We all know envy, a vice, has become a lucrative marketing emotion, including within the fitness industry. Certainly this is not so in all venues, under all coaches, or with all players. Yet where it is, it corrodes.
Envy is tied to what another has, or is perceived to have, and is moved by their possession of it. Usually, the outcome of someone’s hard work is coveted, not the work itself. In this emotion the seeds of hating the actual sport, art, work, or conditioning mode are planted.
When the training life becomes a mere means to a visual end, the end of it is planted in its beginning — there is an expiration date on that inspiration.
Also, to envy someone else’s fitness is to tie ourselves to someone else’s performance, not lead ourselves by our own performance to ever excelling levels of capability and potential. Envy makes something old from the beginning, and so limits excellence.
To praise the beauty or performance of another and desire a like-experience to theirs is different. This is not tied to the person, but to the person’s example, the process, the sport, the training path, and focuses on their work ethic and character. It lauds them in a dignified way without attaching to them in a co-dependent twist. This is not envy exactly, but it is admiration of the character of another to the point of applying its principle to ourselves. It is recognition of something greater than both on which all may climb. It is participatory, and therefore, team building, community building, social, and fun.
Worse than envy is a kind of pride that begins with envy then morphs into the denigration of what another has with the implication that our experience must be better, will be better, and is already better than the other. Again, this is not about being the best we can become, but about bettering another. Here the sky is exchanged for exultation over someone else’s fall to earth. Such a morbid thought process misses the finest traditions of sports.
Where envy has infected sports, fitness, and physical arts, we can all do better if we extinguish it with grace. We must do better as a nation of competitors and lovers of sports.