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Healing Soul Ulcers

by Vidya Sury August 9, 2019 7 comments
Healing soul ulcers Wednesday Wisdom

One of my favorite newsletters is from Brian Johnson of Optimize. In two of his recent newsletters, he talked about soul ulcers–referring to envy being the ulcer of the soul.

The phrase “soul ulcers” stuck in my mind—along with the “+1” message that comes with his email, and I’d like to share it with you today.

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: you hear about a colleague getting a promotion; a close friend getting engaged; a relative buying a brand new car you’ve been coveting.

What’s your first reaction? Envy? A sense of why-not-me? A wee bit of self-pity? A feeling that life is unfair because someone you know got what you wanted?

Of course, ideally, you should rejoice in their success. But be honest and admit that there are times when it is a little hard to be happy for others. There are times when we even feel righteous about holding back from feeling happy for others simply because we feel that—well—life has been unfair to us.

It is not uncommon to feel threatened by others’ success and believe that other people’s success, especially when one’s on the same level, with similar goals. It is absolutely annoying to see that a classmate who graduated with you lands a fabulous job while you are struggling to find employment. Especially so when you thought they were not quite ready for it. It feels like they robbed you of your dream.

And thus the soul ulcers develop.

Truth—as hard as it is to take in—is that other people’s success does not undermine your own. Being competitive is healthy to an extent, but not to the point of becoming a flood of jealousy. Just because others are successful does not make us a failure. Why feel insecure or allow your self-esteem to be affected by what others are doing?

That’s why envy is the ulcer of the soul. (Thank you, Socrates!)

Envy is definitely toxic and has no place in our well-being.

What if we practiced celebrating other people’s successes?

In this day when social media practically rules our lives and FOMO is a real thing, how about cutting down on social media screen time and replacing it with some soul media no screen time?

Envy is the art of counting another’s blessings instead of your own.

In his book Company of One, Paul Jarvis writes,

When we give in to envious feelings, the best we can hope for is second best, since we’re focusing on copying someone else’s path and not forging our own.

Envy is also based on false comparison, like comparing uncooked ingredients to a delicious baked pie. Envying others, we see only the end result or the final product—the delicious dessert. But in ourselves, we see all the not-so-tasty starting ingredients and are aware of all the real work required to combine them into a successful end product.

We too often compare our sometimes messy selves to only the best and shiniest parts of others and come up short. Remember, every business has not only its successes but its failures.


Paul also mentions that in the ancient Pali language from India, there’s a word “mudita” that means “to cultivate appreciative joy at the success and good fortune of others”.

So the next time you feel the green-eyed monster raising its head, why not practice some mudita?

Why not heal your soul ulcers?

It’s true that comparison is the thief of joy. But if you feel compelled to compare yourself with others, at least do a proper comparison.

Don’t compare your imperfect process with someone else’s supposedly perfect outcome.

Healing soul ulcers

Here’s something to think about:

Today, focus on seeing the goodness in others.

Celebrate their success.

If your colleague is doing a great job, tell her.

If a friend is working hard on something, congratulate her.

If your partner is aiming to accomplish a goal, celebrate their success.

See how great you feel!

If you are interested in Paul Jarvis’ book, here it is.

Buy on Amazon.com
Buy on Amazon.in

(Affiliate links. Any commission I earn (at no cost to you) will be donated to charity. Thank you!)

Wednesday Wisdom is a series with short bursts of easy-to-consume wisdom in the form of stories, quotes, anecdotes, reflections, easy meditation, thought-provoking questions and humor.

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Felicia Austin August 9, 2019 at 6:53 pm

I have never heard of the term soul ulcer! This is a very interesting term to associate with envy. It makes total sense LOL. I think the older I get, the more I don’t envy other people. I used to when I was in my early 20’s, even late 20’s but as I grew up I realized there are things that go on behind curtains that you have no clue about and even if you may think they didn’t deserve that, to be happy for them and move on. You can’t focus on someone else’s accomplishments, it will get in the way of your own. You will then become an old bitter person lol

Leana August 9, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Hi there! Envy is indeed one horrible thing. I like the things you pointed out. It will encourage people to be kinder to one another

Lynne Huysamen August 10, 2019 at 2:50 am

This is such an important message Vidya and I think you have highlighted it beautifully! The truth is that while we may look at someone and think that they have what we wanted that is not always true – we don’t see everything and we don’t see the real pain and struggles that others encounter. We need to look at ourselves and appreciate the things that we do have and the things that we have achieved. And yes social media does not help matters at all – it shows only the best of other’s lives – only those things people want to reveal – it shows a very skewed perception of the world.
Lynne Huysamen recently posted…Inspiring People: Julie Hide from Parenting Hub

Karmen August 10, 2019 at 3:21 am

I so love this article Vidya! And like Felicia said, the older I get, other people success “bothers” me less. I am actually happy when I see that someone got his wish. And I know some day my wish will come true too. So, you are right – be happy for others and heal your soul ulcers!
Karmen recently posted…5 reasons you should hire a professional web designer

Shilpa Gupte August 10, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Oh yes, I admit to suffering from a soul ulcer, and while reading your post, I cringed in embarassment for being so stingy, so self-centred! Thank you for this post, Vidya! It’s indeed an eye-opener. 🙂
Shilpa Gupte recently posted…The perfect diet to follow during your Period.

Nicole August 10, 2019 at 5:19 pm

I have never heard of a soul ulcer, but it makes so much sense!
I especially love the quote “Envy is the art of counting another’s blessings instead of your own.” It’s so true!

Rubitah August 10, 2019 at 6:54 pm

Envy is truly a soul ulcer in the sense that it takes away all the joy you would have received otherwise. Great post Vidya!🙂


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