One (of many) inescapable quality human beings possess is to compare one’s self to another. Then, when on the lacking side of the comparison, to be envious of that other. We go through life not just looking forwards and backwards, but sideways. We always look at what’s beside us. This becomes the measure of standard whether one is ahead or behind, to look who beside us is leading or lagging. Almost always, one feels like they are behind, always trying to catch up – simply because it is human nature to set yourself up against a better standard. Everyone does this. Always.
You can say, therefore, that envy is in some ways the most effective motivator. The need to have what others have. The need to feel what others feel. The need to see what others see. To live like how others live. And more.
What is it that one can do when one feels this? What is it that happens? In cases when envy is insatiated, justification follows. We think of ways to remind us, to justify why we are lacking, why we are lagging behind. In the context of my argument, the antithesis of envy is generosity. But one can never be generous when not yet ahead. After all, how can you – why should you – be generous when you’re catching up to someone. It hurts to see the other succeed when you have not.
What can one do? Use envy to progress, to strive, to achieve? What an odd thing. And yet this happens more often than not. Chances are, the other you envy is also envious of someone else. An other who is ahead. And so on. When does envy stop? It doesn’t. When one catches up to the other and get to the point where they are, one simply looks at another who is better – and there is always someone better. Always a better other.
If you started reading this in the hopes that I offer an answer, I’m afraid I have none. Who am I to be able to explain a phenomenon as old as time? What I can simply try to convey is my opinion that there is a thin line between envy and inspiration. Try to make it less about the other and more about yourself. Be inspired to rise instead of grasp and pull to catch up with the other. Continue to be generous and help those ahead, those beside, and the numerous ones behind you. Especially them. Once in a while, allow yourself to think that there are some who envy you to0.
You are their other. Inspire them.