Silencing the green-eyed monster: 7 ways to squelch envy and jealousy

For almost two weeks now, we’ve been talking about money. The mistakes we’ve made with it. What we want to do with it. How we’re trying to use it more wisely. And, how we feel about it. As it turns out, a lot of us feel…conflicted. We want “enough“, but we don’t want to be materialistic. We want to be happy for our friends (and those imaginary Joneses) who are doing really well, and content with our own standard of living, but sometimes jealousy and envy are hard to resist.

And as several readers have pointed out, envy isn’t just about money. Maybe you covet your neighbor’s life…she always seems so put-together, and has the nicest kids (nice in public, at least…) Or that mom at playgroup who cheerfully homeschools her brood while you keep forgetting your kid has a math test at school tomorrow.

I’d like to share a few strategies that have worked for me when it comes to keeping jealousy and envy at bay. Some of these are money-and-material-goods specific, while others can apply to any kind of covetous-ness.

1. Think in terms of world standards.

In comparison to many places in the world, pretty much everyone reading this is rich. Keeping that in mind goes a long way toward getting a grip and some perspective when I’m feeling cranky about my saggy sofa.

2. Hang out with people in the same boat as you.

You don’t have to avoid your financially-better-off in-laws or dump those friends who seem to “have it all.” But sometimes, you need to be around people who are in the same position as you so that you don’t start getting the idea that “everybody else in the world has ______”.  And having friends who get where you’re coming from can bolster you up and help you feel less influenced by people who try to make you feel “less than.”

3. Analyze your envy.

When I feel my eyes turning green, I take some time to sort out whether I really want what the other person has. Does it just seem glamorous or exciting at the moment? Would I really be willing to make the trade-offs necessary to get whatever “it” is? Often, when I really think about it, I realize the answer is “no.”

4. Envy can inspire you, too.

Sometimes after careful consideration I realize that I really do want what the other person has, and am willing to work or sacrifice for it. At that point, fretting over how unfair life is has about a zero success rate. I might not ever write a bestselling book, but I can use the inspiration from famous authors to chase that dream. Maybe I am simply not up for homeschooling (one of my latent, long-lasting fantasies) but I can try a little harder to help my kids get the most out of public school. Life is not either/or, and sometimes working toward a dream is almost as satisfying as reaching it. And the more I focus on my own goals and the life I want to create for myself, the less I worry about what other people might be doing or getting.

5. Remember that life is long.

Most likely, you still have plenty of years ahead of you to travel, play in a cover band, bicycle cross-country or buy a house on the beach. It might not happen today or this year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get there.

6. Embrace the ways you are different.

Come to your choices – and even some of the things that don’t exactly feel like choices – with a sense of intention and optimism, even if you have to fake it ’til you make it. Okay, so you’re driving a rusty old clunker; what positive feelings can you glean from that experience? Maybe you can smile at the funny memories you’ll have later, or you love that you can relax when you give your child a juice box in the car because the upholstery is already shot anyway, or perhaps you just appreciate that you aren’t losing several hundred bucks a month on a car payment. What positives have you left unexamined?

7. But don’t confuse embracing your choices with knocking down somebody else’s: you can celebrate the fact that you aren’t in debt without feeling superior to those who use credit cards. You can enjoy your quiet evenings at home without feeling sure the parents spending their evenings at the football field are miserable. Your “values” are just the things you value, and we don’t all value the same things equally. That’s, as they say, what makes the world go ’round.

What are your best tips for squelching envy and jealousy – either over money or less tangible things?

I had no idea the money topic would stretch over two full weeks, but wow, there’s a lot to say, and I don’t even feel like we’ve scratched the surface! But I’ll have to wrap it up and move on soon. Look for a post on talking to kids and spouses about money in the next few days. And stay tuned – next week we’ll be moving on to a new topic, YOU. June is all about moms: your passions, hobbies, health, work, relationships and marriage, dreams, and maybe some fluffy things like beauty and fashion, too. Subscribe to my feed if you don’t want to miss a thing!

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