Menu

Overcoming Envy: How to Stop Feeling Inferior and Insecure

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

If you are suffering from the painful sting of envy, know that you are not alone. I was there too, for a very long time. Envy can be a crippling emotion. For me it has been connected to my depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It has been a very painful twenty years since my attachment to envy began, involving comparison, competition, judgment, harsh criticism of myself and others, in a never-ending, futile attempt to soothe my wounded ego.

I was constantly, obsessively, relentlessly afraid of being inadequate and inferior—to a classmate, to a boyfriend’s ex, to a fellow singer. “She’s prettier, happier, more successful, she’s married, she’s a mother…”

As we come to learn, the comparison game never ends. Sometimes you might win, sometimes you will lose, but ultimately it is always self-destructive.

My mind would constantly compare myself to other women, and whether I fell short or came out on top, it hurt. I was deeply insecure. I hated myself. At my lowest points I was suicidal, drowning in feelings of worthlessness and shame.

With some soul searching, I discovered exactly how this envy-obsession originated: It began with deep-rooted fears of inadequacy and of being abandoned and replaced, stemming from my parents’ separation when I was three years old, and then from my father’s starting a new family when I was twelve.

Even though I knew I wasn’t at fault for the breakdown of my family, I subconsciously believed that it meant I somehow wasn’t good enough. I was innately unworthy.

These fears morphed into deep recurring depressions, intense anxiety and panic, insomnia, and the obsessive thought patterns of envy and competition.

The mental grooves I had been digging for twenty years were very deep. They were painful, draining, and exhausting.

There were days I was afraid I would never have peace, that I would always be suffering from the mental torture of OCD. Deep down I was terrified of being abandoned and unloved. My fears manifested as an obsession with my perceived inadequacy and inferiority to other women.

It has taken a lot of hard work to undo the damage these thought addictions have done to my soul and psyche.

Our subconscious mind, which normally works to help keep us safe by alerting us to threats, has a way of becoming twisted after trauma. Instead of being my own best friend, I was my harshest critic, always convincing myself that I wasn’t good enough, and that someone else was better.

Attempting to run away from my emotional turmoil created this monster of a neurosis. It was a self-harming coping mechanism to distract myself from my deep inner pain. It had become easier to obsess about whether or not someone else was “better than me” than to do the hard work of finding my own self-worth and unconditional self-love.

Envy (and the comparison and competition that went along with it) was my obsession, and social media stalking was my compulsion. If only I had spent as much time songwriting as I spent on Facebook!

The suggestions I make for releasing yourself from envy are all things I personally do consistently. I now have a newfound freedom and confidence, in myself, in my place in this world, and in my connections to others.

Now that I’ve done this very important inner work, nothing would make me happier than to help others spare themselves some of the self-induced misery I subjected myself to for so long. Here are a few of the things that have helped me immeasurably.

1. Stop comparing and competing.

We know how harmful it is to compare and compete, we know we shouldn’t do it, but for those of us who have been engaging in this destructive habit for years, how do we actually stop? It comes down to changing the inner narrative—how we speak to and about ourselves and others.

I began to tell myself, “I am different, unique, and special, not better or worse.” We are all on completely different paths, with unique journeys, qualities, experiences, perspectives. Logically you can’t possibly compare one person to another, but we know fear doesn’t always operate logically, so we have to retrain our minds. “I love myself. I am beautiful. She is beautiful. I am blessed. She is blessed.”

Over time I stopped wanting to judge. I stopped wanting to compare and compete. I stopped bashing other women, in what had been my attempt to make myself feel better by putting them down. It didn’t feel good that I had been so negative, mean-spirited, and critical. It hurt that my fear had morphed into hate. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had blatantly become a mean girl.

It felt so much better to appreciate people’s positive qualities, to see their light and focus on that light.

I started saying simply “she is beautiful” about everyone I saw, whether outside on the street, or online on social media. It wasn’t long before it felt true, because it is true! Everyone is beautiful—uniquely, beautifully special in his or her own way.

