Wrestling with envy

Today is one of those days. The one where motherhood feels all-consuming and I cannot help but be envious of the life I had before the wailing kids, nappy changes, cold meals and exhaustion at the end of a day as a stay-at-home-mum to my two young boys.

To make matters worse, I’m the first and only mum in our close circle of friends. It’s lonely sometimes and, other times, I’m envious of the freedom and success my friends seem to have. It’s embarrassing to admit and I thought that, at 30 years old, I’d be past all of this. I thought I’d be a secure, strong woman, sure and content with the life choices I have made.

But clearly I still battle with envy.

Other days I cannot help but compare my life with that of other mums who seem to have everything under control. I look at their well-behaved children, their big tidy houses, their accelerating careers and their perfect family holidays, and cannot help thinking, ‘if only’.

Envy rears its ugly head yet again. The grass looks greener on the other side; I want what I do not have, and the 5 mins on Instagram, which was meant to relieve stress, does the exact opposite.

In the popular children’s book When I’m Feeling Jealous, the author, Tracey Moroney, explains jealousy as when we think others have something that we don’t have or they do something better than we can. Jealousy makes us forget what we have and what we are good at. Envy can make us insecure, angsty, easily upset, ungrateful people and, at the end of the day, robs us of our joy as mums. It’s clear we need to guard ourselves against it.

What are some strategies for dealing with envy?

Like all other feelings, envy needs to be acknowledged. It needs to be understood and processed. Only then can we move forward. Here are some strategies to help us do just that:

  • Be aware of and recognise triggers

Whether it’s a friend’s beautifully decorated house or photos of their holiday in Bali, we can be aware of envy when it rises within us. Take time to acknowledge what it is and understand that it’s a normal reaction. But stop there. Don’t let it fester. Recognise when we spend more time getting upset about what we don’t have that we can forget what we truly have. Also remember that, often, we only see the good bits of other people’s lives and not the full picture.

  • Be grateful

One of the best ways to snuff out envy is to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t. Think of the things that make our life beautiful, whether it’s our relationship with our spouse, our kids, or perhaps the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mum or to pursue a career. If it helps, make a list and journal about it. Think of ways we can grow what we have and who we are. The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where it’s well cared for!

  • Ground ourselves in truth

Look realistically at our lives and remember that our worth doesn’t come from having more things, better holidays or even the perfect family. Often, these distract us from what truly matters – the fact that we have value right where we are because of who we are as a unique individual. For me personally, I find value in knowing God has made me in His image. Even if I am in a difficult chapter, I can trust in His faithfulness to work things out for my good and His glory.

  • We rise by lifting others

Finally, remember that life is not a competition, despite some people treating it like one. Don’t get caught up in the drama. Besides, more often, at the end of the day, we find that we’re all in the same boat. So instead of tearing each other down, let’s cheer each other on and remember that other people’s wins are ours as well. After all, we’re all doing our best, and we rise by lifting others.

Kristy Tan

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