Overcoming Envy – Why Do We Hate Other People’s Success?

overcoming envyWe all want the best. We want it for ourselves, our families, friends, children, loved ones, etc. No one in their right mind ever wishes ill-will upon another, right? So why do we sometimes feel such a contradiction of emotions when someone we know has a good fortune? Why do we suddenly feel inadequate? Perhaps it’s not an issue with what we’ve done with our lives, but more a challenge of overcoming envy and our own insecurities about who we are and what we’re capable of doing.


The Evolution of Envy:

No matter how evolved a species we fancy our kind to be, there will always be certain emotions that will make it difficult in overcoming envy.

Maybe this instinct dates back as far as prehistoric times when one caveman would kill a beast and have plenty of food, while the other caveman was not as lucky and staved that night. Even though he hunted and killed the animal fair and square, the other one was jealous when he had to go without.

Maybe it’s no longer beasts we kill, but the fact that we get passed up for raises, promotions, a lucky break, or a great spouse.  How do you feel when someone you know gets a better job, a bigger paycheck, or finds a great opportunity? Yes, of course we congratulate them on their good fortune. But what goes on behind the scenes?


Feelings of Envy:

overcoming envyHere’s a simple question for all the My Money Design blogging friends out there: “How do you feel when you read other posts about how much money other blogs make? How do you feel when they boast about their +$2,000 month income?”

You can try to tell me that you’re 100% happy for them and the world is just filled with rainbows and kitty-cats. But I’d be willing to bet that something, even if it’s just a little bit, stirs beneath you as you read it. Maybe you’re a little angry, or maybe you feel sad because you’re not performing as well. The point is that you FEEL something.

This post isn’t intended to promote hatred or encourage animosity. It’s often been said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. If you don’t recognize a problem, then there’s nothing we can do about it. So if you agree with me that you do feel such emotions, the next question is what are we going to do about overcoming envy?


Overcoming Envy – Recognizing an Opportunity:

Just because you’re programmed a certain way doesn’t mean you have to stay that way forever. We don’t have to hate the success of others and realize that it is merely a challenge for overcoming envy in our lives. Here are a few of my own tips:

1) Realize it doesn’t matter. So someone else is doing great. Good – but big deal! You’re the only one who tends to your business! And you’ve got plenty to worry about besides what other people are doing.

2) Remember that everyone has their own definition of success. Maybe being rich and living in a big house is important to you. But for some people, maybe they’d rather be helping out others, serving their church, or doing something else to enrich other lives. We all have a different definition of success. And what may be special for someone else might not fit into what you’re trying to do. Only you can define what is important for your life.

3) Hatred only consumes you. Being angry or frustrated is a normal human process, but it is not very productive. Don’t spend too much time in this phase and move past it as quickly as possible.  Overcoming envy is critical for your success.

4) Nobody’s fault but my own. To borrow a line from a really great Beck song, you need to realize that your life is the sum of your actions and decisions; no one else’s. Only once you take responsibility for your own lot in life can you figure out what path you’re going to take for overcoming envy and moving ahead.

5) Don’t get mad, get even. Let your competitive side shine! So that raise or promotion WAS important for you? Then great – go get it!! Stop complaining! Figure out a path that will get you there and do it already!

6) Learn from their good fortune. If one thing can be said about someone else’s good fortune, its that you could learn from their example and try to re-create it for yourself. Back to my blog income example, how did they make so much money? Learn from them and try to duplicate it!

7) Keep things in perspective. Its okay to want more – we all do. But sometimes we get so caught up in our desires that we forget about the things we DO have. Don’t take for granted the things you HAVE accomplished and what it took to get there. To someone else, you may be THEIR idea of success.

Readers – Confess with me – do you feel just a little a little frustrated or angry over other people’s success? Be honest. More importantly, what do you do about overcoming envy?


Related Posts:

1) Lessons in Retirement from the Movie “About Schmidt”

2) Life Lessons I Learned from Super Mario

3) Happy 10-Year Anniversary


Photo Credit: yourdictionary.com


    • MMD says

      It can be inspiring to know that someday we might be pulling in +$1000 per month from our blogs! Hearing news like this on other sites does let us know it is possible.

    • MMD says

      That’s an interesting twist on the situation. Perhaps maybe we’re more caught up in wanting to feel success than what it really stands for?

  1. says

    Great post! Yeah I have suffered from this emotion more in the past…but I’m getting a lot better at it. Why? Because if you are feeling jealous, that’s a big red flag that you aren’t too happy with your own life, and now is the time to examine why. Once you can find reasons in your own life to be happy and proud, then you can more easily celebrate other people’s successes. And just like the FB phenomenon that everyone else’s life appears better than yours, it;s sometimes an illusion. Remember sometimes people only post the good stuff. There may be more that they are dealing with that’s bad and we just have no idea. Always better to keep your side of the street clean.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..Week in Review-7/22/12My Profile

    • MMD says

      There are plenty of people who never show you their ugly side. Facebook has seemed to make almost a “sport” out of this. How many ultimate-good-times photos do people really have of themselves?

