Learning to Let Go of Envy

That guy is always on the news talking about his program.

Why does the funder always take people to look at their program?

I wish I had their donor pool.

Why were they selected for pro bono technical assistance?

I think our community deserves some national attention for all of our great ideas compared to some of the other places I always hear about.

Envy. I hear it. I see it. I have been subject to it. I have felt it. I am learning more about it and thought I would use this blog to share some thoughts on it that one of my mentors recently shared with me, and which I found very helpful:

1. Don’t deny when you are feeling envious

Envy is fueled by our emotions, rationalized by the context that we find ourselves in. If we deny that we are feeling envious we are more likely to become disconnected from the things we are passionate about, or worse, become hostile towards those that we are envious of.

2. Consider the big picture

Perhaps you have felt envious only to later learn that the person or program that you held up on a pedestal was secretly dealing with its own struggles, fears, irrational thoughts, insecurity, or even envy of others? What we are envious of is often just part of the complete package, and when taken out of context, can even dehumanize the others involved, seeing those that we are envious of as objects, not people with feelings.

3. Take time to acknowledge your own talents, strengths and accomplishments without being conceited or boastful

To be clear, being self-aware and self-appreciating is not intended to be an exercise in inflated ego. When we take time to acknowledge our own talents, strengths and accomplishments we are more likely to understand and appreciate how we are making contributions too. And when we can’t see it in ourselves, one of the things that I feel important about in teams (as some of you have experienced in my trainings) is how and when to acknowledge the contributions of others.

4. Figure out how what you are feeling envious about can actually make you better

Envy can make us aware of things in our life that are attainable to us as well if we seize opportunities, apply ourselves and gain the experience. Envious that someone is the Executive Director of a program? Gather mentors that are EDs, find work experience that can help prepare you, and actually apply for ED jobs when they become available. Envious that someone seems to be the “go to” person for the media on matters that are important to you? Cultivate contacts in the media and put out your own media availability and press releases. And I could go on.


There is much that can be learned about envy and our emotional responses to the situation that cause us to feel the emotion. Turning those natural feelings into a strength and opportunity for growth is an important lesson.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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