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Thou shalt not envy

It was a rainy Tuesday morning. I was on my way to work while listening to Spotify when Francis M’s “Mga Kababayan Ko” played. The lyrics of the song goes: “Iwasan mo ang inggit, ang sa iba’y ibig mong makamit, dapat nga ika’y matuwa sa napala ng iyong kapatid.” The statement was so simple yet straightforward, it made me reflect and ask myself, do I ever feel envious of someone?

First, what is the meaning of envy? According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, “envy is the feeling of wanting to be in the same situation as somebody else; the feeling of wanting something that somebody else has.” The foregoing considered, I realized that, yes, at some point in my life, I felt envious of someone. There were times I found myself wishing that I was presented with the same privilege and opportunities as someone else. I used to have late-night thoughts about how life could be unfair and how my life would become if I was in someone else’s shoes.

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For me, the main contributor that triggers envy nowadays is social media. I know that the primary purpose of social media accounts is to connect us with our families and friends but there are instances where our friends’ life updates stimulate envy in us. Part of the social media culture is posting your achievements, successes, and milestones in life. Some post their travel photos on Instagram or Facebook, some their prenup shoot, new car, newly acquired house or condominium, or their latest gadgets, not to mention the mandatory graduation picture wearing toga followed by a long caption thanking friends and families and narrating the struggles an individual experienced before earning their degree. For many, it is merely posting photos of memories that they want to look back on or revisit someday. But some could take it negatively and consider it as an act of being arrogant or flexing.

Some keep their envy in their minds but there are also others who manifest it through their actions. For example, last week, a new meme was born: “But the point is need pa bang picturan?” This was when Vice President Leni Robredo shared a photo of her daughter Jillian during her graduation from New York University, and a netizen commented: “Yeah, I get it, gra-graduate ang anak, but the point is need pa bang picturan?” While other netizens feasted on the said comment turning it into a meme, I took it as a lesson to reframe other people’s negativity as a reminder of how not to be. The more negative they are, the more you’re reminded about how ugly that way of being really is. In instances like this, Filipinos tend to use this relatable quote: “Kapag inggit, pikit!”

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Why is it hard for us to feel happy for others? Why does envy evolve into hate and impels a person to bash another for posting their successes? I guess the feeling of envy anchors on the feeling of being left out. I won’t be a hypocrite. I also do feel left out sometimes and that made me question myself. A friend went to Europe; when will I travel out of the country? Another friend is already a lawyer; when will I enroll in law school? A colleague who graduated at the same time as me already got promoted twice; why do I still have the same position as three years ago? The feeling of being left out blossoms into a feeling of envy. I know a lot of people will not agree with me on this, but it is hard to feel happy for someone who is doing well in life while you feel miserable yourself.

Now, going back to Francis M: “Iwasan mo ang inggit, ang sa iba’y ibig mong makamit, dapat nga ika’y matuwa sa napala ng iyong kapatid.” I believe this is the proper mindset that everyone should live by, to refrain from being envious and start celebrating the achievements and successes of our brothers and sisters. Instead of wasting our energy bashing people for having the things that we want, let’s use them as inspiration. If others are in the same position as we want to be, they must be doing something that we are not doing.

T. Harv Eker mentioned in one of his books the concept of “Huna Philosophy — Bless that which you want.” He said that “If you see a person with a beautiful home, bless that person and bless that home, if you see a person with a beautiful car, bless that person and bless that car, if you see a person with a loving family, bless that person and bless that family, if you see a person with a beautiful body, bless that person and bless their body.”

The key takeaway from this is that we cannot be inspired and learn from someone who we put down. So, if we see someone living our dreams, let’s not envy them but instead celebrate, be inspired, and learn from them so that we can be in the same place someday. We all have our own timelines in life and moments where we are at our peak. Until I reach that moment, I will continue celebrating and cheering for the achievements and successes of others.

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Kaiser Occeña, 23, is a paralegal and holds a degree in political science from Arellano University-Manila.

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