Why do we want what others have?

At one point or another, we have all wanted what someone else had: we’ve all been envious.

Envy is known as the green-eyed monster, reminiscent of Othello, Madame Bovary and Cinderella’s step sisters. As a result, we feel guilty about our feelings and push them away – only causing them to continue to come back with more vengeance.

In reality, envy is a completely normal and understandable feeling, and most of us experience it on a regular basis. And how could we not? The media is continuously showing us how luxurious our lives could be if we were the Kardashians and our social media feed is a daily reminder that all our friends – even if they aren’t the Kardashians – are having more fun than us…

Some level of envy is harmless, as long as we are dealing with it correctly and it is not impacting on our mental wellbeing or relationships.

The problem starts when envy makes us think or do things which we regret (for example, making fun of a friend out of envy). This can not only ruin our relationships but can make us stressed and worried and, ultimately, unhappy.

What can you do about it?

Envy sounds like an awful word, but as soon as you learn to accept it as a normal part of life it will stop affecting you and making you (and others around you) feel bad.

Think it sounds easier than it is? We dare you to try these tips!

Focus on gratitude

Do this every day

This sounds hippy but it works. Every night before you go to sleep, write down at least five good things that happened that day. It can be anything, as long as it made you feel good even if just for a second.

Doing this daily will not only create good energy in the moment, but it will also serve as a frequent reminder that you have a lot to be thankful for, regardless of what your social media feed makes you feel.


Turn envy into inspiration

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have

Have you noticed that some people just bring out the green-eyed monster in you? Next time, instead of letting yourself get sucked into a spiral of envy, take a step back and ask yourself: “What is this really about?”

Is the person doing things that you truly want to be doing? If so, make a plan to make it happen for you. By turning your negative energy into something positive, you will achieve more than you can imagine!


Make a list of priorities

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have 

What are your priorities? Do you only want a high paid job or are you less worried about salary and more about passion? Do you like staying at home and spending time with your family or do you prefer travelling and crossing places off your bucket list? Make a list and go back to it every time you start to feel envy creeping over you.

It may well be that getting married or getting a specific job is something you really want and that’s great – but at least you know that you’re not feeling envy just out of want, and you can do something about it!


Don’t believe everything you see

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have

Did you post a status update when you got rejected from that job the other day? The answer is probably not and this applies to most of us.

Just because people make achievements look effortless, it doesn’t mean that they are. Reminding yourself about this on a regular basis will train your mind to think twice before assuming that everyone is leading more fulfilled lives than you.

Ground yourself

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have

  • Sit comfortably with your feet firmly planted on the floor
  • Push your feet against the floor as hard as possible and notice the physical feeling of this
  • Touch something – a pet, a set of keys, a phone, whatever! – and notice the feeling of the object against your fingertips
  • This really helps to distract you from your negative thoughts and focus on the present – try to do this as often as possible

Limit social media use

Always do this, especially when you find yourself wanting what others have

We say this all the time but it’s true: social media does us no favours in terms of feeling good and fulfilled. We are constantly confronted with a distorted reality which can’t be good for our feelings of envy.

Try to limit checking social media to once or twice a day, and avoid reverting to it automatically every time you’re bored.

Dig a little deeper

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have

Envy has been around for centuries, we all have it. But have you noticed that your levels of envy fluctuate? You are more likely to want what someone else has if you are dissatisfied. This demonstrates that envy is something more connected to your emotional state than to reality.

As yourself the question: What do I really want? Do you really want your friend’s new job, or are you just unhappy with yours? Has someone made you feel like you are inadequate? The moment you understand what the issue is, you can start doing something about it.

Tell a friend

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have

Sharing your worries with someone who cares about you has been demonstrated to reduce stress and anxiety.

Not only that, but you’d be surprised at how many people feel envious. By telling people how you feel, you might learn that others feel the same, which will demonstrate that we all want what we don’t have.

Speak to a therapist

Do this when you find yourself wanting what others have

Speaking to friends is great, and can really help to make you feel better. However, envy is sometimes deep-rooted in your feelings of self-confidence and self-worth, and speaking to a therapist is a highly effective way to learn to deal with those feelings in a more constructive way.

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