6 Ways Envy Is Keeping You Poor


There are seven deadly sins. Envy is perhaps the most soul crushing. Unlike greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, lust, and even wrath, envy can be debilitating. It can take over your every thought, and turn a once happy person into someone obsessed with another's possessions, qualities, or day-to-day life. Not only that, but there are financial implications, too. Here are six ways that the demoralizing sin of envy can keep you poor. (See also: 6 Ways Sloth Is Keeping You Poor)

1. Envy Gives You a Bad Attitude

Think of all the successful people that you know. From friends and colleagues, to famous entrepreneurs and stars, they all have one thing in common — they have a positive attitude. Sure, they may have their off days, but generally speaking, they're proactive, energized, and ready to get things done. They see the possibilities in life, and can turn the smallest opportunities into big successes.

Envy is not a positive emotion. Far from it. Envy can bog you down with crippling negativity. It can turn someone who was once a go-getter into someone who constantly complains and looks on the down side. That person will compare their life to people who have more. "Why can't I have that, I deserve it, it's not fair!" That will never result in a better life, a better job, or a brighter future.

By dumping the envy, and ignoring what other people have, you can instead focus on what you really want. Set goals, and stay positive. It will work wonders.

2. Envy Pushes You to "Keep Up With the Joneses"

Maybe the Joneses' are your neighbors. Maybe "they" are actually just one person, perhaps a colleague at work, or a member of the family. Whoever it is, keeping up with their lifestyle can become a journey into debt and misery.

For many, trying to have what someone else has, or go one better, puts a serious financial burden on them. They often don't have the financial resources that the other person has, so they will take out loans, max out credit cards, and even take on extra work just to keep up. But, it's never enough. In this situation, happiness does not come from anything being purchased, because it is all done for spite. In many cases, the items bring the envious party absolutely no joy; they are simply trying to one-up the object of their jealousy. Remember, you also have absolutely no idea how happy that person is. It may all be a façade.

It's never a good idea to judge your own worth by that of your friend or neighbor.

3. Envy Can Hamper Your Career

"Jane just got another promotion. That's four in three years… where's mine!?" If you've worked in any kind of corporate environment, or even in a job that regularly promotes its employees, you'll know that kind of statement all too well. It's envy, coupled with rage. It may seem unfair that someone is constantly getting promoted, but there is no way of knowing what is going on behind the scenes. Maybe Jane is working herself to death, and not enjoying the regular pay raises. Or, maybe Jane has made the company a substantial amount of money in that time. Even if those promotions are due to favorability by management, the end result is the same.

Envy can grip you, and prevent you from being a good employee. The focus is on what other people have, and what they are doing. The work suffers. In turn, the chances of being promoted yourself get slimmer and slimmer, until you may well be let go. Looking with envy at your coworkers is never going to end well.

Set your own goals, and work smart. If you do a good job, and do it with a great attitude, you will be rewarded. And while you wait, you'll be a lot happier than someone who is crippled with envy.

4. Envy Can Lead to Substance Abuse

Sadly, some people deal with the horrible feelings of envy and jealousy by hitting the bottle, or taking other drugs. I've seen it. No doubt you have, too. After a day of feeling like nothing is going their way, the envious person will come home and pour a double scotch. Drinking doesn't clarify the situation, or open anyone up to a self-realization. Instead, it can actually compound those feelings, which in turn can only be dealt with by using more and more.

Some people eat to deal with these feelings. Others will find themselves smoking like a chimney, or shopping daily to bring about small, but fleeting, moments of joy. However, the envy never goes away. It may be temporarily dulled, but it comes back with a vengeance. And before you know it, friends and family are gone, there's no income, and the debt has piled up.

5. Envy Makes You Doubt Yourself

"Why don't I have that car? Why aren't I living in a bigger house? Why can't I be in the kind of shape they're in?" When you find yourself living with envy on a daily basis, it can begin to erode your self worth, and make you doubt everything you're doing. Your decisions are now questionable, and you can't trust your own judgment. Now, you don't know how to make the right moves at work. You aren't sure how to negotiate. You stop yourself from making bold choices, because you are unsure of the choices you have made up to this point. After all, if you had made great decisions, you'd have that car, that house, and that amazing figure, right?

Well, of course not.

Every situation is different. Some people were born with advantages that others will never have. Some people get lucky. Some people are in the right place at the right time. That does not mean the decisions you made were all wrong. Self-doubt is just as destructive as envy. Sure, it's fine to think things through, but don't give in to that negativity.

6. Envy Brings Less Into Your Life

The laws of attraction say that when we think positive, positive things will happen. When we think of success, we attract success. When we think of wealth, we get wealth. Of course, it doesn't happen overnight, but that attitude buried in our subconscious attracts like for like. Similarly, negative emotions like envy send out signals to the world that you don't have what you want, you will never get what he or she has, and life is unfair. And guess what: The subconscious attracts that.

By constantly envying what others have, and thinking we don't have enough, we will have less. It sounds like junk science, but many psychologists and doctors swear by the power of positive thinking, and conversely, deride negative thinking. It's like Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."

Has envy harmed your finances? How?

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Guest's picture

Your article got me thinking along parallel lines. Contentment is the opposite of envy and a great remedy for it. Marie Kondo's very popular book on decluttering has some insights into envy. The "keeping up with the Joneses" stuff. She starts with, to paraphrase her, "what is your personal ideal scenario?" Then she uses that as the touchstone for decluttering. Keep only those things that bring you joy, not someone else's happiness, not what you should be happy with, but what actually does it for you. That place is a much better base for goal setting and forward thinking than envy ever could be. The saddest line in Citizen Kane is him dying and calling out for "Rosebud" when he had it all along.