Envy is a very powerful thing. Whether on the receiving end of it, or dealing it out yourself, making people want something can be more powerful than any insult you can put on them. It’s like waving a steak in a dog’s face and putting that dog behind a glass barrier. He sees something in front of him that he wants, something someone else has that he just can’t get.
We all probably possess something other people wish they had. Whether it be good looks, good grades, a big house, you’ve got something somebody dreams of having, I’d bet on that. I’m not saying that to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about your material or genetic possessions; I’m saying that because we all tend to rub them in people’s faces, just like children brag about their new toys on the playground.
People talk a lot about insecurity, as though a normality is simply established among people when it comes to various factors of living. That’s obviously silliness, as we aren’t born wanting to be a certain way.
Envy inspires us to want to change ourselves, for better or worse. Studies have shown that, for example, when a student has friends with higher GPAs than he has, he’ll make his best effort over the year to catch up to them and typically will come close to them.
It works for nearly all things. Hang around a certain group, and you will become like them. People are clay and will naturally want to be like the big things around them. We soak in things from what’s around us, and when we can’t soak things in, that’s when we begin to get irritated with ourselves, or people will get angry with us if they sense this.
Talking about it only makes it worse. Nobody wants to be that guy that parks next to everyone else’s luxury vehicles in a rustbucket at their high school reunion, so they’ll go out and rent a big fancy sports car so they can be the envy of their friends. Their friends will compete to outdo them, and the circle of envy pits them against each other in a struggle of one-upmanship.
We typically don’t notice when we’re filling people with envy because we’re too busy living up the fun of having the things they envy. When we brag about them, we don’t always notice, because for some people, at least at some points, it’s fun to brag. Boasting gives people a feeling of self-worth and specialness compared to others, and like other fun activities, it can be hard to notice everything that’s going on while doing it, including making people envious.
Envy’s a lot more serious than a simple want; it’s one of the leading causes of feelings of incompetency and inadequacy in people, particularly teens, because, y’know, regardless of where we look, we see mirrors in all directions. We don’t think about it much, but it leads to problems in much more than just the typical thing people talk about it affecting: relationships. It can also make friends feel inferior to one another and a person feel less than everyone else in a group. That can demotivate the team member or make the friend feel like his back is against the wall, neither of which are good things.
Envy’s a bigger deal than we make it out to be and we should all really put thought into things before we decide to brag around about our nice things to people we know don’t have them and feel lesser because of it. It prevents a lot of conflict and saves a lot of stress for people, in school or out. Groups work better and friends stick together when envy is minimized in any situation.
Austin Czechowski is a sophomore at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School. Would you like A Word of Advice from him? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a letter to “Teen Talk: A Word of Advice,” C/O The Daily Star, P.O. Box 250, Oneonta, NY 13820. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.