How envy can help you find clarity (which begins prosperity)

Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes.

When I was unemployed and struggling to see how I could make a difference, I saw an interview of a woman that filled me with more envy than I’d ever felt.

I was so determined not to “go there,” that I gave $20 of the $75 ish bucks I had to the nonprofit the woman founded. I thought I’d put the envy to rest, but kept hearing about the woman’s great work, which didn’t feel great to me. Then there was the straw that broke the camel’s back:

I saw her on the cover of a magazine while running errands.

Envy is good data if you treat it as such.


One of the most endearing things I think a person can do is to celebrate someone else’s good fortune, especially if it’s something the person wants for herself. I would have loved recognition for doing good work, but when I saw the woman’s face on the magazine cover, I couldn’t manage to feel happy for her.

Have you been grabbed by a green-eyed monster lately?

After my errands, I thought about which felt worse:

Not being happy for the woman or feeling envious of her in the first place.

After too long beating myself up with that thinking, I thought of a constructive question:

What could this feeling be telling me?

There were plenty of people doing great work and winning prestigious awards. And yet, their accomplishments didn’t faze me. Here’s why:

Their stories weren’t ones I wanted for myself.

But the woman’s story wasn’t like that:

She lifted people out of poverty through skills training and fair-wage jobs.

Feeling envious of that made it clear I longed to do that too.

In truth, I already knew that.

The clarity envy gave me was that I’d shifted from longing to believing. Envy was the discomfort of being in the gap between what I wanted and believed—unlike before—I could make happen.

Should envy grab you, don’t flog yourself but take it as a sign you’re seeing something you want and believe, at some level, you can have or make happen.

As time passed, I shifted from believing to knowing I could create skills training and fair-wage jobs. My task now is to pick from the many ways I can see doing it.

Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for kind people, products and businesses in food, fashion & more. Subscribe to her newsletter here.