Video: Self-knowledge — Ask Youself, “Whom Do I Envy?” “What Do I Lie About?”

2011 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2011 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year — and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — welcome! This month’s theme is Self-knowledge. Last week’s resolution was to Imitate a spiritual master. Did you try that resolution? Did it boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Ask yourself: Whom do I envy? What do I lie about?

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
What’s making you “feel bad”?
Do you sometimes find it hard to be happy when your friends succeed?
Can studying the science of personality boost your self-knowledge? I think so. And it’s awfully interesting.

Have you ever learned something about yourself by considering whom you envy, or what you’ve lied about? Envy is such an unpleasant emotion — it’s nice to know it can be good for something!

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2011 Happiness Challenge. It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For the Challenge, each week I’ll post a video suggesting a resolution for you to consider. For more ideas for resolutions to try, check out the archives of videos here.

* The blog Drinking Diaries — “from celebration to revelation” — is a very thought-provoking site about women and alcohol.

* If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the moment when you can buy your copy of The Happiness Project in paperback, well, it will hit the shelves March 1. Two weeks! If you’re inclined to buy it, you would really help me by pre-ordering a copy. Pre-orders give a huge boost to a book. As a thank-you, if you do pre-order (and you’re on your honor), I’ll send you my page of Happiness Paradoxes. Just email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com and write “I pre-ordered” in the subject line. I’ll send it right off. Want to know more about the book? (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Read sample chapters.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.
Order your copy.

  • Donna

    Through lying or “selectively twisting the timing and plot” I discovered that I am embarrassed of working only part-time while many of my coworkers are working full-time in addition to working a part-time job. Most of them are looking to get more hours, whereas I am looking to work less.

    In reality, I should congratulate myself on working at all since I am on disability. Many people in my place would stay at home and not even attempt working. I’ve learned to forget what others think or whisper behind my back and instead learned to listen to what’s in my heart. Focusing on others distorts my view. Developing my character further is something worth photographing. Insightful topic!

    • sad entrepreneur

      Donna thanks for your honesty. I have struggles with an organizational and mood disability–resulting in near poverty– after losing face, and three businesses–high-voltage, international voltage where my every capacity was eevident and brought products to market and jobs to community. The losing message in my family of origin my past marriage took over: I lost my love, my verve, my uunstoppableness, my gratefulness, my power. I work now at routines, it’s hard to study, hard to dream, hard to swize opportunites, hard to maintain as my very confidence in my culture–my neighbor, my country, my town– is challenged. Your writing of your overcoming your fears and perhaps veers of others helps. Thanks for being brave.

  • SadGrammarian

    Good grammar makes me happy. It’s “WHO”, not “WHOM”.

    • Sally123

      LOL! Yes, Mrs. Rubin – the English major, law student and not writer.
      Perhaps she should hire you to be her editor or spellchecker!

      • Sally123

        I just looked at the video and it made me laugh.
        So that is good, since this is a happiness blog.
        Gretchen you sound pompous when you say ‘whom”.

      • gretchenrubin

        Gosh, I debated this in my mind several times before writing (and saying)
        it! isn’t it “whom” — don’t you switch the sentence around to say, “I envy
        him” or whatever? I will fix as much as I can — but am going to triple
        check right now. arrrrrgh! Off to find ELEMENTS OF GRAMMAR right now.

        Note to self: when in doubt, always consult the reference book.

      • gretchenrubin

        Me again. Quoting from ELEMENTS OF GRAMMAR… [I secretly love this kind of
        “‘Who’ is the only one of the relative pronouns that changes its form to
        indicate case (who, whose, whom, as well as whoever, whomever). Before its
        case can be determined, the function it plays in a sentence must be

        Right. So the question is, what’s the case? I thought it was the object of a
        verb, the verb “to envy.” The example they give is “Dr. Bensen is the
        surgeon whom we recommend.” so the question version of that sentence, I
        figure, would be “Whom do we recommend?” a la the envy question.


        I should’ve ducked the whole issue by saying, “What do you envy?” “‘Which’
        and ‘what’ present no problems of case,'” Shertzer helpfully notes.

