Feeling Envious And Irritated Lately? Try This One Thing

feeling envious

Feeling Envious And Irritated Lately? Try This One Thing

It isn’t hard to be envious of friends and neighbors who seem to be weathering life a bit easier than you. And that envy isn’t helping you fend off irritability – in fact, it could be making it worse.

  • Your social media feed seems full  of vacation-taking while you are busy trying to keep your head above water…
  • Your friend’s college student just made the Dean’s list, while your college student is struggling to make it to class and feeling lonely…
  • Your family member keeps talking about their home improvement projects and stock market success, while you’ve had a hard time just opening your mail…
  • Your college friend keeps talking about how great she feels getting in shape and losing weight, while your clothes are too tight and your body aches from all the sitting…

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Feeling envious is something I’m hearing more about these last months. You can get exposed to it, and feel triggered, before you even realize what’s happening.

It is only human to long for something better, something easier, or something like someone else has…this is envy.

Frustration with our life at any level sets us up for longing, as if frustration weren’t hard enough. And longing is no picnic either, noted as a human vice for millennia.

“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.” ― Aeschylus

Surfing real estate or VRBO sites for a bit of fun can feel harmless enough, but when it morphs into longings and wanting far beyond your budget or inconsistent with your goals, the longing isn’t helping anymore. It’s hurting.

Envy can be a fleeting feeling, “gosh I wish we could have gone on a beach vacation this summer” or can run deeper, and trigger existential  concerns, like “why do I have the life I have, why can’t I have theirs.” 

Envy can also spark jealousy, and knowing the difference between envy and jealousy can be important when it comes to sorting things through.

Why am I so irritated all the time?

It doesn’t take much to feel envious these days with so much uncertainty, so much loss, and so many unpleasant and difficult circumstances. We don’t like feeling without, and in our depletion it is all too easy to envy others.

People are frustrated and irritable, and they are sick of being frustrated and irritable. They are tired of everything being so hard. They want things to change for the better. They want an easy fix. They wish things were different and easier.

The trap here is wishing… and longing for a reality that just doesn’t exist.

While this might be a normal fantasy life aimed at soothing today’s disappointments, it can quickly spiral into frustration and hopelessness if it goes too far.

In other places I talk at greater length about the wish trap, but for simplicity’s sake I will say that wishing for an alternate reality is a formidable anxiety accelerant, and of course a trap. There’s no productive outlet for anxiety when what you are battling is accepting reality. All anxiety can do is escalate your conflict and leave you feeling disappointed.

How to stop being envious of your friends

Envy can feel like it is all about the people you are around, what others have and what you don’t. But it is a mistake to think envy is about others. Envy instead is about you, your relationship with yourself, and the conflict you feel about it. Not having what you want, what you expected, or what you believe you should have can lead to frustration and disappointment. 

The most important thing is to recognize your feelings of envy are about yourself, and not your friends. Looking at your feelings through this different lens can help you pull back from feeling negatively about your friends. 

That said, beware of friends who consistently evoke feelings of envy. These may be people especially good at drawing attention to themselves and their accomplishments, who can leave you feeling inadequate and angsty no matter how confident you feel. In addition to risking envy and awareness about your unmet hopes and dreams, people who require so much attention and praise can leave you feeling invisible in their company. The quality of our relationships can make a big difference in our mental health. Relationships with people like this can be risky to your confidence and sense of self and should be engaged with caution. 

Is envy always mean-spirited?

No, envy is seldom mean-spirited, nor is it really about anyone else, as we note above. You could argue that this is mean-spirited if your inner dialogue is unkind or critical. But, the goal is to turn away from sitting in the feelings and move into action. 

Remember, feelings that are catalyzed when someone else has something that you want can turn into envy. Your feelings of envy are merely signals to you about what you care about, and want. 

The trick with this kind of conflict, and the anxiety and envy it can drive, is to recognize what your envy is signaling and what you can do to solve for what you want. Instead of sitting in the feelings, turn them around and ask yourself what they mean to you.

  • Envious a friend is taking a vacation? Ask yourself: what kind of vacation could you be planning?
  • Envious of a friend’s son who is doing so well in school? Ask yourself: what can you do to help your son improve his experience? 
  • Envious a friend is feeling so good about their health and wellness? Ask yourself: what can you do to improve yours? 

Envy is plenty uncomfortable to be sure. But is can also uncover important feelings you have about your life, and deliver renewed focus on what you can do to change things.   

Here’s how to stop feeling envious

When you next catch yourself feeling envious, instead of wishing things were different, try to focus instead on how to make them different.

That is how you take control, and channel the anxiety embedded in your envy to the good.

You might not be able to afford to retire now, but when you can, what do you want it to look like? How much will it cost? What kind of savings plan are you practicing? Do you need some financial planning advice?

Those are the action steps that channel your angst and frustration into choice and solutions.

It’s ok to want, it’s lovely to dream, and it’s human to wish. The trick is to harness those thoughts into the parameters of your reality, and use that motivation to start making it happen.

And most importantly, be gentle on yourself… This is hard, and you are human.


Looking for more help understanding how your feelings can be tools rather than burdens? Check out my Anxiety Myths Navigator and discover the 12 key anxiety myths that are holding you back and how reframing your thinking can change your relationship with your feelings, and your life. Offered at a huge discount for a limited time, claim your spot here

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

Refurbished on June 30, 2023


Alicia H. Clark, PsyD