Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to my emotions while on social media. Particularly Instagram.
As mentioned in my Digital Detox post, I have taken steps unfollow accounts that don’t serve me. Accounts that would make me feel bad about myself and leave me feeling worse off.
So while I have more carefully selected which accounts I follow, I still occasionally notice some less-than-pleasant emotions. Mainly, envy.
[noun]: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.
[verb]: Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else).
Yes. That sums up the feeling I sometimes experience when looking at Instagram.
Now, if I were to unfollow every account that inspired any envy, I would be left with a very, very short list. So instead of avoiding the feeling, I have decided to lean into the envy and pay attention to it.
Listen to your envy
What is your envy telling you?
There was something specific that triggered the emotional response. And typically, the specific thing represents something we value.
Looking back at the definitions, the word desire is present. We usually envy another when they have something we want. It reflects something absent from our current experience. Think about it. There are posts that simply make you smile or perhaps provoke no feeling whatsoever. No negative response. Chances are, you feel just fine about those areas of your life.
So, if we zero in on the feeling of envy, what is it we value? What is it we desire? Why is it absent from our lives?
Recently I noticed the feeling of envy upon seeing images of a couple of strong women lifting weights. These women I follow are multi-dimensional, intelligent, driven, and passionate about numerous subjects. Their other posts would not stir up any negative emotions. It just seemed to be the strength-related posts.
So, I took the time to reflect on what was stirring up this emotion for me.
It wasn’t how strong they were or how they looked. I realized it’s the fact they are making strength training a priority in their lives – something I have been struggling to accomplish. This is important to me – hence why it evokes this response. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t feel envy.
If you take the time to really listen and learn the source of your envy, you can first acknowledge that it matters to you. Whatever “it” is, it’s a trigger.
Think of your envy as a window into what you desire.
Once you know this, you can start to work through what it means for you.
- Why does it matter? Does it actually matter or do you feel pressure to think it does?
- Is it missing from your life?
- Is it there, just not in the way you would like?
- What is holding you back from having it in your life?
The list of introspective questions could go on for quite a while. But I think you get the idea.
You could also ask yourself, if someone else were in charge, what would they change? Would that person make room for “it” in your life?
So pay attention. If you feel a pang of envy, don’t suppress it or ignore it – listen to it. Learn from it. Let it be your green-eyed teacher.