Envy – a most frequent but unhappy emotion

Your friend owns a plane and you don't? How to avoid getting jealous... photo: Woodpecker in Costa Rica. No, not my plane, but cool pic anyway, isn't it ;)

Your friend owns a plane and you don’t? How to avoid getting jealous… photo: Woodpecker in Costa Rica. No, not my plane, but cool pic anyway, isn’t it 😉

Let’s have a look at Envy today, an emotion that is deeply connected to (un)happiness.

And to be honest, an emotion that was haunting Woodpecker much more than he liked in the past. (Today it is slowly getting better though 😉 )

So I decided to put some thoughts in it, some might be of interest for you (and don’t say you are never jealous, I don’t belief it).

Types of Envy

Material envy

Envy on:

Money, Spending, Status symbols, Cloths, Housing, Vacations (cost of), Career.

Obviously, if at all, this is the type of envy that you as a downshifter will feel from time to time seeing others, because these are the things you don’t have to their extend (although based on your own decision).

Quality of life envy

Envy on:

Freedom, Straightforwardness, Independence, sovereignty, Courage to speak open without fear, Unconventionalism, Vacations (duration of), time, time, time, time.

This is the sort of envy that many average happy people will feel when the see you as a downshifter. Because these are the things they don’t have to your extend.

The cloak of envy

Envy often comes in a cloak, typically it is

  • feeling mistreated by the world
  • complaining about “having no luck”
  • complaining about others only achieving something “because they had luck (or the right connections etc.)”
  • feeling that everybody is stupid but unfortunately they don’t listen
  • feeling exploited (I am the only honest hard-working guy, all others are lazy, bludgers, tricksters etc.)
  • and others.

But why should you care at all?

Envy is clearly a negative emotion, an emotion that not only urges you to approach others in a negative and destructive way, but also an emotion that inflicts direct unhappiness. Envy will cloud your senses and your intellect and will lead you to wrong conclusions both on yourself and on the world around you.

Most important:

An envy person can never be truly happy and vice verse.

Enough reason to find out how to get rid of this thing.

Drivers of Envy

The intense of jealousy on others material “better off” being comes in different intensities, dependent on your age, your happiness and on your progress on the downshifting ladder.

Impact of Age

Research clearly shows that envy increases all the time with your age.

The reason is straightforward:

  • As a young person, people who are better of, have a more thrilling live or are more happy are seen as an example, a role model, something you can easily achieve yourself if you want, because, well, you have time, you have all the world full of opportunities laid out in front of you, and you are boosting with self-confidence. This is not a realistic view of the world, but anyway it is a healthy one, and it is an important part of the generally overwhelming optimism young people display.
    And their optimism is good and important for both themselves and for the whole world, so please dream on if you are young, and dream BIG!! And in case you are older, please don’t enforce too much of the “tough reality” on young people! The world needs their fresh thinking!
  • Getting older, things start to look a bit different. You will (have to) pick your path, and whatever path this is, it will bring advantages and it will come with certain disadvantages. You will see, that luck plays a role in life. And you will realize that there are certain things that will be harder or impossible to achieve given the path you are on. Still, there is a chance to change that path, at least in theory.
    At that point you should honestly reflect on your path, over think if you are on the right track and check if you are willing to pay the price in form of the disadvantages of a given path.
    Do this check frequently no matter what!
    Because the danger of the mid-life is that you are so tied up and busy in this rush hour of life that you forget to step back and see the whole picture. A lot of people do this mistake, and one day they wake up with the alarm clock of their body sending them a fierce signal, in form of a depression, a midlife crisis or even a heart attack.
  • Getting more older, things are even more locked in. You made a lot of decisions, your time and energy are getting shorter. When you now see areas of life where others are better of, there might be a nagging feeling deep down within you, that maybe you should have decided differently in the past. At that age many people try to bury this difficult confrontation with their own past errors and will not understand that their envy (or from their perspective: their rightful and reflected criticism) is merely a symptom of their own regrets. Obviously not a good way to happiness but yet very common.
    Be careful, for at the end of this road lies a sad and embittered person.
    The way to avoid this is to accept, to make peace with yourself, peace with your past and with the world. A world that you will be less and less able to change the older you get. So better learn to live with it.