        “Many dictionaries have relaxed the distinction between these words [who,
        whom], abandoning ‘whom’ unless it directly follows a preposition. But in
        deference to a grammar-conscious readership….The Times observes the
        traditional standard:
        Use ‘who’ in the sense of ‘he,’ ‘she,’ or ‘they’…Use ‘whom’ in the sense
        of ‘him,’ ‘her,’ or ‘them’: …’Whomever you ask will provide directions.’
        (You ask ‘her’ or ‘him.’)

        And here’s the most helpful part, I think:

        “Occasionally the traditional use of ‘whom’ may sound stilted…’Whom Should
        They Blame?’ Do not simply substitute ‘who’; instead, rephrase the passage:
        ‘Who Gets the Blame?”

        Is “envy” an intransitive or linking verb? I don’t think so…

        So, I think that although perhaps clunky, ‘whom’ is correct in ‘Whom do you
        envy?’ Am I misunderstanding? is there a rule I’m overlooking? Other
        grammar-lovers, weigh in!

        I love the internet.

        • PoorGrammar

          You only get ONE chance to make a FIRST impression.

          • LL

            Give it a rest! I can see now why you visit a happiness site…’re mean spirited, aren’t you, PoorGrammar?

          • Guest

            You don’t sound like such a winner either. Is that your reason for trolling on Gretchen’s behalf.
            I forgot, we can’t criticise silly poor little pompous rich girl Gretchen.
            She can’t be snooty and lecture to us, but we can’t constructively criticise?
            Try that on a REAL job in the REAL world.

  • flossattrocbrocandrecup

    I think I envy people who have enough money to travel. I know that I live ‘abroad’ (I’m an English woman in France) so that should be enough for me, but I envy the people who travel around Europe, rather than just going on camping trips in nearby (beautiful) places. It’s useful to reflect on this – thanks for the challenge!

  • Eden Body

    I work in fitness and this will help my clients see what behaviors they really want to/should focus on in relation to their health. If lying to me (their trainer) about the following shows them they either need to give up caring about it or embrace it and actually change! i.e. how many times they exercised, foods they ate, how much time was wasted on tv or social media, how many times they ate out, how many beers they had. Great post…very enlightening!

  • Katie

    This is so interesting! I’ve never thought about those little lies and how they can really help to uncover what positive changes you’re making. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking challenge!

  • Dino

    Certainly one who envies and/or lies is unhappy although they may resist acknowledging it. But, one who does not envy or lie will not, per se, be happy. Happiness is not the opposite of unhappiness despite the apparent and, perhaps, literal contradiction. Emotionally, unhappiness comes from a different place in the heart and soul than does come happiness. In truth, the seed of happiness is hope, as I think has been stated or hinted at here. The root of unhappiness is more closely akin to dread. I don’t believe one can gain happiness by fighting unhappiness. A person may have much unhappiness and, yet, still be a happy person.

    • Peninith1

      But I think you can increase your chance of happiness by fighting the mental formations and attitudes that lead to unhappiness! Over the years I have learned to strive more for a sense of balance and equilibrium than for a rollercoaster of highs (and horrible lows). I have learned to focus on the present rather than on the ‘wreckage of the [IMAGINED!} awful future. On the small beautiful opportunities of today, rather than on the things I can’t help missing. Yes, those things we don’t have, or lost, or long for . . . . they never go away. And yet, we can, with the right attitude, build a good enough life that is not a capitulation, a compromise or a defeat, but an acceptance of what is to be savored, even as what we cannot any longer hope fore still is honored. No need to lacerate ourselves every moment for what is not, or cannot be, but rather to enjoy what is possible, and praise all possibility.

  • Choco-berry

    I think I envy 100 times a day – in my thoughts…. even when I see a girl who has a face cleaner than mine…. and things like that… ok, I know that I envy and what am I to do with this?

  • Ninaz77

    I really like the novel way you approached feeling envy and lying. I never thought of looking at it that way. I always thought of those two unsightly qualities as something that I needed to get rid of, never thought of them as helpers. Thank you! I will keep a watchful eye on these two all week and see what comes up. The Thomas Merton quote is beautiful and so right if we could only truly believe it. Thanks for sharing that with us.