There is no doubt that envy is extremely common and very few people can honestly say they’ve never felt it. But is feeling envious normal or healthy?
When it comes to envy, different people may understand different things.
- For some it’s a feeling of discontent aroused by someone else’s possessions or other desirable traits; and a sense of relief when that person finally loses whatever that desirable thing was.
- For others, it’s a simple admiration of others’ success without any ill intent.
- And then there are those who do not necessarily want others to lose all the desirable things them themselves do not have, yet feel relieved when they do. A lot of people simply can relate better to those who are at the same level as themselves in terms of financial and professional success or looks. In addition, we tend to bond better with those whose struggles are similar to our own — at the very least, it makes a great topic for conversation!
Envy is dangerous not just because it makes you a bad friend, but it can also push you to make bad decisions. If you allow yourself to get carried away with envy, you might find yourself buying things you don’t need just to keep up with your more fortunate friends or to experience luxury and comfort they live in. This may ruin you emotionally and financially, which is why working on improving your self-esteem is so very important.
How to deal with envy
Unless it’s simple admiration, envy is not healthy, and any ill feelings you have towards your more successful friends should be dealt with.
- Realize that almost everybody has two personas — the public one (the one you see) and the real one (the one behind closed doors). Social media posts and photos are not a complete picture, and in fact, people you envy may have even bigger struggles than you in other areas. Basically, you are comparing your reality with other people’s fantasy, and it’s not a fair comparison.
- Remind yourself that your wealthier friends are where they are today because of the choices they’ve made. They may have traded off something you weren’t willing to trade off: Perhaps they didn’t have as much fun in their early twenties as you did, or perhaps they weren’t allowed to marry the person they loved while for you it has never been a problem. Maybe they’ve lived (and continue to live) in constant stress while you live a much more relaxed and stress-free life.
- Instead of feeling jealous, get inspired. While you can’t switch your poor parents for richer ones (not that you want to) or change your past, you can imitate behaviors that make others successful.
“I always knew I could be successful. I always knew I was going to be a multi-millionaire, and I would never accept anything less,” says Scott Alexander, a UK’s lifestyle and property tycoon who was only in his early thirties when he purchased an entire town in Bulgaria. You don’t have to be vain, but you can imitate motivation and work ethic.
- Get excited because one of the best predictors of success is being associated with successful people.
Likewise having a perfect life isn’t a guarantee for future success. In fact, in many cases it’s the opposite. “The bulk of entrepreneurs are psychologically driven people who are motivated to be successful. They are people who come from backgrounds and early life experiences which are quite negative — either teachers telling them they are no good or losing a parent — something early in their childhood, which [caused them to develop] a lower self-esteem,” says Cary Cooper, a business psychologist interviewed for BTV Docs documentary “Money Envy”. So if you’ve had a difficult childhood or if you aren’t particularly confident, you can use it to motivate yourself to achieve more.
Of course, financial success isn’t the only thing you can be envious of. It could be looks, romantic partners, children, homes or even weight. Not everything can be achieved by trying hard, and there are things you will have to come to terms with. If you regularly experience negative feelings and your envy causes you a lot of distress, talking to a professional therapist may help. It can be done online here.