The Silent Dreamkiller: How Envy Sabotages Us Artfully

Life means growth. If we don’t grow, we die. It’s as simple as that. To ensure survival, evolution has established a sophisticated mechanism that allows us to go the extra mile. Seeing the neighboring tribe hunting down two mammoths per month instead of one increases the odds of survival. However, this month, your tribe barely managed to hunt one mammoth. The tribe is skeptical about whether you can ensure food security for its growing population. Envy starts to unfold, the fundamental feeling of not being enough.

Isn't it paradoxical that we want the new version of everything, but we fear to change our minds?
Carmen Jacob

Thousands of years ago, this mechanism was more than useful. Today, it does more harm than good. How come? Because it’s too much. Our minds bombard us with reasons why we are not worthy. The industry knows this. It’s an excellent angle to exploit the customer. However, to excel, we have to understand this mechanism and adjust it to the 21st century.

How Envy Sabotages Success (Whatever Success means)

In this post, I elaborated on how B.F. Skinner shaped the educational and military sectors in the US. With his findings that animals and humans are willing to exchange pain for satisfaction, the golden strategy was discovered. For the very first time in human history, it was possible to sophisticatedly plant seeds of unworthiness in every child. 

The insidious effects are convenient for those who make use of it. For the affected ones, however, it’s devastating. Creating neural pathways of fundamental unworthiness makes the adult human susceptible to a wide range of addictions. Since we try to avoid the feeling of not being enough, we either → seek a way to improve or → drown the pain with instant gratification.

We live in a world of instant gratification, the world of the quick fix.
Rachael Taylor

Let’s be honest here: Most of us choose the easy path. And why not? It’s natural and not morally reprehensible. Outstanding looks upgrade our status without worrying anymore about being enough because it’s obvious: you made it. Looks have always been a convenient way to show how worthy we are, as a potential partner, colleague, friend, and especially as a family member. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by success? 

And here, the envy trap strikes: if you can’t manage to fulfill the needs of belonging, acceptance, or understanding, there are plenty of options that quickly redeem your feeling of unworthiness. But only on the surface. Deep inside, everybody instinctively knows that it’s not real. It’s a rotting facade.

Phase Two: Shame And Guilt

The hardware of your mammal brain might be quite outdated, but it has enough power to recognize if you try to trick it. Knowingly substituting the pain of unworthiness with quick fixes triggers another useful function of the brain: shame and guilt. Shame is the recurring loop of asking yourself, “Why am I not good enough for…?” On the other side, guilt is the short-term version of it that goes, “Why didn’t I hit the gym again? Why did I eat the whole bar of chocolate again?”

There is no way out for you if you don’t know that these mechanisms are habits. Once you start this self-talk, it’s like turning on the light switch when it’s dark. Ultimately, you don’t ruminate anymore about why you actually say all these things to yourself because it’s obvious to shame and guilt trip yourself after eating too many sweets. But exactly here lies the sinisterness.

The Eternal Loop Of Shame And Guilt

Once you get into this loop, it’s almost impossible to get out without a helping hand. The gravity of its momentum is just too strong. Shame and guilt reinforce behavior that provides quick relief but is rarely useful. Instead of stopping excessive social media consumption, we get even more lost in it. As shame grows, so does the frequency of its illusory reliefs. An external force strong enough to pull you out of the orbit of envy, shame, and guilt is necessary. This is where this article comes into play.

Phase Three: How To Get Out Of The Loop

You see, envy can very quickly evolve into something that none of us wants. Regular, unreasonable self-criticism just continues the vicious cycle that likely started in your childhood. Are you committed to breaking it? Of course, you are. Three concepts are necessary and strong enough to pull you in the right direction.


Develop a genuine understanding of why everybody experiences feelings of unworthiness. Envy serves a useful function when used moderately; it offers powerful ambitions to evolve beyond your current self. However, in the 21st century, envy often malfunctions and corrupts our lives due to the overstimulation of our brains. It leads to an uncontrolled development of a feeling of unworthiness. Conscious, constructive reflection is necessary to keep envy within its designated boundaries, like keeping sheep within a fence. Purposefully decide which aspect of yourself you truly want to work on, without subjecting yourself to the shame and guilt loop. Avoid letting all your sheep out at once.


This is the exciting part for me. Compassion suggests engaging with yourself as you would with your best friend. Would you shame and guilt trip your best friend if they felt inadequate? Of course, you wouldn’t. You’d be there for them, offer a shoulder to lean on, and encourage them not to be too hard on themselves. Treat yourself with the same compassion. Question the narratives you or others have created about yourself. Is this really you? Is this a useful self-view, or is it destructive? Did you come up with this belief, or was it imposed by someone else long ago? How would a healthier self-view look, where you can genuinely work on yourself without toxic attachments?


Finally, to let magic happen, forgive yourself. When you make peace with all the demons haunting you, you can let go of the destruction that has developed through uncontrolled envy, shame, and guilt. It’s a feeling of relief, the safety in knowing that you are inherently fine just as you are, regardless of how others perceive you (within legal limits, of course). Everyone around you will notice that deep inside, serenity prevails. A neutral baseline. You grow because you want to, not because you feel unworthy. Initiate peace with who you are. Let go of the person you are not yet. Accept and embrace.

The good and bad news

You may not believe it, but it took quite some time to develop the habit of excessive envy, guilt and shame. That means it takes a while to break free. But once you’ve got a grip on it and learned how to prevent yourself from being drawn into this sinister loop, you will easily avoid it. Permanently monitor your thoughts and correct them, like if any of your sheep would hop over the fence.

It may be challenging at first, but you will evolve and become more efficient over time. Suddenly, when you see someone excelling in something, looking more aesthetic, or leading a more fortunate life, things will have changed. You will have transitioned from envy to appreciation and compassion: “Amazing, I am genuinely happy for this person to lead this kind of life!” “Maybe I should ask them how they did it?”


The last asSignment

Put it on paper and hang it on your wall. Don’t be ashamed when others see what you wrote. Let them know, with your head held high, what you plan to overcome and decided to let go of. Remember where you belong. It’s a bright future full of hope, joy, and the absence of fundamental unworthiness. Therefore, I invite you to write down the following to keep it in sight:

I am fundamentally worthy.
Everything that corrupts my mind with guilt and shame, I shall treat like a child and its antics—with compassion and understanding. Humbly, I will accept the assignment of investigating the roots of envy. Diligently, I will dissect every fiber of it, so that I ultimately know if it’s a thought worthy to be kept in my mind.

I know for sure that if I don’t live up to my potential, I will not die as a fulfilled human being. Therefore, I will forgive myself for all the things I did. I will also forgive myself for all the things I didn’t do.

With this neutral baseline, I can finally start to peacefully and strategically work on the things that are truly meaningful to me. Today, tomorrow, and forever.

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