How to deal with financial envy

Photo courtesy of Mandy Jansen

 

As readers of the site know, I bought a home this year. It was a trying process, but I feel like I was prepared for it, and navigated the process with tenacity, if not actual skill.

I paid my down payment out of my own pocket, and I didn’t co-sign for my mortgage. In short, I felt like I took this on myself, and willingly too.

And yet, not long after I moved in, I heard through the social grapevine about a person I know who is buying a home of their own. Except, this person isn’t actually buying the place: this person’s parents are purchasing it. As I heard about the details, I realized that the pit in my stomach could only mean one thing: I was deeply envious.

Envy

Envy is everywhere. Or rather, envy-causing situations are everywhere, and it’s hard to avoid them.

Look at Facebook or Instagram and see happy beautiful people doing exciting things, and then look around at your kitchen table and the dishes in the sink.

Then, turn on the TV and watch shows involving others confronting decisions that you would love to have the luxury of making.

After that, read the real estate guides and gaze upon gorgeous places that are an order of magnitude more expensive than what you could possibly afford.

Repeat ad nauseum. This sort of thing does us no good, and yet it’s almost a compulsion to keep looking. When we look at Travel and Leisure magazine containing stories of second homes with infinity pools overlooking deep bays, we may on one level derive an enjoyment of the scene, but deeper down there is a kind of pain. “Why can’t I have that?

So much of our envy is financial. (The other major kind is interpersonal, but that’s a different topic.) We want what others have, whether it’s stuff or the security that comes along with it.

But while I believe that over the long term, we can have what we want, that doesn’t help us right now.

Envy neutralizers

With this in mind, you can find your way out of the envy spiral, at least with some practice. Here are some thoughts to ponder if you find yourself in that position.

  • Be grateful for what you have—Nothing neutralizes envy like gratitude. So taking some time to think, really, stop and think about all that you have. Yes, you may not have that infinity pool, but you probably have a roof over your head, a reasonable level of comfort, and probably don’t live in a dictator-led state. Taking time on a regular basis to keep this in mind will help focus on the positives of a situation.
  • Remember that you had help too—If, in this case, you are struck with the injustice of someone being bankrolled by someone else, it may be useful to keep in mind that there is no such thing as self-sufficiency. Maybe you didn’t have direct help, but you had lots of help in may other ways, be it financial assistance (a roof over your head), circumstantial assistance (growing up in a peaceful place), or even help through your own privilege. Some might have received more assistance, but you didn’t receive no assistance.
  • Work that much harder—It is pointless and sad to let envy cause you to either give up or resort to self-victimizing. Yes, some people had help that you did not. It sucks. So what are you going to do about it? To me, there is only one option and that’s to work that much harder. Let it push you into earning for yourself what other people may have had had handed to them.
  • Your own achievements will always give you more satisfaction—Which would you prefer, someone handing you something, or you earning it yourself? Before you answer too quickly, think about how it would play out over the long term.

It’s that last one that gets me. Sure it would be nice to have things handed to me. But actually, it’s just like winning the lottery. When you’ve earned something, you have usually developed the skills (and gratitude) to handle it. And boy have I earned my home.

But enough about me. How have you felt financial envy?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on December 28, 2015