Is Envy Getting the Best of You?

Nowadays, people divulge tons of private life details. But, TMI can create covetous feelings that week havoc on self-esteem.

Telling people how much money you make or the number of orgasms you had last night used to be considered inappropriate. But, in today’s confessional society, we’re encouraged to spill—or even brag—about all the good things that happen to us.

Trouble is, this oversharing has given rise to a new level of envy. “Status is much more important than it used to be, and we’re way more competitive,” says Jean Twenge, PhD, author of Generation Me. “People want others to know they’re living well. And, since there’s more pressure than ever to keep up, hearing intimate details of someone’s life can make you feel envious.”

Adding to the problem is our heightened level of brand awareness. When people wear their financial prosperity on their sleeve (sometimes literally), you know how much their wardrobe cost without their telling you. And since no Cosmo girl should ever feel inferior, we’ve asked experts to explain why this new breed of envy is so toxic—and how you can cope.

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Who Works Our Envy Nerve

Not everybody has the ability to conjure up covetous feelings. “It may not bother you that an acquaintance or someone older has something you don’t,” says Linda Centeno, PhD, psychologist from New Jersey. But, when it’s a friend or a person on your level, it can be harder to take, because you feel you deserve the same things. Karen, 25, can relate. “My boss has lots of designer purses, and it doesn’t bug me because she’s reached a place where she should have them,” she says. “But, when my friend got a raise and bought a Louis Vuitton bag, I was jealous because I can’t afford one.”

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More often than not, envy stems from insecurity. And everyone has an Achilles’ heel—whether it relates to the size of their bank account or the size of their butt. So, when another chick offers up that she was willed a million pesos from her lola or that she dropped two pants sizes, it can magnify feelings of intense inadequacy. “Women tend to compare themselves to others,” says Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD, author of The Self-Esteem Trap. “And, how they stack up can affect their self-esteem.”

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How to Deal in the Moment

Rather than sitting around listening to a friend go on and on about her huge mid-year bonus or the designer shoes she just scored on sale, reroute the conversation in a non-aggressive way. “If someone’s bragging, change the subject to something neutral that will grab her interest,” suggests communication coach Peggy Klaus, author of Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. For example, when your friend starts yapping about her trip to Paris, say something like, “You’ll never believe who hooked up last weekend!”

If she doesn’t take the hint, try a more direct approach. “Tell her the topic makes you uncomfortable,” says Klaus. Most people will respect your boundaries and shut it.

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Let Those Icky Feelings Motivate You

No matter how adept you become at defusing envy-inducing situations, you’re still bound to get green-eyed once in a while. “The trick is to allow envy to motivate you to improve your life,” says Darlene Mininni, PhD, author of The Emotional Toolkit.

Sick of listening to your friend gush about her amazing guy? Make a pact with yourself to go on a date every week until you meet someone you like.

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Practice What You Preach

Finally, since you know jealousy is a lousy feeling, don’t subject others to it. “You can share private details with close friends, but tell people things based on their own situations,” says Klaus. For example, text your happily coupled-up best friend that your man dropped the L bomb. Dying to tell someone about your recent promotion? Call and dish to your über-successful cousin. When someone feels secure about the subject matter, they won’t feel envious

Also, try using a humble tone and complimenting the person you’re talking to. When telling a friend about a pricey new dress, mentioning that it will look great on her when she borrows it will leave her feeling good about herself...and happy for you.

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