I occasionally enjoy reading trashy Hollywood weeklys. Part of me likes to live vicariously. I like to spy on these beautiful, well dressed people as they make their way to the gym or home from an evening at The Ivy.  I marvel at their perfect hair. The shoes. That handbag. The fun they must have flitting from one high priced restaurant to the next.

I must also tell you I find myself feeling relieved if not downright amused at the slip-ups of the powerful and beautiful. So Tiger isn’t a god after all? Okay so maybe Demi looks 25 but do you know how much plastic surgery she’s had?
Envy is probably one of the least socially acceptable of all emotions. It’s defined as “spite and resentment at seeing the success of another.”

Some argue it’s not the same thing as jealousy. Jealousy, I’ve heard it said, is all about love and loss. It’s very romanticized.

Envy is something we prefer to hide. I’m fine admitting I was jealous that time I caught my husband oggling the sexy flat screen at Best Buy, but I would never want you to know I spend my free time browsing US Magazine in envy of the lifestyles of the rich and famous . . . Oh crap I just did.

Let’s take this up a notch. Shadenfreude, envy’s ugly counterpart and a very fun word to say, is the act of deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others. It’s an even uglier one to admit (especially if you are a life coach). Research shows that the more we envy someone, the happier we feel at the sight of his or her misfortune.

So let’s shift gears. I believe happiness has to do with how we think so in my typical life-coachy form, I would like to now take a closer look at some of my thoughts while reading trashy Hollywood weeklys.

Here are a few, served up for your reading pleasure:

  • If I could look that good, dress that good, eat that good and afford all of the aforementioned, I would truly be happy.
  • There’s not enough. They have it. They don’t deserve it. When they screw up it  proves they didn’t deserve it and now I am happy because there’s more for me.

Yuck!

Yucky thoughts are often lies we tell ourselves disguised at truths. When we question them to get to the real truth, we can act in the world from a place of power, authenticity and joy.

So let’s take a look at the first thought:

If I could look that good, dress that good, eat that good and afford all of the aforementioned, I would truly be happy.

The truth is that many people who look good, dress well and eat at fancy restaurants are happy but I would be willing to bet there are just as many out there who look good, dress well and eat at fancy restaurants who are truly miserable.

I can be happy right now. Come to think of it, I’m pretty darn happy sitting here in my sweats, eating a wiener wrap looking slightly crazed without a stitch of make-up because I’m doing something I love which is writing this article.

On to the second cluster of thoughts:

There’s not enough. They have it. They don’t deserve it. When they screw up it proves they didn’t deserve it and now I am happy because there’s more for me.

This is good old scarcity thinking. The belief underlying this thought is that there is never enough. When someone else has something you want and you envy them, you’re basically telling yourself that you can’t have what they have.

Chris Anderson, in Free, the Future of a Radical Price says: “Humans are wired to understand scarcity better than abundance. Just as we’ve evolved to overreact to threats and danger, one of our survival tactics is to focus on the risk that supplies are going to run out.”

The fear center in our brain was quite helpful when we needed to avoid saber tooth tigers or starvation but we no longer need to live in perpetual fear of scarcity and attack. The difference between envy and admiration, after all, is scarcity thinking. When we tell ourselves we can’t have what other people have, we feel envy which often disintegrates into shadenfreaude. When we tell ourselves we can have what other people have, we feel admiration instead.

There is a Buddhist concept called mudita that is the opposite of schadenfreude. It means sympathetic joy or happiness in another’s good fortune.

When I’m not holding on to the fear of never enough and I’m not buying into the belief that I have to be ridiculously wealthy and attractive to be fulfilled, I can be happy reading my trashy magazine. Admiring the hair. The shoes. The handbags. All the while knowing there is a great hairdo out there for me, some lovely shoes in my future, and a nice supply of handbags already in my closet. I can read about the misfortunes of the rich and famous and know that they are human like me. I can be much closer to mudita while reading my trashy magazine when I’m not lying to myself.

Or I could just put the damn magazine down and do something else.

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  1. admin says:

    I have a confession to make. I read trashy mags on the plane but only there :)

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