I stopped critiquing people’s physical characteristics, their lives, their success, their happiness. I stopped trying to measure them against me, and vice versa.

I began seeing us all as beings of light, beloved children of the Universe, with unique, incredible gifts and talents to share with the world.

I saw other women as potential friends and allies instead of threats. I no longer feared people; instead, I welcomed them and saw us all as extensions of one another—human beings doing their best at this thing we call life, all of us divinely connected, all of us struggling with very similar, common, messy challenges.

2. Embrace sharing and learning.

Instead of trying to one-up the next person, let’s change how we view one another. How can we learn from, and be a resource for, one another? How can we offer help, guidance, and support? Instead of being in competition with one another, we could be a network of people eager to celebrate each other, share in each other’s successes, and help each other heal and grow.

I began to ask myself new questions about the people in my extended network, and the new people I met:

What can I learn from them, from their journeys, from their successes and mistakes? What can I teach them? How can I be inspired by them rather than feel threatened? How can I better be of service to others? How can I give of myself? How can I support and be supported? How can we share our strengths and build each other up?

Where once I saw division and competition, I started to see our commonalities: We had similar fears, goals, and life experiences. I realized we all have so much to give one another. I started to appreciate people more and to see all the beautiful things they were offering the world. I began to see our healing journeys as linked. I felt layers of fear begin to fall away.

3. Focus on healing.

I got down to business and worked on my overall mental, emotional, and spiritual health; my self-love, self-focus, and self-esteem. I began daily meditation and gratitude practices. I tackle the OCD with EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as tapping), self-hypnosis, and ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) Therapy.

I listen to meditation music designed to help balance the chakras. I repeat affirmations such as “I am at peace within myself,” as well as ancient mantras. Two of my favorites include Sa Ta Na Ma—helpful for breaking negative thought patterns and healing the mind’s chemical imbalances that lead to depression—and Om Namah Shivayah, which helps access your truest, highest self and guides your divine transformation.

I use writing, especially songwriting, to explore and to dig deep. I journal, and then I journal some more! I make lists: lists of the things I love about myself, lists of the factors contributing to my depressions, lists of ongoing challenges I’m working on. I routinely go on social media detoxes. I practice celibacy.

All of these things help me to turn the focus inward, when for years I had defaulted to focusing on other people, namely with this inadequacy complex, but also with dating and unhealthy relationships.

The more I focused on myself and my happiness, the easier it became. I rediscovered Aisling in the simplicity of comfort and candlelight, in the wind in the trees, in cooking, in music. It was liberating to love myself in a real way, and to finally feel worthy.

We live in a culture that normalizes and encourages competition. We tear each other down, we judge, we are downright mean. We allow our traumas, wounds, and fears, not to mention our cultural conditioning, to make us hate ourselves, thereby hating others.

With time and concerted effort, though, I do believe we can heal our spiritual afflictions, even the very persistent, very destructive penchant for envy, self-deprecation, and sabotage.

About Aisling Peartree

Aisling Peartree is a singer, songwriter, Song Healing guide, and Columbia University alumna. Twenty years of songwriting-as-therapy were her inspiration for Song Healing, guidance workshops to tap into the healing power of writing. With the Freedom Movement, she and her sister Nikomo Peartree offer peace circles and concerts, guided meditations, creative arts therapy, peer counseling, educational consulting, and more.

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • I have learned to tell myself everyday everyone has value and a purpose. I don’t know The Creator’s​ master plan.
    As far as social media goes I remember a quote that said “don’t compare someone’s​ highlight film to your documentary”. Thanks for sharing your experience​.

