Often, it odds with one another. This narrative rooted deeply in societal conditioning, begins in our formative years, and shapes our perceptions of fellow women, nurturing feelings of mistrust.

Think back to stories and fairytales that you heard as a child. How many of them revolved around the evil queen stereotype? The older, envious woman, threatened by the youth and beauty of the younger one.

The narrative doesn’t just exist in fairytales throughout history, whether in literature, cinema, or even real life tales of royal courts. Women have been portrayed as rivals. From Cleopatra and her political maneuverings to the alleged animosities between Hollywood starlets of the Golden Age, right?

But it’s not just about these grand stories. In our daily lives, how many times have we been told, oh, she’s just probably jealous of you. When another person, another woman, didn’t want to be our friend. Or how about the all too familiar trope of women being protective or even territorial over their partners. Suspicious of every other woman in the vicinity.

And let’s not forget the insidious ways in which society conditions women to revel in each other’s failures. This is evident in the concept of Schadenfreude, finding joy in another’s misfortune. Instead of celebrating each other’s successes, there’s an undercurrent pushing us to secretly hope for another woman’s fall. All because of this deeply ingrained, envy.

What’s important to realize is that all of these narratives and stereotypes aren’t even necessarily rooted in reality. They are constructs, often designed to keep women divided, less powerful, and less united.

When women are kept in competition, always wary of one another, they are less likely to band together, and less likely to form strong alliances. And therefore, less of a threat to the patriarchal structures that have historically dominated.

Recognizing these ingrained narratives is the very first step. As we move forward, let’s challenge these tales and rethink the stories we tell the next generation. Let’s paint a picture where women lift each other up. Where envy is recognized, understood, and transformed into inspiration, and where sisterhood truly thrives.

Now, as I look back on my own journey, especially the early days of starting out as a personal trainer, there’s a memory that clearly stands out. It’s a painful lesson in envy and self-awareness. It’s a story that I believe that you might resonate with or perhaps it might shine a light on areas of your own life.

So, picture this. Freshly certified, bursting with enthusiasm and dreams, I was so ready as a personal trainer to change lives. One client at a time, I envisioned days filled with successful sessions, transformative stories, and building a thriving business. But as we all know, the journey of entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily a straight line. So, there are ups and downs, and twists and turns.

Now, around the same time, I had friends also who were not in the exact same position that I was, but also in the health and wellness space. Who seemed to be leaping just bounds ahead of me.

Every single time I logged onto Facebook, there they were launching new programs, celebrating their clients, or sharing pictures of packed workshops and classes. And with every single post, each success story, a feeling grew inside me. It wasn’t pride or happiness for them.

No, it was that gnawing, persistent feeling of envy. It pretty much destroyed me because of the negative thoughts that I had going on in my head about what it meant about me. I’d find myself asking, why them? Why not me? And in my mind, their success became a mirror reflecting back all of the things that I wasn’t achieving.

Their milestones felt like markers of my failures. The envy was so overpowering that quite honestly, I unfriended all of them. I thought, if I don’t see it, I’m not going to feel it. It was my way of shielding myself from those negative emotions.

However, with time and introspection, I actually came to realize that what if their successes didn’t have anything to do with me. That their successes weren’t a marker of my inadequacy, but rather showing me what was possible. That these friends, these incredibly talented women, weren’t flaunting what I lacked, they were actually showcasing what was possible for me. What could be achieved with hard work, determination, and passion.

And so, this shift in perspective was game changing. Instead of letting envy drive a wedge between me and my dreams, I started using it as a compass. It began guiding me towards areas of my life and my business that I was neglecting. Those Facebook posts? They became sources of inspiration. The envy? A reminder that I too had dreams and goals worth pursuing.

Today, I am grateful for those early days and even more grateful for those feelings of envy. And for all of those women who were doing what they were doing, because they showed me what was possible.

The feelings of envy just eating me up inside. They weren’t pleasant, but they were necessary, and they were pivotal. They showed me that envy doesn’t have to be a roadblock. With the right mindset, it can actually be the very thing that propels you forward.

But it wasn’t just me experiencing envy. I’ve been on the other side of the coin too. As my career began to gain traction, my business started blossoming. I noticed a shift. Friends and peers who once stood beside me, cheering me on, began to pull away. Some became distant, while others dropped subtle, catty remarks about my progress and other things that had nothing to do with it.

There was one instance that’s just so clear for me. A friend, someone that I had known for years, made an offhand comment about how easy things seemed to be for me. It was delivered with a hint of sarcasm, a touch of bitterness.

And in that moment, I felt a mix of emotions. I was shocked. I was sad. And yes, I even felt guilty for having success. Was I flaunting my success too much? Should I downplay my achievements?

Being on the receiving end of envy can be just as challenging as feeling it. It’s like walking on eggshells. Second guessing every single achievement that you share, every milestone that you celebrate. The emotional toll is real. And it’s the weight of unsaid words, the silence of friends once close, the sting of a backhanded compliment.

