The Veiled Gift of Envy


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I once spent a year obsessed with another writer's success. Envy whispered in my ear, “You should have what she has and right now. " I was aghast at my obsession, especially given that I didn't particularly like her book, and yet envy wouldn't go away. It was (almost) comical how each time a fresh wave of envy broke over me, there she would be, her name in an email, her book dropping out of a bookshelf at my feet, an invitation to be on a panel with her in my PO Box. Instead of trying to block out the envy as simply something bad, sinful, or shameful I went deeper for a change.

I sat with envy, probing it, turning it over, trying to get at the heart of what was so important to me about this writer or her work. What I slowly (oh, how slowly) discovered: I was envious of the support system she had created while I was stuck in a pattern of doing everything all by my lonesome. What I wanted was to collaborate creatively with others. Zap! Almost overnight, my envy shrunk and my passion for new ventures ignited.

Envy's favorite phrase is, “If only. " If you have a present case of “If only, " give your “if onlys" some air time. Make a list. If I only had that job, her buns, his house, then I would be powerful, sexy, happy.

Using your list, ask yourself the question spiritual teacher and best-selling author Oriah Mountain Dreamer teaches. “It doesn't really interest me if I have (insert one of your “if onlys”), what I really want is _. " As in, “It doesn't really interest me if I have enough time, what I really want is to feel at peace. " Or “It doesn't really interest me lose 20 pounds, what I really want is to feel comfortable in my own skin. "

Let's say you discover you really want peace. Using a tool like one I adapted from my mentor, friend, and master coach Molly Gordon, check in with yourself each night and ask, “When was I most peaceful today?" Next, recall when you were least peaceful. Jot these moments down-I keep a special journal Molly gave me for this purpose. Do this every night for a month. You'll find several things happen. You start to look for and create more peaceful moments each day. And by creating a record of your choices and looking back on it after a month, a tremendous amount of information about how you commit and oppose peace will come into your awareness. I've been keeping my record for about 6 months now and I find it a powerful tool for change.

Perhaps you have a story that envy means you are bad, shallow, not spiritually evolved. What if envy is a sign post, pointing you to the next step in your life's path, and warning you where you might have lost track of your deepest longings. What if envy is a signal you have been sucked too deeply into the culture's story of what is important-in the case of American culture, the more money and stuff you have, the more important you are. What if envy is a gift-if you are just courageous enough to wrestle the gold from its sticky, grasping hands.

Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of five books, including her classic, The Woman's Comfort Book, and her newest, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women. She's also a creativity and life coach, creator of the Inner Organizer, and a columnist for Body + Soul Magazine. She leads retreats on self-care and creativity around the country. Hear her live on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius Channel 112 every Sunday at 8 am Pacific, 11 am Eastern. Visit her world at: and


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