Are You on The Fast Track to Unhappiness?

Envy may be killing your sense of well-being



Just four little letters. Four letters can wreak havoc on our lives. They fuel shame, hatred, dissatisfaction and unhappiness, along with unhealthy obsession. You may envy other people for what they have, what they have done or the kind of person they are, or you may experience reverse envy: overrating yourself against other people.

The types of envy that you can experience are only limited to your imagination. Some types of envy are linked with our childhood. Other types are the product of stage of life that we are at. No matter where we get our envy, it is destructive to our mental health.
Just four little letters. Four letters can wreak havoc on our lives. They fuel shame, hatred, dissatisfaction and unhappiness, along with unhealthy obsession.
Envy came up in a conversation that I had with my brother and mother. My brother has a bigger home than I do, he is an extrovert and he has a fantastic sense of humor. Each of these things I have envied at one time or another. As we each put our envy-cards on the table, we each realized that none of us are free from the effects of envy.
Envy can be hazardous to your mental health. It can:
  • Increase our anxiety
  • Erode our satisfaction and happiness
  • Create shame
  • Build walls between people
  • Reinforce self-limiting beliefs and behaviors – if I feel that you have more/are better than I am, I won’t bother trying to improve myself.
  • Increase wrong wall motivations – we invest much of our time and energy to achieve what others have achieved, only to realize that we aren’t happy when we get it and only we end up looking for the next thing to pursue.

Recent research has found that we can experience Facebook envy – as we read a person’s profile and what they did on their vacations and compare this with our own (insert your preferred negative adjective… ie: miserable) lives.

Before we get too far into this, it is important to draw a distinction between a healthy level of desire vs unhealthy and pathological envy. The differences can be difficult to define because envy is closely linked with desire, which is more healthy and manageable.

Accumulating without taking stock will actually make you less happy. In this way, it can become chasing after wind, literally something you can never get your hands on.

Websters defines envy as “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”

Like most things you can determine whether you are overdoing your envy based on it’s degree of impact on you. Can you refocus yourself on what is truly important to you, or do you become pulled, again and again back into a desire for what others have? Does your envy make you feel less and less satisfied with what you have or with what you are?

74 Paths to unhappiness: My growing list of envies

I don’t claim to own all of these envies, but I have felt many of them from time to time. I am curious: Which type of envy is your personal fave? And what could you add to the list?

  1. Amount of money one makes
  2. Apparent ease in stress
  3. Apparent ease in social situations
  4. Beauty envy
  5. Being in shape
  6. Blog size, number of followers
  7. Body art envy – your tattoos, piercings are so much cooler than mine
  8. Boob size envy
  9. Busyness envy – you are busier, having more fun and living a more fulfilling life than I am
  10. Cars one owns, the tech that your car has
  11. Certainty – as you age, or during specific stages of life
  12. Childhood envy – you had a better (or worse) childhood than I did
  13. Children’s success envy – your kids are way smarter, more successful than mine
  14. Children’s behavior envy – see #13
  15. Concert envy – the number and type of live concerts that you have been to
  16. Conferences a person has spoken at
  17. Coolness envy – you are way cooler than I am
  18. Creativity level and ability
  19. Dental envy – yes, your white straight teeth can create a frown
  20. Entrepreneurial envy – the number of startups one has tried, failed and tried again
  21. Favorite sports team envy – your team is a better team than mine
  22. Friendship envy – envying the number of friends a person a may have
  23. Gun envy – mine is bigger than yours
  24. Hair envy – you still have your real hair
  25. Health envy – you are more healthy than I feel that I am
  26. Height envy
  27. Humor envy – how funny a person is
  28. Home projects completed under your own steam
  29. Intelligence envy – I feel that you are just so much smarter than I am
  30. Job envy
  31. “Likes” on social media
  32. Karat envy – the size of the rock on the wife’s finger
  33. Keurig envy – your coffee set up is better than mine
  34. Leadership skill/comfort envy – you seem more naturally able to lead than I am (or feel that I am)
  35. Love envy – how much one appears to be loved
  36. Love envy – how much and how easily one loves other people
  37. Lover envy – how good a lover you are
  38. Memory envy – you have a better memory than I do
  39. Muscle envy
  40. “Nic Nac” envy
  41. Number of books, articles, blog posts (or podcasts) written
  42. Office envy – size of office, location, floor you are on and view
  43. Ones projected confidence (for real confidence may be a complete myth)
  44. Pen envy – One of my favorites… your pen is so much cooler than my pen
  45. Perceived ease at handling life’s difficulties – some people just seem so much calmer during a crisis, or even during everyday stresses. They just seem too damned graceful.
  46. Pet envy
  47. Playlist envy
  48. Possessions one has
  49. Quickness envy – you are probably faster than I am at two finger iPhone typing, sprinting and your ability to figure out and cook a recipe.
  50. Relationship envy – your marriage, your couple relationship is so much better (and easier) than mine
  51. Resilience envy – the ability one has to bounce back from trauma, failure and other setbacks.
  52. Resume envy – the sheer number of interesting places one has worked
  53. Self discipline envy – you are so much more able to accomplish, do and achieve self discipline than I am
  54. Sheer number of Ideas that one has
  55. Size and beauty and location of your home
  56. Social comfort envy
  57. Social grace envy
  58. Songs written and published
  59. Spelling envy – how is your spleling?
  60. Spiritual envy (Just look at Cain and Able)…
  61. Stability as you age
  62. Summer camping trailer envy
  63. Technology envy – your tech is newer and cooler than mine
  64. Thoughtfulness envy – you are WAY more thoughtful than I am
  65. Tool envy
  66. Usefulness envy – the ability one has to adapt to new situations and become the most damned useful person around
  67. Vacation and travel envy – your vacations are better than mine
  68. Voice envy – the depth, manliness, quality, or speaking/singing ability of your voice is better than mine.
  69. Volunteer envy – the type and number of volunteer opportunities that you engage in
  70. Wildness envy – the type and effect of your season(s) of behavioral wildness are better than mine (ie: substance use, criminal history, etc)
  71. Xtreme sports envy – your passion is way cooler than mine
  72. Yoda envy – you are wiser than I feel that I am
  73. Yoga envy – you are more flexible, or better at yoga than I am
  74. Zeal envy – your energy and love for life is better than mine
Perhaps after reading this list you may want to add Envy envy (being envious over another person who seems to have more envies as you do… or reverse envy – you pity another person for their obvious human flaws, weaknesses and envies) to the list?