I wish I could tell you that there’s an easy fix. A magic phrase to diffuse the tension. But the truth is, it’s a journey and a journey of understanding that just as my envy reflected my desires and insecurities, so too does the envy directed at me reflect the internal battles of others. And sometimes all we can do is extend understanding, compassion, and hope that one day they too will see envy for the teacher that it truly is.

You know, it’s funny how language can encapsulate the mix of emotions. In just a single word, Schadenfreude is one of those words. It’s a German term that means taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. And I’ve talked about it already on this podcast.

It’s that small, almost guilty pleasure that you might feel when someone who seems a little too perfect stumbles, or when a high flying colleague makes a mistake in a meeting. While it might seem like a harmless, fleeting feeling, Schadenfreude has deeper roots and its implications particularly, tied to envy.

Now, imagine, scrolling through social media and seeing a post from someone you’ve always viewed as quote unquote, having it all. They share a setback, a mistake, or a challenge that they’re facing. And for a split second, there’s that tiny spark of satisfaction.

That right there is Schadenfreude. And that satisfaction, it’s often fueled by envy. Envy of their success, their seemingly perfect life, or the ease with which they appear to navigate their challenges.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Schadenfreude creates a divide. It’s an emotion that thrives on comparison and competition. And while a little friendly competition can be motivating, when it’s rooted in envy and amplified by schadenfreude, it can be divisive. It tears apart the very fabric of communities, friendships, and support systems.

Instead of standing together lifting each other up, we stand divided, secretly hoping for others to falter, just so that we can feel a little bit better about ourselves. This is especially pronounced in tight knit groups where one person’s success can feel like a direct reflection of another’s shortcomings.

But here’s the thing. Every time we indulge in schadenfreude, we’re not just harming our relationship with that other person, we’re also reinforcing our own insecurities, our own beliefs of scarcity and inadequacy. It’s a cycle. And breaking free requires us to recognize the role of envy, challenge the satisfaction of schadenfreude, and focus on building genuine connections rooted in mutual support and celebration.

And it’s so interesting when we talk about competition. And there’s a fascinating distinction between how men and women perceive it. I’ve noticed this repeatedly, both in my personal experiences and in observing others.

Let me give you an example. A colleague gets a promotion or a business accolade. For many women, especially if they’re in a similar field or position, this success can feel threatening. It’s as if there’s only so much success to go around. And if one woman achieves it, it’s somehow taking away from another’s potential.

This is particularly pronounced when that successful person is another woman. It’s like there’s this unspoken rule that there’s only room for one woman at the top. And we see this with dieting and weight loss also. That if someone else loses weight, we are envious of that. And we look forward to when she gains the weight back, right? There’s no pie in the sky for how much is available to us.

Now, on the other hand, many men seem to perceive competition differently. They often see another man’s success not as a direct threat, but more as a challenge. It’s like a gauntlet being thrown down and a bar being set. So, instead of feeling threatened, they feel more motivated to rise to the occasion, to meet and maybe even surpass that standard.

So, why is this? Where does the difference in perspective come from?

A lot of it boils down to societal conditioning and cultural narratives. Historically, women have been limited by the roles that they could occupy and the heights that they could actually achieve. Opportunities were scarce and competition was fierce. And over time, this bred a sense of scarcity.

A belief that if one woman succeeds, it reduces the chance for others. Contrast this with men who’ve historically been encouraged to be competitive, to strive, to challenge each other openly in arenas from sports to business.

Their competition has often been framed as a rite of passage, a way to prove oneself. But here’s the twist. These narratives, these age old scripts, they’re completely outdated.

In today’s world, where opportunities for women are ever increasing, it’s crucial for us to challenge these conditioned beliefs. To understand that another woman’s success doesn’t diminish ours. In fact, it paves the way to show us what’s possible. And instead of seeing competition as a threat, we can start seeing it as inspiration. As an example of what’s possible.

Now here’s where we can flip the script on envy. Instead of viewing this as a negative, toxic emotion, what if we saw it as a guiding light. A compass, pointing us towards what our heart truly desires. I mean, think about it. When we feel envy, it’s often a reaction to seeing someone else possess or achieve something that we desire deep down.

It might be success, a type of relationship, a level of health. or even a particular lifestyle. The sting of envy? That’s just our inner self nudging us, whispering, hey, you want that too?

But instead of listening to that inner voice, What do so many of us do? We push it away. We tell ourselves stories that it’s not possible for us, that we don’t deserve it, or that it’s out of reach. We look at what others have and think that there’s a limited supply.

But here’s the truth. Life is not a pie. Just because someone has a slice doesn’t mean that there’s actually less for the rest of us. So many aspects of our lives are abundant, not scarce. Look at love, for instance. There’s no limit to the amount of love in the world. The more you love, the more you give, the more you receive.