Impact of Happiness

Very clearly, happy people are less envy.
A happy person is self-sufficient, optimistic, self-conscious and lives in the best of all worlds. So why should he/she be jealous?

OK, most of us will not be at that stage yet to feel happy every waking hour.

However, you can use the anti-correlation of happiness and envy to check your current state:

Do you feel envy (or mistreated by life and society) often?
Then currently you are not truly happy.
Check why!

Because the unjustness of the world is not the source of your unhappiness as you might think, but your feelings of envy are a symptom of your unhappiness or of your deep regret.
Good news is that both regret and envy can be overcome, while the world will stubbornly stay as it is no matter how much you complain or try to change it.

Impact of your Downshifting proficiency

At the beginning of your downshifting career, and after a certain short living euphoria when taking the downshifting decision, there will be a phase where you are more prone to material envy than before.

Obviously, you still have your old peer group and suddenly you fall back in material terms. Not because you are inferior or less clever, but because you decided so. Anyway, they still have it: The expensive car, the luxury holiday, the brand-new house etc.

When you are an apprentice in downshifting, it will take time for you to really understand and accept for yourself that after all, less expensive housing, less expensive cars, less expensive eating out, less modern cloths etc. do not have a big influence on your well-being.

At a more advances level, four things happen:

  • You understand that your decision to downshift comes with a price, the price is less consumption.
  • You understand that less consumption is no problem at all, because your material needs adapt over time and will still be more than satisfied.
  • You understand that you are more than compensated by having more time, feeling more free, in other words: You are living more! Your initial envy will turn into pity with those that are dependent on status symbols.
  • Your peer group will slowly change as your contacts to work-drones are likely to suffer whereas your contacts to other downshifters will flourish.

Not yet there or having a fall-back to nagging jealousy?

No problem, here is a method how to quell it:

Just imagine as lively as possible how it would be to really change position with the person you envy.Imagine you get the chance to be him NOW and forever.

What do you say?
In 99% of cases you would reject I guess. Right you are, but no need to envy obviously then.
And the 1%: You either met Dalai Lama or another truly happy person. OK, envy him, learn from him, and understand that these people will do anything to help you find happiness as well (this is the nature of truly happy people).
If it is a normal person you would seriously swap your life with then you are in big trouble and you must really start from scratch to think about your path or even get some professional help to consult you.

How to avoid others being envy on you

Most important thing:

Keep a low profile.

As a downshifter, avoid to boast with your 5 week vacation trip, the sheer amount of time you spend on nice things outside your job, your constant state of non-stress. Remember: You are challenging other’s concepts of life if you are too bossy about your way being the best.

Second thing:

If you tell, then tell the whole story. Tell the price you pay (less consumption, less career, less status symbols). And tell that this path is open to everybody. Therefore the envy of others will change in curiosity, and they might start to see you as a role-model.

Or they will say: Crazy guy, giving up on this precious thing called career and status, how stupid.

Their choice!
Important thing is to stop them getting a negative attitude towards you, because especially at your workplace you don’t want that.
Simply because you are there so rarely that you don’t want backstabbers running around the office while you enjoy your day at the lake or in the garden! 🙂




7 comments on “Envy – a most frequent but unhappy emotion

  1. Munich fellow downshifter says:

    I recently started reading with post#1 and this is my favourite so far. I’ve never realy thought about envy as I’m happy with were I am. And I accept that my station in life is the result of both my choices and chance (things out of my influence). And it is the same for others. And usually their enviable lifestyle has quite obvious cons too. My personal choice against carrear came from the observation that im many years of work I never had a boss that I would trade places. Now I have reduced my hours a bit and might cut further once the hoard is in my target zone. It is liberating to know I don’t even want to advance.

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