We all have that moment in our lives. Our friend shares some good news. We say and do all the right things and express happiness for her. But deep down, our hearts scream out in anguish. We look for an opportunity to retreat into a quiet place to let it all out; to weep, to kick things around and perhaps, blame ourselves too. It’s worse that we even feel this emotion. I mean, no one wants to be envious of her friend. We all want to be the good person, the one who’s always there for the people in our lives and not waver for a moment. We want to kick out this green-eyed monster in us. But we find that we are unable to do so. It’s perfectly normal. And even though it seems that envy makes us look like bad people. I have come to realize that owning and being vulnerable about this emotion is the first step to getting rid of it.
For a very long time, I felt that I was incapable of feeling envy towards other people. I saw myself as the one who would be envied and not one to envy. I didn’t even include it in my list of the diseases I told Allah to remove from my heart. Then I met this beautiful friend who perhaps out of a feeling of insecurity would always emphatically highlight all the “high spots” in her life and tactically pinpoint everything that was wrong with me. From the sympathetic “don’t feel bad. Yours will come too” line to the more direct “things will get better with you,” I began to notice all the things I never thought were wrong with my life in the first place; things I never complained about before. I also began to see her through a pair of rose-tinted glasses. And instead of focusing on gratitude for the things I had, I started seeing all the things she made me realize I was not, and at that point, the monster crept in. I would wake up every morning; puffy eyed with tears and dark circles adorning my face. I even fell ill at some point and felt worse when this friend didn’t bother to call or check up on me at the hospital. She often came up with the excuse that she was “busy,” I found myself asking whether her friendship with me was sincere or she was just in my life to make me feel small. Months rolled in and out, and it began to seem as though I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I tried to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be feeling envious of my friend even though I was no longer comfortable around her. I denied the same feeling that was eaten me up. “Envy was for bad people,” I thought. And I didn’t want to be a bad person.
“But you’re human,” my husband said to me “And it’s normal for you to feel this way.” He told me that the only way to feel better was, to be honest with myself. He asked me to recognize the emotion I was feeling and dig deep into the underlying reason behind it. And when I did this, I realized that what I was feeling had absolutely nothing to do with the good things happening in my friend’s life. It had more to do with me thinking my life was such a mess compared to hers. My husband made me realize that I was having this emotion because I was comparing my “behind-the-scenes” (which I felt comfortable talking about with my friend) to her own “highlight reel” (which she practically made efforts emphasizing). I also did some research about the emotion called “Envy” and how best to deal with it. In the end, I realized that being vulnerable and open about how you’re feeling was the only way to heal.
So I’m writing this because I know that there is someone out there who can relate to this or perhaps, there are many. I know that the feeling of envy is painful to admit because you think it only makes you “the inferior and the hostile.”
The first practical step to getting rid of this emotion and not allow it to tear you down is to admit that you feel it. You should also know that it is perfectly reasonable for you to feel this way at certain points in your life. And it does not in any way make you a bad person or a disloyal friend. Do some research about it and learn how to manage it.
You should also dig deep into the why. Asking the question “why” is crucial to finding the best answers. Enabling yourself to describe precisely what you are feeling and what triggered those feelings by either talking about it, writing it down or drawing it can go a long way in helping you tune in to your emotion. Talking about it with someone who is empathetic also goes a long way. Just the feeling of being understood helps heal us of our troubling moments. You can even talk about it to your friend if she is the type that understands. This will not only help you to heal, but it will also preserve the beautiful friendship you have with that person.
Constant gratitude for all the blessings in our lives is the most effective way to prevent the feelings of envy from creeping in. Shaytan, the accursed one, uses this powerful tool in luring us into constant ungratefulness by reminding us of what we do not have that others have been blessed with. These evil feelings only lead to a lack of fulfillment, leading to negative thinking and making us unproductive in all spheres of life. To feel truly happy with ourselves, we need to assure ourselves that we are just where we need to be at the moment. And the only way to be able to say this and truly mean it is to be pleased with whatever Allah has predestined for us in life; to have it in mind that whatever happens to us is good for us whether we like it or not. And if what we want does not happen, Allah knows what would have happened if it occurred. This will also mean that when others get what we have longed for but could not have, we should be truly happy for them and happy with ourselves too.
“And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others…..” (Qur’an 4:32)
So if you’ve not started a gratitude journal yet, maybe now is the time to start one. Try listing at least ten beautiful things about your life that you are grateful for. It works like magic. So the next time you hear the good news of a sister who is going on vacation outside the country and you think about how your financial situation cannot afford you such luxury or a much younger person gets the job you have spent the most of your life wishing for and feelings of sadness overwhelm you, turn to Allah for solace because it is you alone that will decide whether or not to be happy and content with what Allah has destined for you.
“Look towards those who are below you so that you may get accustomed to being grateful and do not look at those who are above you, lest you should despise the favours of Allah upon you” (Recorded by Ibn Hibban).
Wardah Abbas is a lawyer turned full-time writer. She has been published in various magazines, online media platforms and anthologies. She is particularly passionate about women’s liberation and dismantling the global patriarchy and is currently co-working on a book on human rights for Muslim women. When she is not running around with her two-year-old toddler, taking online coding classes on Pluralsight or bleeding out honest words on Medium, She can be found struggling to meet’s a client’s deadline on a writing assignment. Catch up with her on twitter @Wardah_abbas or Medium @Wardahabbas