by Alina Dizik
Living within your means instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses will ultimately make you happier.
As thrilled as you are that your inner circle consists of successful, happy women, it’s normal to question whether you’re as successful and happy as they are. “Women instinctively compare themselves to their friends,” explains Irene Levine, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.“When a friend has more of something or does something better—whether it’s looks, a career, a family or money—it’s natural to feel some degree of jealousy.” But competition can cause you to be aggressive toward your pal or avoid her completely. “Being aware of your envy is a good first step because you can devise strategies to overcome the negative consequences of that feeling,” says Dr. Levine. Not sure how to deal with your competitive streak? Try these solutions for beating seven common jealousy triggers.
The problem: Your abode is smaller than your fellow homeowner’s.
The fix: If a more spacious home is your main priority, it’s not impossible to attain, says Jan Yager, a friendship coach and author of When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You. You could move to a larger house in a less expensive neighborhood, she suggests. But most of the time, there’s no compelling reason to feel jealous over a McMansion. “Think of all the negatives associated with a huge house,” she says, such as extra effort to maintain it and expensive utility bills to pay. Also, concentrate on what you do well around the house. Invite your buddy over and show off your gardening skills or cookie-baking prowess.
The problem: You haven’t had kids yet—or the ones you have aren’t as well-behaved.
The fix: Looking at both the good and bad of parenting can calm your insecurities. If you’re childless, take advantage of the upsides. “Plan special evenings with your partner, take mini-vacations or indulge at a spa,” recommends Dr. Levine, who, as a clinical psychologist, often gives women parenting advice. And if you’re comparing your children to others, remember it’s easy for outsiders to see only perfection, she says. Instead, focus on your friendship (and not her family) by doing kid-free activities together.
More Impressive Career
The problem: Your friend has a dream job, while you’re stuck in a work rut.
The fix: Most people have ups and downs in their careers. Keep in mind that your friend’s success may be temporary and that you may not have an accurate picture of her job: A high salary can mean plenty of late nights, and a great title can mean lots of stressful responsibilities. Even if her work is low on downsides, you’ll be happier if you take control of your own career. If you’ve been excelling, it may be time to approach your boss for a raise. If you just want out, work with a career coach to find a position you’ll enjoy. You can also seek your successful friend’s advice, suggests Dr. Levine. “Use this person as a mentor to figure out how to take your career to the next level,” she says. Be specific in your request: Ask your pal for her best interviewing tips, feedback on your resume or help with workplace dilemmas.
Better Fashion Sense
The problem: Your friend is always impeccably dressed, but your wardrobe doesn’t measure up.
The fix: It’s tempting to go out and buy the contents of her closet. But Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships, advises against it. “Getting the same purse or shoes as a pal might not be as satisfying as finding one in your own distinctive style,” she says. Even if you can’t afford high-end duds, purchasing fashionable, budget-friendly items can help you feel like you’re not missing out. Chances are you already have great classics stashed away that can be paired with new accessories to elevate your look.
The problem: Your friend’s thinner frame makes you more aware of your less-than-perfect body.
The fix: It’s natural to compare your shape to your friends’ and even celebrities’, but there’s no such thing as healthy competition when it comes to weight. “It’s best to separate from your friend here—concentrate on your body type,” advises Barash. Decide what you love about your figure, so you dress to emphasize those features, and areas you’d like to slim down or tone, so you can create a plan to achieve those goals. Start a workout regime by joining a gym or group fitness classes, which can “lessen the jealousy and boost your personal power,” says Barash.
Less Ample Finances
The problem: You’re living on a budget, while your friends seem to be swimming in cash.
The fix: “This may be one of the toughest challenges to overcome,” points out Dr. Levine. “With discrepancies in incomes, there are often discrepancies in lifestyles.” Rather than face what you can’t afford, plan group activities that won’t break the bank, like running errands together or meeting in the park for a chat. Living within your means instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses will ultimately make you happier. To further quell jealousy, tell friends that you’d like to avoid discussing certain topics, like salaries and expenses. They’ll likely follow your lead. “If they’re bragging with no regard for your feelings, ask yourself whether they’re good friends,” adds Dr. Levine.
More Loving Husband
The problem: Your partner pales in comparison to a pal’s thoughtful spouse.
The fix: Use what you see in your friend’s fulfilling marriage as a jumping-off point for improving your own. “If that husband seems more affectionate than yours, figure out what he’s doing that your husband could do more often,” says Yager. Does he dole out more compliments or shower your friend with physical attention? “Let your spouse know that you would welcome those behaviors in him—without showing you’re jealous of your friend’s relationship,” she suggests. “And remind yourself that you have no idea what your pal’s partner is really like behind closed doors,” she adds.
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