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Thank you for reading, and you’re absolutely right, everyone has a unique purpose in this world, whether or not we know exactly what it is. Social media can be toxic, and it helps to remember that we aren’t seeing people’s behind-the-scenes, all their difficulties and heir pain. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Angela Fletcher

    My mom always said “all that glistens isn’t gold” It took me a long time to understand what she meant. Some of the friends I used to envy didn’t do so well in life for different reasons. We have to try hard to count our blessings every day

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Absolutely, and I read once how important it is to wish others well, even when we might want what they have. Feel happy for them, give yourself permission to want those things for yourself, and recognize that if you’re observing them with this thing you want, that means it is in your consciousness, and you can receive it as well. Thanks for reading!

  • Kay Williamson

    I used to feel envious of so many other women, people with bigger houses, better cars but two weeks ago, at the age of 54, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I will leave behind two children, one of only 17. I couldn’t care less about houses, cars etc now but boy oh boy I am so envious of my healthy friends.
    If one has their health nothing else truly matters believe me.

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    I’m so sorry to hear of your illness. Thank you for sharing that valuable lesson. We will all be praying for you.

  • Amy May

    My heart goes out to you and your loved ones Kay. Thank you for taking the time to share this most valuable lesson. I pray your journey, whatever it entails, is peaceful and full of love.

  • Amy May

    Another one that I have heard time and again is, ‘Don’t compare your insides to someones outsides.’ I liked it as it’s a reminder we never really know what anyone is facing on the inside, and their outside is rarely reflective of that.

  • Cate

    Beautiful! And your wisdom inspired me to visit your Web site and listen to some of your music. Equally gorgeous — especially the Om Namah Shivayah track. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and music freely.

  • Grateful

    Spot on. Well written! So brutally honest, yet sensitively put. I am right in the middle of exactly what you have described right here. This gives me hope that I can get to a good place. Thank you so much x Keep writing…

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Thank you so much for reading, listening and commenting! Much appreciated.

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Music to my ears that it has given you hope. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not easy to share your vulnerability, but so worth it if it helps someone else. Here to talk if I can help more. Thank you for writing!

  • Gillian Columbus

    This is such an amazing article, thank you! I’m really struggling right now with a similar issue surrounding a specific situation and I know what I need to do but it’s helpful to read that others have the exact same thoughts, thank you Aisling! You’re amazing!

  • Pam Lame

    I am agreeing with you too Aisling, we must heal ourselves by going inside and finding what started those hurt feelings and heart, when face them and give the comfort that was missed, we can let them go, release them to the higher power or spirit or whatever you call it, the oneness of life. Heal the child within, a bit at a time, and we can begin to know our worth in this world. I struggle still with certain feelings of not being good enough, not being lovable or deserving, not as smart as so and so, and each time I am learning to deal with each insecurity as it comes and not leave it there any longer to torment me. By loving who are, we can then receive the love we deserved so long ago but for whatever reason it wasn’t forthcoming. We can give that love to ourselves, and like you said so well, then we can begin to share our hearts and our knowledge with others so they can heal too. The small pebble in the pond that creates endless and far reaching ripples. You are beautiful, and you are strong and thank you for sharing.

  • Pam Lame

    Have to add on to my first comment. Went to hear some of your music and wow, what an amazing voice you have! I listened to a bunch of them, loved the meditation one and belted out some Proud Mary with you! Singing just makes a soul feel so good. I think it was you singing off key a bit though!!! Kidding, you were NOT missing a thing , it was awesome and thank you again, I will listen some more another time, you have a fabulous gift with that voice, wow.

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Thank you so much for reading and appreciating the article, and also for listening to the music, and for taking the time to write. It is much appreciated! This was my first time being published, and I was nervous to expose something so personal and open myself up to the possibility of being judged. The responses I’ve been receiving have made it very much worth it. Thank you!

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Thank you so much! I think I knew how common this whole issue is when I wrote this, because something was pushing me to talk openly about it rather than keep it to myself- I think I knew deep down other people were struggling and that the lessons I’ve learned might help them. You’re not alone in the struggle you’re going through right now, and if I can help more I’m always here to talk. If you find OCD to be a factor as I do, ERP is a lifesaver and I’m happy to help you (or anyone reading this) learn more.

