I have a relative who does nothing but whine about how she doesn’t have certain things, how she never gets to travel, she doesn’t have any money, and she’ll never own a nice car. Well, while I tend to think that most of her whining is over pretty superficial stuff (she does have a loving husband, good kids, and a decent house, which is way more than many people have), it bugs her to no end that there are others out there with more. She has a serious case of envy.
Instead of doing anything about it, though, she chooses to whine. Whining has yet to get her anything that she wants. Whining hasn’t gotten her a new car, designer clothes, or a fat bank account. I think it only makes her more miserable, but there’s no telling her that. One day, frustrated by hearing her whine yet again, I suggested that she had two choices. One, she could learn to be grateful for the good things she already had. That scored me a look like I’d grown another head. Gratitude isn’t sufficient for this woman. She has to have more. Two, she could stop whining about everything and actually put in a little effort.
With few exceptions, most of the people we envy didn’t just get their jobs or possessions without effort. (Sure, there are some trust fund babies, lottery winners, and inheritors who get nice things through circumstance, but they are rare.) They worked hard, managed their money wisely, saved for the things they wanted, went to school, and put in the time needed to reach a certain level of earnings. (Okay, there are some people who just financed it all on credit cards, but you don’t want to become them, so you should pity them instead of envying them.) In other words, they worked their butts off. Instead of sitting around whining about what they didn’t have, they went out and figured out how to get it.
Granted, this is often easier said than done. It’s not always easy or practical to increase your income. It’s not easy to give up the things that matter less so that you have money for those that matter more. And it’s never easy to go back to school, relocate to a lower cost of living area to free up money, or otherwise improve your prospects. But if you have a serious case of envy, working to improve your situation is really your only choice.
It’s certainly more productive than whining and wishing for better things. Whining never changes your situation, but working to change it just might. And if you don’t quite reach what you’re hoping for? I doubt that the effort was wasted. You might have learned a new skill, made some more money, or figured out that you already had a lot to be thankful for. If you don’t quite achieve the riches that you envy, you may still find that you’re better off than you were before.
The world is full of stories about people who became wildly successful because they wanted something (status, power, money, a career, possessions, etc.) that someone else had. They used that envy as a motivational tool and it drove them to achieve success. They didn’t sit around whining. Use your envy positively and it can help you get where you want to be. Let it eat you up inside and you become like my relative: A whiny bird that no one wants to be around. It’s your choice.
(Photo courtesy of davef3138)