And it’s similar with success. Health, creativity, and so many other areas. There’s room for all of us to thrive, to achieve our dreams, to lead fulfilling lives. There isn’t a cap on happiness or success.

The next time envy creeps in, I encourage you to pause. Instead of pushing it away or letting it sour your mood. Ask yourself, what is this envy showing me? What is it that I truly desire? Use it as a tool. A lens to gain clarity about your own aspirations and dreams. Because once you know what you want, you can start taking steps towards it. Embracing the abundant possibilities that life has to offer.

I’ve recently started diving into this amazing book that I think that every woman should pick up. It’s called, “On Our Best Behaviour: The Price Women Pay to Be Good.” And it’s by a journalist, her name is Elise Loehnen. This book provides a critical examination of how societal norms, especially those deeply rooted in historical religious contexts have shaped and restricted women’s behaviors.

Now, we’re all familiar with the seven deadly sins, right? Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth. These concepts, which have been around since the fourth century still hold power over us today, particularly, women.

The book suggests that these quote unquote sins have been used as a framework to control and limit women’s actions and our desires. For instance, because sloth is deemed as sinful, we often deny ourselves the rest that we so desperately need.

Our fear of being labeled greedy might make us hesitant to assert ourselves, to advocate for our worth, or to negotiate effectively. This contributes to disparities like the gender wealth gap.

And talking about greedy, we often don’t want to be perceived as greedy, so no woman is going to take the last brownie on a plate. Am I right?

So, the author’s exploration paints just incredible picture of how despite being in a modern and increasingly secular society, these age old beliefs continue to restrict us. By identifying with these quote unquote sins, we are striving to fit into a box labeled as good.

But the cost? It’s often our genuine happiness, our dreams, and our overall well-being. In fact, I recently did another podcast on this called, “Nice Lady Syndrome,” which is the exact same thing. We feel the need to be good.

And so, while reading her book, I couldn’t help but see the patterns in my own life and the lives of the women around me. Like how many times have we suppressed our true feelings or desires to fit into societal norms? How often have we dimmed our own light to avoid being seen as too much?

The author doesn’t just identify the problem though, she also provides insights and strategies for breaking free from these confinements. She encourages us to shed the weight of these societal expectations and discover our own path to fulfillment.

For everyone who is listening right now, I urge you to reflect on how these ingrained beliefs might be influencing your decisions and your behaviors. Because recognizing them is the very first step to reclaiming your power, and finding your authentic voice, and truly living on your own terms.

So, let me take a moment to really soak in everything that we’ve unpacked today. Envy, as powerful and challenging as it can be is not our enemy. In fact, it’s like a flashlight. Illuminating those hidden desires and dreams that we might not even be aware of. So, here’s my challenge for you today.

Next time, you find yourself feeling a twinge of envy, whether it’s while scrolling through social media or having a chat with a friend. I want you to stop and truly notice it. And don’t judge it.

What if it was totally natural and okay? What is that envy trying to tell you? Is it pointing you towards a goal that you’ve been afraid to pursue? A relationship dynamic that you’re longing for. Or Is it a personal trait that you hope to develop? Dive into that feeling, not with resentment, but with genuine curiosity.

Now, I’m not saying that this is going to be easy. But trust me, the insight that you’ll gain from this exercise can be transformative. It’s all about reframing how we view envy. So, instead of seeing it as a negative emotion that divides us, we can harness it as a tool for introspection, growth, and connection.

And if you’re looking to dig deeper into this journey to truly understand and embrace all of the emotions and challenges that come with midlife, I am going to invite you to join us in the Feel Good Sisterhood. It’s a community of just amazing, wonderful women, just like you. Navigating life’s twists and turns together, celebrating successes, and lifting each other up during the challenging times.

You are not alone in this. We are all in this journey of self-discovery and growth together. Let’s walk the path hand in hand and use every emotion, even envy, as a stepping stone to a richer, more fulfilling life.

As I wrap up today’s episode, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this unique emotion of envy that’s been with us, shaping our choices, influencing our reactions, and sometimes even dictating the narrative that we tell ourselves. While it may have a bad reputation, it holds such promise for personal growth.

As we’ve uncovered today, envy can be a guide, a mirror reflecting back, what we deeply desire or feel might be missing from our own lives. But instead of letting it pull us apart, let’s harness it to draw closer together.

Another woman’s success is not your failure. Her shine does not dim yours. If anything, it is a beacon illuminating the path for all of us.

In a world that sometimes seems designed to pit us against one another, I urge you, celebrate each other. Celebrate yourself. Let’s cultivate a community where we cheer each other on. Offer a hand when someone stumbles and rejoice in each other’s achievements.

Together, we are more than capable of turning envy from a wedge that divides us into a bridge that connects us. Let’s walk that bridge together towards understanding, acceptance, and above all, unwavering support.

That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing day, everyone. And I will see you next time. Bye-bye.

Hey there, I am so glad that you spent this time with me today.

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The Upside to Envy
The Upside to Envy