Envy will get to you, if you let it

Envy can be like a cancer, eroding our sense of happiness and satisfaction. An old-time proverb provides us with an idea of what we can do about envy:

I have also learned why people work so hard to succeed: It is because they envy the things their neighbors have. But it is useless. It is like chasing the wind…It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind.

What this wisdom reminds you and I is that instead of investing our attention on what others have, take stock what you already have. For me, it can be tough to take stock sometimes because getting new stuff can feel so alluring. But accumulation is never-ending. For most of us, we are accumulating more physical items than we can store. In the US in 2016, over 32 billion dollars was spent on self-storage. And the trend is also reflected in our use of electronic storage by 2018, Cloud storage will exceed that amount, to an estimated 40 billion.

One four letter word can wreak havoc on your mental health, but all that it takes to reverse the effect is eight little letters: Thank You.

Clearly we are investing a great deal of energy on gathering a bigger and bigger pile of stuff. Accumulating without taking stock will actually make you less happy. In this way, it can become chasing after wind, literally something you can never get your hands on.

One of the keys that mindfulness experts will tell you is that a cure for envy is to slow down and express gratitude for your life. Researchers have found that keeping a list of the things you are grateful for can tip the scale and help you to feel happier. Another way to refocus on what is important is to make a habit out of thanking the people in your life for their influence and investment in you.

One four letter word can wreak havoc on your mental health, but all that it takes to reverse the effect is eight little letters: Thank You.

Today, I would like to thank YOU for taking the time to read my work. Thank you for your comments and for when you have shared my work with other people. I hope that you continue to move forward in your mental health and recovery, and your overall growth. I would love to hear from you in the comments. What are you grateful for?

If you enjoyed this piece, you will want to see some of my other work:

Recovery and How To Deal with Your Energy Vampires

Your Dreams Have a Dark Side and This is What You Can Do About it

5 Ways to Make Peace With Your Hostile Inner Editor

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.

Lastly, if you like my writing, you can click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Keep it Real

Photo by Cocavo Wheels

4 thoughts on “Are You on The Fast Track to Unhappiness?

  1. What am I grateful for?
    My life experience, I’ve done and seen a lot. Sure there are many more things to see and do, so many I will never get to over a thousand lifetimes. So I am thankful that I’ve seen so much, so far.
    I’m thankful for who I am, most of the time. I tolerate the fool in me more than I used to.


  2. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and
    I’m impressed! Very useful information particularly the remaining part
    🙂 I handle such info much. I was seeking this certain information for a
    long time. Thanks and best of luck.


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