Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Art of the Good Life #32 : Envy

Image result for swap dc superhero

The most poisonous emotion in modern life is envy.

This is so poisonous, it is probably an evolutionary adaptation. I would guess that even I have very little control over envy. Suppose I work for a company and the company practices a system whereby everyone's salary is transparent. If I find out that my salary is below the median salary between my peers, I will be working hard to get out of my situation straightaway.

One defence against envy is to live in a neighbourhood where your neighbours have a lower social economic status. Of course, if you wish to do that, you need to ensure that you are sufficient modest such that you will not induce envy in others.

Social media makes things even worse. We are now exposed to everyone's positive sharing with no idea of how much internal struggle our friends may be going through. Everything on Facebook has been curated to only show someone's positive side of life.

Perhaps the solution when you encounter envy is to ask yourself the following question :

Would you swap your life with that person and take on all the good along with the bad of such a life ?

I would not swap my life with Elon Musk, although he's a much bigger troll. And I certainly would not do that with PM Lee as well because the burden would be too stressful.

No, I don't want to swap my life with  Batman's. I want to still have living parents.

I think if we sum up the good and the bad of everyone's life, a person's lifestyle would not be as envious as what is generally portrayed in social media.

Ok, lah, Superman has a great life.


  1. Envy is good ... causes humans to hustle & improve. That's why we're genetically predisposed to compare and the comparisons conjure such deep visceral feelings. That's why so many things are quantifiable & measurable: starting salaries for the various degrees & diplomas, school rankings, class rankings, grades, classes of degrees, home prices in different districts.

    It's why they put up monthly lists of sales staff performances & targets. Maybe companies should put up lists of staff performance gradings & their salaries and bonuses.

    Btw superman was an orphan & he lost his entire race and planet. But maybe if bad stuff only happened when we're still babies then it's ok, coz we won't have any memories to give a shit anyway.

  2. This reminds me of that Greed is Good speech by Gordon Gecko.

  3. It is a healthy perspective to take by asking ourselves what goes on under the hood of those people that we envy so much?

    Would we still really want to be like them, once we knew how hard they worked to achieve what they are projecting to the outside world, or how unhappy they are?  Or how their private life is hardly existent because they are constantly in the limelight with every step they take, or how they struggle to get to sleep at night because they are under such huge debts, trying to impress the world around them?

    I guess we really have no idea.

  4. It is probably very unhealthy but also a national pastime.

    I'm not completely free from envy, BTW.