That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

Dealing with life envy

By Karen Charlton

We’re all moving on to the internet and in this global village, we have so many Joneses to keep up with.

You mightn’t realise, but you probably have pangs of life envy every day as you do your rounds of email, Facebook and various social media platforms. I know I do sometimes: “Oh, I want to live in my dream house …” or Kelly has had a baby. I wish I had a baby!”. There is so much news to take in online, and so much of it is good, and so much of it belongs to everyone else. As Gore Vidal famously quipped, “Every time a friend of mine succeeds, a small part of me dies”.

We don’t talk about it because envy feels dirty: thou shalt not covet. But this is not the only way of looking at it.

Pop philosopher and all ‘round nice guy Alain deBotton suggests that we should use envy as a starting point to make our own lives better. He suggests we should understand envy as having ‘an energy to achieve’, and direct that energy toward building a better life for ourselves. You want a new car too? Make it a goal, then get on with working hard to get it. deBotton argues that refusing to acknowledge envy can lead to misplaced anger, and conspiracy theories about why everyone else has success, and we don’t. Unacknowledged envy will eat away at you. Fact.

5 ways to handle life envy:

1  Everyone on the internet is showing their best bits, in the best light. Take their successes at face value, but know they are also paying taxes, having pap smears and replacing their car brakes just like the rest of us.

2  Write a list of all best bits about your own life. Instead of posting that list on a social network, keep it to yourself, perhaps on your desk, in your journal, on your desktop. Remind yourself of it every time you feel yourself turning greener with every click.

3  Start thinking of your own future, and set some goals. Maybe you could start planning your dream holiday? Perhaps open a savings account to save up for that new car?

4  If life envy is eating at you, switch off and spend some time IRL. You might be surprised how enviable your life is, if only you slow down enough to appreciate its fullness.

5  Be grateful for what you do have. Write it down. Give it a squeeze. Hold it in your hand and feel its weight.

This post originally appeared on Kidspot Village Voices and has been edited and reproduced with permission.
When was the last time you were struck down with life envy?

6 Responses to “Dealing with life envy”

  1. tropicalmum

    Life envy, I have it. As much as I love being available to the kids, by working only part-time, I tire of always living from payday to payday, driving an older car in constant need of repair and feeling guilty about buying a cup of coffee because it wasn’t in the budget. These tips are a great way of looking at it in a different light.

    Reply
  2. Megan Blandford

    I love that theory of deBotton’s. It feels like we used to all want a couple of things at a time and that was achievable, but these days just as you set your mind to one goal you find another better one, and on it goes. I agree that being grateful and looking at your own life more closely are the keys to focusing on what’s right for you.

    Reply
  3. Carli

    There’s nothing like stepping out of a social media highlight reel or echo chamber and into real life and realising most people walking around don’t care. I think it’s perfectly normal to feel envy and agree it’s more constructive to redirect it into something more positive. I think I might have to try number two though….just in case! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Zanni Arnot

    Uh-huh. I agree. The internet completely fuels my tendency to life envy. I wrote about this too a few months ago…
    http://heartmama.net/2012/11/15/icandy/
    I love Steve Furtick’s quote: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
    Today’s cult of celebrity, a cult which has bled into blogger-dom, increases life envy intensity. I have to unplug and spend time with real people to remind myself that everyone’s lives are beautiful, and everyone’s lives are complicated. Everyone has their struggles. It’s all in the presentation.

    Reply
  5. Tas

    Every time I read Kate’s posts over at her Fox’s Lane blog, I want to move to the country, become a vegetarian and grow organic food.
    I just can’t help those feelings when I read her words and see her photos.

    Yet I know that I am pretty much a city-dwelling carnivore.

    I am less envious as I get older and am more comfortable in my own skin. I recognise that my life is pretty damn good. But my main failing is seeing and reading about those patient mums who seem to be so much better with their kids than I am. But hopefully I can turn those feelings into something positive.

    Reply
  6. Deb

    I often say I’m entirely happy with my ‘lot’ in life until I look at the person beside me or across the road and then the green-eyed monster strikes.

    As I tend to play the victim I often suffer from life envy… I suspect I like to blame karma/fate for the fact I’m overweight and single and childless (familyless), it can’t possibly be my own fault.

    Cos… what then?!

    Reply

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