  2. says

    I think it’s completely natural to feel envy since most of us are at least somewhat competitive. It’s rare that I get angry or hate a person out of envy, but I do get frustrated that I haven’t reached that same level of success. I actually find it helps a lot with pushing me to work harder and achieve those things too. Without envy people would just lead subpar lives and be content with minimal success. So I think it should be embraced but just without the negative emotions attached to it.
    Modest Money recently posted..Does Everyone Need An Emergency Fund?My Profile

    • MMD says

      That’s great you have some control over this, even if you still get frustrated. I feel the same. I get really frustrated with myself when I’m not feeling the same amount of success as other people I know. But that just means I need to think smarter!

  3. says

    Absolutely, I think all of us have encountered envy before! I think we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t. I think envy comes into play when we think there’s only so much success to go around. In reality, there’s enough success for all of us to have some.

    When I get envious, it also reminds me that others may be envious of my success. This reminds me to be careful in how much and what I talk about with peers. I want a balance between being real and genuine without bragging.

    Debt Free Teen recently posted..Making Money on ElanceMy Profile

    • MMD says

      I’ve got a post coming up about that very topic! We may be “hating” on others, but there is always someone else that is “hating” on you and jealous of what you’ve got!

  4. says

    Keeping things in perspective is important. I think that’s true with anything in life. You never know what other people are dealing with or what’s going on in their life. You only see what they want you to see.
    Mackenzie recently posted..Christmas in JulyMy Profile

    • MMD says

      Very true! Lots of people put on a horse and pony show for others. Whenever you think someone else has got it all, dig a little deeper. You’ll find that you’re really not that different.

  5. says

    I like “Learn from their success” and realizing that everyone has their own definition for success. I’m really trying to be a more positive person, and eradicating envy is one of the hurdles to overcome. By forcing myself to truly celebrate with them, maybe I can learn from them and achieve what I want out of life, as well.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Financial Lessons Learned From Marilyn MonroeMy Profile

    • MMD says

      Thanks! I have had to make a conscious effort to congratulate others as well. Why should my own jealously or envy get in the way? They earned it, and I should be happy for my friends. If I’m really smart, I can take away a few lessons from their success to try to get there myself!

  6. Justin @ The Family Finances says

    My wife and I are friends with another couple that comes from a lot of family money. They go on trips every year, their parents give them cars after they’re done with them, and they seem to catch every break imaginable because they know so many influential people. I’ll admit that it’s hard not to feel envious at times, knowing that I’ve had to work REALLY hard to get to where I am. But I remind myself that life is not a zero sum game. Every good thing that happens to someone else doesnt mean there are fewer good things available for me.
    Justin @ The Family Finances recently posted..Friends of the Family: Another Day At The Zoo EditionMy Profile

    • MMD says

      That’s a great perspective to have Justin! We’ve got those types of friends as well and I know what you mean! We’ve had to work double hard just to be where they are because of their background. But they say easy come easy go. And we feel so much more fulfilled having “earned” our way versus just having it handed to you.

  7. says

    I agree that we all deal with envy at some points in our lives. It could be over who is earning more money, who is prettier, who is more popular at school, who got a better raise, and so on. A wise woman once said “that the quickest way to kill our own self-esteem is to envy others”.

    Sometimes envy wears us down and sometimes it motivates us to do better. I think it depends on where we are in our lives.

    • MMD says

      Despite where they come from, you can use your powers for good or evil! I agree with you! If you’re strong, you won’t let your own insecurities destroy your chances for success!

  8. says

    Envy comes from not knowing the whole story. Sure, I’d love to bring in $4k a month from my blog, but am I willing to sacrifice time with friends, time with family, and some of my sleeping time? Alternatively, do I really know just how much goes into making that kind of money on a blog? No, all I’m envious of is the result.
    Kathleen @ Frugal Portland recently posted..Jumping inMy Profile

    • Katie says

      I agree with you completely. I do get envious of other bloggers who make a ton of money. Sure it would be awesome to bring in a lot of money from a blog but it’s not possible for me to put the amount of time necessary to do so. Every time I get envious I ask myself what is the whole story, what did this person give up to get where they are at.

      • MMD says

        I’m convinced that to make some of those figures you have to spend TONS more time than I’ve got for it! Or outsource everything – and where’s the fun in having a blog if you do that?

    • MMD says

      That’s a great spin on it! And I think that’s where a lot of us go wrong! We all want to be better looking, richer, smarter – those are all ends. But we could care less about the means. Chances are we would never put the effort into it to make it happen. So who should we really be mad at – others? Or ourselves for not trying?

    • MMD says

      That is 100% – we do all take a different path. I’m a big believer that most of those paths will lead to success as long as we play our cards right. We just get there at different times. You’ll be making your thousands before you know it!

