Reader Stacey sent me this question the other week:
How do you conquer jealousy/envy when it comes to material possessions?
Stacey’s question was quite a bit longer than that and her focus was actually on homes, but I thought it was such a good topic that I wanted to explore it further here.
I’m not immune to pangs of envy.
Embracing a life with less stuff has certainly helped but I’m still prone to the occasional bought of jealousy.
Lots of our friends and family have nice homes, go on spectacular vacations, are in great shape and have fabulous wardrobes.
Sometimes I think wistfully, why not me? Wouldn’t that be nice to own/do/be.
But there are several things that have helped me curb jealousy or envy to a sometimes quiet whisper rather than a full blown, break out the credit card or tears, roar.
Live your values.
When we were in a pile of consumer debt, and I was checking BabySteals.com every morning, we were extrinsically focused and motivated.
Could we get a bigger home?
Should we get a new car?
What’s the next vacation we can go on?
What’s our income like compared to our friends?
Did you see ___ got a new ____ and are going to _____ and are driving a ______?
Deciding to get off the consumer hamster wheel, to live smaller and get out of debt, changed things. It was a wake up call. It forced us to look inward.
Do we want our son to grow up in a home where it’s always about the next thing to buy or the next thing to upgrade?
Do we want him to grow up in a home where being good citizens and spending time with each other are the focus?
When you get new eyes about how you want to live your life, it’s less tempting to be envious of what everyone else has.
Envy is a choice.
Sometimes I wonder how I ended up with a circle of friends and family that are so damn successful: Senior VPs, marketing gurus and others that have generally kicked butt in the workplace. They have huge salaries, loads of responsibility and really cool business cards.
My last corporate job was a few rungs up from entry level.
When I play the comparison game it’s pretty depressing.
Instead of comparing, I try to be thankful. I’m thankful my friends have received the recognition they deserve, that they’ve found careers they find fulfilling and that I’m doing what I want right now too (even if it comes with a negative salary).
Stuff does not equal contentment.
Stacey was specifically asking about house envy. How do you handle your friends and family having huge show homes with all the accoutrements when you’ve living in a small and modest space?
There are some gorgeous homes here in the Isle of Man. Georgian town homes that have been beautifully restored and renovated. I’ve been in a few and, wow, they are spectacular.
I’m sure the families that live in them enjoy the space and beauty every day.
When I think about my family moving into a big and beautiful home I know that what we would give up for it would actually reduce our daily contentment. I’d spend more time cleaning. The increased rent and utilities would mean a reduction in some other area of our life, probably travel. We wouldn’t have the ease and peace of mind of our son always being within ear shot. We’d give up our ocean view and easy access to the beach. Playing out this kind of scenario in my head allows me to appreciate the nice things my friends have, without feeling the need to own them myself.
It’s easier to not be envious when you know that stuff won’t make you happier.
Any suggestions for Stacey on how you battle envy or jealousy?