The first version of the iPhone came out in 2007, but I didn’t buy one until 2012.
For five long years I put up with endless jokes as friends gawked at my old-school flip phone.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want a smartphone—I felt left out when I couldn’t participate in conversations about the pros and cons of iPhone covers, and silly because my phone couldn’t take pictures or play songs. I wanted what they all had, but I just couldn’t afford it.
And I was envious.
We’ve all heard that money doesn’t buy happiness, but sometimes it’s hard to contain our green monster when we struggle to buy, achieve or do things that other people seem to afford effortlessly: Why do they have it, when we don’t?
The trickiest part about overcoming this toxic emotion is that it’s entirely up to us. If we can’t afford to quiet our envy through spending, we have to do it by changing our thoughts.
That’s why we turned to Scott Krakower, DO, an assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., and Ella Lasky, Ph.D., a psychologist in New York City, to help shed light on how we can beat money envy of all sorts.
1. Career Envy: ‘I Wish I Had His Job’
What It Might Look Like: Last time you saw your college roommate, he had just been sent to London and Paris for a work project, and flew business class. His assistant fielded his phone calls while he took a few days to see the sights afterward, but he had to get back to attend a benefit dinner hosted by Bono on behalf of his boss. How do you get that job?
What to Remind Yourself: Basically, that you’re only looking at the exterior of said friend’s life. “You don’t know everything about a person’s career,” Lasky reminds us. “Maybe he has a difficult boss, works 12-hour days or hates his job and can’t wait to get out of it.” After all, no one is going to flaunt their five-month stretch working every weekend.
And even if things are as good as they seem, your envy isn’t about him—it’s about you. “Instead of focusing on another person’s job, reflect on your own career and take a moment to appreciate the things that you like about your job,” says Krakower.
Try to figure out what, exactly, underlies your envy, because jealousy can help you pinpoint opportunities: Is it that you really want to travel more? Work in a profession with more cachet? Or just progress in your chosen career? Once you identify your triggers, rather than eat your heart out, use them as motivation to set new goals.
2. House Envy: ‘Real People Live Here?’
What It Might Look Like: Between Pinterest, HGTV and the thriving world of lifestyle blogs, we’re all too familiar with the house(s) of our dreams: gleaming expanses of marble countertops, charmingly weathered tables and a bathroom per person. If only real life and dream real estate always collided!
What to Remind Yourself: There’s a reason we say, “Home is where the heart is.” And we daresay a happy heart isn’t dependent on walk-in closets.
“More space and material goods won’t necessarily make your home more comfortable. Warmth and compassion are what make a home,” says Krakower. Instead of looking at an object (house), focus on the concept (home), he adds. Ask yourself what it is that makes your house a home: What do you love to do there? When does it feel the coziest? What great memories have you created? “How you act and behave and what you do and say in a home is part of what makes it great,” Krakower reminds us.
One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make, in a financial sense, is buying more house than they can afford. And trust us, what’s worse than drooling over your dream house is overextending yourself so much that making rent, or your mortgage, is a stretch. How to know if you can afford the property you really want? One easy rule of thumb LearnVest recommends is not spending more than 30% of your take-home pay on your monthly housing bill.
3. Gadget Envy: ‘Ooh, Shiny…’
What It Might Look Like: Just like the iPhones I saw everywhere when my phone still flipped, it’s easy to be envious of the co-worker who’s constantly whipping out the latest and greatest gadget. Or your friend or neighbor with the bigger-screen TV.
What to Remind Yourself: A new and expensive gadget provides all sort of opportunities: the opportunity to break it, lose it or have it stolen at a bar, which means the additional cost of having to insure it.
Is your need to have the latest and greatest gizmos really about the technology itself, or is there something bigger at play? “You don’t want to assign feelings to a material object—if you form an attachment, there’s a problem,” cautions Krakower. If you want that tablet because you’re psyched about the technology and it will be the perfect thing to bring on your travels—fine. If you want it because everyone else wants it, you may need to take a step back.
Plus, thanks to phone upgrades and promotions, you could soon be the one with the shiniest gadget. “In two years, when it’s time to trade up,” says Lasky, “you’ll have the newest gizmo for six months … until a newer one comes out.”