  • Jill

    Thank you for writing this. It is brave and powerful and just what I needed. I will be using some of your suggestions as I am in a similar struggle. Even though I have a Master’s Degree and am working in my life’s calling as a therapist for children and families, I am so far behind where other women my age are in life- 43, never been married, no kids, don’t own a home (just writing that feels so shameful)- and I realize now that I always believed deep down that I didn’t deserve or “get to have” what other people had. I always felt different somehow and just plain left out. I am in a relationship now where we both have had our old wounds come to the surface and are supporting each other to heal, it has been difficult, messy, and absolutely amazing and life changing. I have been getting to work on myself daily- challenging those negative thoughts, meditating, mindfulness, etc…but it has been so challenging when you are constantly faced with the “norm” of what people have achieved and you haven’t. I really appreciated what you wrote and will try some of your techniques for sure.

  • Gillian Columbus

    Thanks Aisling, great to hear your response!! I’m really working on my trust issues right now in my marriage, that’s where my jealousy is stemming from and I know why I have jealousy/trust issues (upbringing, insecure attachment) but it is a lot of work to unravel those old programs. I’m looking for a support group on meetup, because therapy alone isn’t enough. I have tried EFT before so I will try to start that up again, and exercise and meditation of course. I’m not sure what ERP is but I will look that up as well.

    Thank you!

    Gillian

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Thank you so much for sharing some of your experience. These struggles are so common but for some reason, we think we are alone, abnormal and wrong to be experiencing them. Every time we share of ourselves, though, someone else feels less alone and can see how universal these issues are. The societal benchmarks you mention are so entrenched in our culture- I too feel “behind” sometimes, especially having gone to competitive schools and being in music which is a terribly competitive industry in general. Thank you for writing in, and wonderful that you are in a relationship that supports your healing!

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Thanks Gillian, I have had tremendous luck with ERP. It has been a miracle for me with my OCD. I have also used it in situations where I was just bothered by something, so I have a feeling it would work for people who don’t necessarily feel they have OCD but are being plagued by thoughts. Essentially you write the worst case scenario of your worst fear as if it has come true, and read it at least 30 times a day. Habituation desensitizes you to the triggers, making the thoughts less panic-inducing. I recently wrote a piece about it, I would be happy to share it with you- if you want to drop your email here or if not you can email me at aisling.peartree@gmail.com and I’ll send it over. You’re on the right track tackling these issues!!

  • Aisling Elizabeth Peartree

    Such beautiful, healing, helpful guidance you have shared here, thank you!

  • Pam Lame

    Thank You too. I’m just getting started on some of this healing stuff and have learned so much already. Especially the part about having to heal from the inside out, and not the other way around. No one can fill that void in your heart but you and the more you try someone else to “fix” you or make you happy, the further back you push your true healing. The healing that will stay with you and help you find your way in the world. Help you find your true path that is. There are so many simple sayings we have all heard so many times like, “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else?” And “People will treat you as good or as bad as your treat yourself.” And both are so true in such a deep way.
    I don’t know about everyone else but I was pretty mean to myself, saying things to me that I would not dream of saying to another human being. And allowing myself to be treated in a manner that I would never watch or allow if it was happening to someone else. And that’s so sad because I believe my life is valuable too, and I am a worthwhile person, so why would I allow that? And that’s what I’m talking about, something in the past left some damage there and the only way to find it is to dig inside and find out what. And then face it, see it, accept it, and give that little person inside, you as a child, the love or the comfort and the feelings of safety and wholeness that left you feeling so bad now. And then of course, release it and move on. Because unless you heal those parts of you, it will always be there directing your life in some way or another. And how can you have peace when you have holes in your heart? And each time one part is healed you gain just that more strength to keep working at it until you find them all.

  • Producers United

    Yes, don’t give up Kay. Many have recovered from cancer.