  9. says

    I am definitely guilty of having feelings of envy towards someone’s success. I know people who just seem to constantly have horseshoes up the you know where. There will always be someone who has had more success than you, and at the same time there will always be someone who has had less success.

    I try to focus more on my own success thus far and continuing to strive towards other things that have the potential for success.
    MakintheBacon$ recently posted..For Your Viewing Pleasure: July 21/12My Profile

    • MMD says

      And that’s a good way to approach it! If you can take a step back and see all you have accomplished, I think most of us will find that we’ve got a lot going on for ourselves!

  10. Early Financial Freedom says

    Our motto is this: no matter how much you have or make, there IS someone who has more or makes more. Therefore, do your best and be happy with what you have!

    P.S. Envy does play a role in friendship if the bond is not strong, personally witnessed to it.

    • MMD says

      Well said! With the right attitude, it can encourage you to challenge yourself! I like the part about envy with friends. You should be happy for those you truly care about. Otherwise, you’re not really as close as you think.

  11. says

    Envy is a tricky thing.. and you have to do your best to push it out of your mind when you start to drift that direction. I have felt the burn of envy in work, and in blogging.. But envy and the emotions that it triggers are just wasted..

    Instead, why not be happy for the success of others, and use their story to help yourself grow and take some of their tactics as your own?
    jefferson recently posted..TomorrowMy Profile

    • MMD says

      Exactly! Use that encouragement to build a better blog and do more with your career! Be happy for those that earned it and try to recycle some of their methods for success. Obviously they worked!

  12. says

    I actually do get happy for these people who are successful, then I try to learn from them. It would be a big bummer if these people who are bragging about their income from their blogs aren’t sharing the tactics on how to do it because then I can’t learn from them. What I would like even better is if those people posted a link of my blog to on their blog….now we’d be talking! Anyway, jealousy and envy suck so I try not to get involved. I’m happy with what I can and can’t do, and I figure if I can’t do it, learn how to.
    Nurse Frugal recently posted..Higher Calling: Where your money Should be going.My Profile

    • MMD says

      Yeah, show me the link love! :) I will say that most income reports seem to come with tips on what they did to get there. And for those, I am extremely grateful (but still just a little jealous) :)

  13. says

    This is a great post. I always admire people who are in my field and do really well, but sometimes it kills me because they make it look so easy. One thing to help me overcome it is to realize that even though they aren’t letting on, they are working their tails off behind the scenes. This happens with my husband’s classmates in med school too. So many of them act like they aren’t studying to appear smarter or to intimidate, but I’m confident they go home and hide in their rooms and work just as hard!
    Budget Blonde
    p.s. thanks for the great comment on my site!

    • MMD says

      That used to bug me so much when people would pretend to not study but really they were staying up all night preparing! Just admit it people! I agree with you though – you know there’s always more to most people’s accomplishments than luck. They usually work pretty hard (or smarter) for them and it only encourages you to do the same.

  14. says

    I think I am fortunate. I have never really been envious of others success. I look at is as something to look up to and to strive to achieve more and be a better person rather than being envious I make it happen.

  15. Sandy says

    I am never envious at the success of others. I am happy for them. Why? Because I have had more than my share of success and have worked very hard to achieve it. I know that they have too.

    When I see others receive without putting in the effort, I know it will escape them since there is no foundation. Easy come will be easy go.

    This is why I am so hated by most and completely loved by the few that matter.

    • MMD says

      You certainly have the right attitude for this. I believe most people would find it easy to slip into their natural programming and simply want what others have without any regard for how to get there.

  16. Tina says

    i learned today that my boss of 4 years is resigning.
    She’s moving on to bigger and better things.
    i’m really ashamed, but i am very envious of her success. She’s a success with everything she does. marriage, 2 kids, career. i don’t resent her for it, i really respect and admire her.
    but, it’s extremely difficult for me just because it reminds me of my failures and shortcomings.
    so, it really affects me.
    it’s hard to be around someone so sucessful, when i feel i am a failure in so many ways (divorced, no kids, failed dreams, etc…)
    i’m really struggling today and just thought i would write.

  17. Paul Smithberger says

    Envy can ruin everything.

    Instead of focusing on improving ourselves and looking for ways to emulate those that are having success in an area that we’re working on, we focus on how far ahead of us someone is and feel like they should help us.. just because.

    The funny thing is this: it only happens when we are competing with others in a single area of interest.

    We don’t envy those who succeed at something we aren’t interested in succeeding in. I mean personally, I don’t care how good someone is at playing the french horn. I don’t envy them if they get to play for the Cleveland Orchestra because I have no interest in doing that.

    It’s only when we sense that someone has something that we don’t and feel like we deserve their success now and that, somehow, their success keeps us from having ours.

    In reality, we alone determine our success or failure in all areas of life. It has nothing to do with the other person. They probably don’t even know that we are envious, so how could it be them and not us?

    The best advice I’ve heard is to simply create and not compete. Then there is no need for envy. Really, the only person we are ever competing against is ourself.


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