Friend Envy

Friend envy can be benign or malicious. Photo credit: Dani_vr via photopin cc

Have you ever been green with friend envy?

Nobody will openly admit to it, but we all feel it at some point in our lives. You’ve guessed it: It’s everyone best-kept secret. Sometimes you can’t help looking at someone and wishing you had a certain quality or possession of theirs.  It’s an ugly feeling, even more so when it’s directed towards a friend. It becomes an internal struggle between trying to be happy for them and wishing it was you instead. You start feeling guilty and try to get rid of those pesky thoughts, but to no avail. So are you a horrible friend for being envious?

Let’s start by exploring the emotion of envy. It initially stems from wanting something that someone else has. What makes it such an unpleasant feeling though is that it essentially means you feel inferior to another person. However, it is a completely natural feeling, even essential.

In The Evolutionary Psychology of Envy, authors Hill and Buss explain that we experience envy because it allows us to know how we stack up compared to someone else. Social comparisons actually helps us evaluate ourselves and influence how much effort we want to put forth to be better than our competitors.

Is envy really all that bad? 

Envy is a complex emotion and it’s far from being that black and white. Hill and Buss found research that humans react to envy in mainly three ways: submission, destruction and ambition. Submission can help shield us from the negative effects of envy just by learning to accept how things are and move on. Destruction, on the other hand, can lead us to focus our energy on belittling others. However, envy can also have a positive influence in the sense that it motivates us to do more and become better, hence the ambition response.

Do you control friend envy or does it control you?

While you might not be able to suppress feelings of friend envy from your life, you can always control the outcome. Just like with any other emotion, you can’t choose what to feel but you can choose how to react to it.

How you end up acting in response will influence the way you feel about yourself as well as your friendship with that person.

So, how should you deal with it?

First, you need to realize that it’s okay to feel the way you do as long as it’s benign friend envy rather than malicious envy. Wishing you had what your friend has is different from wishing they would lose it.

You also need to stir clear from gossiping about them. Friend envy and gossip are closely linked because envy can lead you to start finding faults in your friend in order to try and feel better about yourself. Talking bad about them won’t solve the problem and it may cost you their friendship.

Ultimately, the best way of dealing with friend envy is by tackling the root of the problem. Remember, you’re essentially just evaluating yourself. So whether you’re jealous of your friend’s awesome job or their relationship with their significant other, it all comes down to you being discontent with something in your life. The good news? You can always try to change things for yourself.

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