Money Envy Is Real — How To Deal With That Awkward Feeling
My friends have more money than I do. I try not to be jealous, but sometimes I can't help it—how do I address money envy?
"These are hard, complex, uncomfortable feelings," says financial therapist Bari Tessler. "So just acknowledging that, naming it, and letting yourself know that this is a normal feeling and you're not the only one who might feel this way—that's where you can start."
And while it's important to name it in the moment, on a micro level, Tessler says you should also try to understand the bigger picture. "We all hit different markers and different points in our life. Maybe some people hit those financial markers earlier in life, and others come to them later," she says. "We are all going to hit these markers in our lives—whether its money, job success, family milestones, or personal growth—at different points along the way. We all have different pacing and rhythms." So maybe you don't have the financial success of others at this moment; that doesn't mean you never will or that you aren't working on other important things in your life. You are on your own journey.
Of course, this doesn't necessarily address the reality of the situation that you're in right now: Putting your emotions in context is helpful long term but maybe less so in the moment. "Yes, the reality of it is that sometimes you can't do things your friends are doing—you can't go out to dinner or take the trip," says Tessler. "And sometimes that can make you feel shameful around the envy."
So what are you supposed to do?
Talk about it. "Have some beginning conversations with a friend, or just speak up when you need to," she says. "There's no right way to do this. We may stumble and feel uncomfortable. You can even address the awkwardness up front: Say, 'This is uncomfortable for me, but I can't go out to dinner as much. That makes me sad, and I wish I could. But I can't right now, and that's just the reality.'" Talking about it helps lessen the simmering shame and tension. "The important thing is that it isn't building inside of you, so you don't start thinking this is bigger than it is."
Or if you don't want to do a full-blown conversation, just make sure you are standing up for yourself in the right moments: "I had to fly out to New York City for a friend's bridal shower. My friend came from a wealthy family and had a good job. We were all going to a spa, and at the time, it was huge for me to pay to go out there. And then we were expected to chip in for the friend. But I spoke up, and said, 'No I can't pay for hers as well.' I said, gently, 'It's a big deal for me to come out here and take off work, so I can't contribute to this at this time.'"
Of course, you never know how you are going to be received—maybe your friend will get defensive or standoffish. Money is a touchy subject and there are no guidelines, really, on how to react to a conversation. "But hopefully if the relationship is strong and has staying power, the other person will hear you and understand," she says.
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