Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.

How Envy Destroys Happiness

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jun 25, 2013 9:12 PM

Really solid people, those who reapect themselves and have decent self-esteem, based on a sense of integrity, are happy for others' success and don't become consumed with envy. Sure, they may feel it briefly, like "how nice it would be to win the lottery," or "I wish I would inherit money, too." Yet, they count their own blessings and see the whole picture of how things could always be worse, too.

Let me tell you about a couple of cases in which envy based on low self-esteem destroy the opportunity to feel peace and happiness. First, there is the man we'll call Jim who can't listen to friends discuss their investments, their pensions, their real estate holdings, and their high income taxes without judging them as spoiled and lucky and himself as a "loser," unlucky and left out. Truth is they worked hard at good professions, saved and invested wisely and inherited some and didn't waste it. Luck didn't figure in much, just a little. He spent wildly, worked sporadically, didn't protect himself financially and then complained a lot. Also, he wasn't real lucky, like when his company was downsized and his divorce cost too much. Still, he didn't end up broke but with enough money to live. Yet, he wastes too much time and energy envying his wealthier friends and disparaging himself. Envy depresses him and he'd be better off enjoying his life, his friends, and opportunity to love life.

Then, there is the woman we'll call Jill, accomplished and pretty, comfortable in a relationship, and decently well-off. She has a good life. However, she, too, consumes herself with envy of those who look better, have hotter and more loving relationships, are much wealthier, and are more widely-traveled and more exposed to culture. What a waste of potential happiness.

I wish I could take both of these people and scads of others to work on the days I see Disability patients--people who lost their health, their sanity, their families, their hope, their work and their homes. It might just humble them into knowing the reality of the world and seeing how spoiled they really are. It humbles me after 35 years at least every week. We would do well to rejoice in others' good fortune and hurt for others' misfortune , rather than concentrating on where we fit in to some imaginary continuum of variables, like looks, wealth, relationships, accormplishments, or activities. We're not in competition with each other for a limited amount of good fortune. We're challenged to be good people. From that type of integrity comes true self-respect and contentment.

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