The bone of envy

Green apples smiling, crying and looking envious
Photo: © Andrei Shumskiy / 123RF Stock Photo


  • I became captain of the school football team!
  • I got the first rank in the whole of class 8!
  • I got this most awesome birthday gift!
  • I’m now the head girl at my school!
  • Mum got me this brand new sweatshirt!
  • I’ve finally lost the 4 kilos I needed to!

How often have you heard this from a friend, sibling, a kid in the neighbourhood or a cousin? And how many times have you truly felt happiness for someone else who seems to have gotten lucky or got what they wanted? Or rather when someone got something that you wanted? You revealed a smile on your face yes; but was there a small, tiny, minuscule shadow of a monster within you that felt a tiny but nagging pang of envy?

How did she get to that level?

  • Why didn’t I get selected on the team?
  • I wish she breaks out into pimples!
  • How did he become head boy?
  • She’s always showing off!
  • They didn’t give me anything on my birthday!
  • My painting was so much better than hers!

Degrees… of comparison
Long ago in primary school we all learned degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative. If only we could stick to positive and be positive about ourselves as well as others around us. Superlative is a bit hard to achieve. So the easiest way out is to compare. And suddenly everyone seems slimmer, smarter, richer, luckier, fairer, healthier and happier than you. There are going to be moments when someone else will get something amazing; the very thing that you probably pined, toiled and prayed for since forever, and still haven’t gotten close to even sniffing it. And that might make you feel that they shouldn’t have it and you should, because they don’t deserve it and you do. That’s the root of the emotion called jealousy. It’s something a lot of us feel a lot of the time, without even realizing it.

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Dr Shefali Batra
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Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Senior Psychiatrist and CBT Expert, and is the Founder of Mindframes. She posts and conducts regular ‘lives’ on Instagram @drshefalibatra.