Envying - those with more and those with less

Envy is a funny thing. It permeates everything… even when you don’t want it to, and, talking to others, it never ever goes away, no matter how successful you are. The rich who work long hours envy those with simpler, easier lives; the mothers who work envy those who get to stay home with their children; the stay at home mothers envy those who get to go to work regularly in a job they enjoy. And in the workplace, the employees envy the boss for their success while the boss envies their employees for the simplicity of live they can live.

All the way through life it seems, those with less envy those with more; and it all depends on what you are missing as to what you envy most. Things like money, friends, stuff, or grandkids are all very real sources of envy. Those with poor health envy those with good health and the list goes on…

Wealth is the most obvious cause for envy. It’s everywhere. Everyone is looking to make judgements of you by what they think you have in Australia. It is the plot of so many people’s lives. Fancier cars, nicer houses, going out to glam restaurants. Many years ago in my family we decided to run our own race financially. That is, we decided to be polite when we couldn’t really justify affording something and suggest we do something more aligned with our budgets. That didn’t mean not seeing the people we love who could afford to live their lives more headily than we could. Sometimes it was tough to do this, especially when it was people we didn’t necessarily want to discuss our financial circumstances with.

It can be a great source of conflict amongst friends, money that is. For two of our dear friends, money was quite directly the reason why a good friendship with another couple fractured. A middle aged-pair, they had very different financial expectations to the other couple and they felt the true pressure of envy. This couple started to try and “keep up” or even compete with them, despite being in much tougher financial circumstances, and the strange interactions left everyone shaking their head. Eventually it led to conflict and things were said that can never be taken back.

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The hardest thing about envy is that it is often built on how people present themselves, and how much people “seem” to have. Money, even in todays society is not really something we discuss directly.  It leads me to the big question of  why people need to compete on a theoretical perception of other people’s wealth.

But what if your dear friend’s public image of wealth is just that, a public image. A leased car, a mortgage that is a little too large, a super fund that cant really afford the next dream trip and a large credit card bill are all too real a reality for many people. What if they are, deep down, just like you, looking for others to whom money is less important than friendship but have fallen into the trap of thinking money will lead to happiness.

Are you friends with people with more than you and do you cope with it well?  There is a few wonderful tips you can apply to keep the reality firm around your friends with more, so you can enjoy being different, and still be friends.

Set boundaries

When you’re asked to do something “sensational” that sits beyond your budget, perhaps propose another way.  We spent most of our twenties and thirties having people over for dinner with all of us “bringing a plate” so it did not become about babysitters and aspirational restaurants.  Those friends that did want restaurant dining simply found we were suggesting of cheaper venues when we could get a family member to babysit, knowing the limitations of our own reality.

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Know how to be who you are

Your friends are friends with you because you are special, and not because your clothes, lobster, and champagne are special.  So be comfortable making fun together you can afford.  You don’t need to keep score with good friends or people you want to know, just know that your contribution of helping out, caring for others, being caring and involved, and having fun will be more appreciated in life than your “keeping up”.

Recognise envy

It is a terrible thing to feel inferior to others, and something you can look out for in yourself, and take note of.  If you feel it, stop and ask yourself why and what is making you feel envious.  Is it something you really want, or is it an emotional wish that can be used to inspire you to set and meet realistic goals.

Step back and be your best you

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On the other side of the coin is the person who has more, and has friends who have less.  If this is you, do you find yourself hiding who you are and making excuses for your success?  Or are you the person who walks through the mall telling people just how affluent you are?

There are easy ways to make it easy for friends in disparate situations to you. The first is to eat at home.  The second is to not set too high a standard of expectations with fancy wines and paying for things.  Instead, enjoy each other’s company with simplicity.

After all, the best friendships are those who treat each other with mutual respect and care.  Now that is something to be envious of!