I hate that my friends always get help from their parents and are born into money. I want to stop comparing. How can I do this?

I am an avid reader of your column and I have achieved a role model in me of which I am less than proud. I’m in my early 30s and my partner is in my late 20s. We are doing well, we are traveling, we are not struggling. I own a beautiful house in a town a few hours away that I am renting out because I recently moved to town.

We are renting in the city now to save money. We have a roommate, and I feel like some friends are judging us for that. Our friends are successful and all around our age. They build extravagant homes, earn what I believe is more money than us, and I can’t help but be green with envy and always compare what they have to what we don’t.

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I hate that my friends always get help from their parents and are born into money. They have no student loan debt, a friend is a lawyer, and her parents paid for this degree. A couple were paid for the land of their house by their family. I have had to work hard for everything I have in life, as well as my partner, and it’s just hard to see them move forward when we feel like we’re stagnating.

I want to be happy for them and stop comparing. How can I do this?

Feel green

Dear Green,

Your feelings about your friends are as real as your feeling that they are judging you because you have a roommate. They are as real as you think they are. As you reflect on your own relatively modest situation, I’d bet your tenant is the last thing they think about.

We all belong to infinitely small social groups: our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, school friends and / or alumni. Taking a step back on your life and finances is sometimes a more difficult task than it seems. Are we looking beyond our neighborhood, social group, country or need to fly to the moon? Better to look inside than beyond the garden gate.

The green-eyed monster probably resides somewhere in your past. Intellectually you know it has nothing to do with how you think of your friends: you clearly wish them well. It also has nothing to do with how they or they feel about you: They probably admire you for reasons you never considered. It has everything to do with how you feel.

Taking a step back in your life is sometimes a more difficult task than it seems. Are we looking beyond our neighborhood, social group, country or need to fly to the moon?

Each of these groups can make us feel “high status” or “lower status”. It’s an exercise I learned when I was a kid in drama school. We were each in turn the arrogant trader and the nervous customer. But this scenario also plays out in real life. Here’s the weird part: we can read about Hollywood actors or people who valiantly survived a terrible calamity and feel oddly numb.

Movie stars might have a $ 20 million house in Beverly Hills, but they’re a constellation of Greek gods, right? We are simply orbiting their firmament. Why on earth would we have or they or they feel wanton? Of course, they don’t have any real problems. What about people who earn less in a month than some Americans in an hour? They’re a world away from our experiences, aren’t they?

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The more we have, the more we have the impression of not having enough. And we’re all chasing something. That’s why they call it a mad rush. Rats aren’t the most delicate of creatures, but they know how to run. “Our sense of an appropriate limit to anything – for example, to wealth and esteem – is never decided independently,” writes philosopher Alain de Botton in his book “Status anxiety.

This treatise cuts, dices and vacuum-packs the age-old disease of consumerism and how we all compare to others. “She decides by comparing our condition to that of a reference group, to that of people we consider our equals. We cannot appreciate what we have in isolation, or judge in relation to the lives of our medieval ancestors, ”adds Botton.

This status awareness begins when our siblings are given a bigger dollop of ice cream or the biggest dinner plate, and ends with us complaining about our neighbor’s house annex.

“If we have a nice home and a comfortable job, but learn through misguided attendance at a school reunion that some of our old friends (there is no stronger reference group) are now living in more homes. larger than ours, bought on the product of more attractive occupations, we are likely to return home with a strong sense of unhappiness, ”he writes.

“It is the feeling that we could be something other than who we are – a feeling conveyed by the superior accomplishments of those we see as our equals – that generates anxiety and resentment,” he adds. . “If we are small and live among people who are all their size, we will not be unduly troubled by size matters. “

What do I need to do to size myself correctly? When I lived in London in my twenties, I visited the National Portrait Gallery when I was in the doldrums. I looked at people who lived hundreds of years ago: peasants, royalty, aristocrats or, perhaps, the portrait of a young man sitting wistfully in a window, gazing only at the day. It always puts my own trials and tribulations in perspective.

I felt grateful to have hobbies that a textile worker during the industrial revolution could only dream of. Time is our most precious possession. It is a rude awakening and a useful reminder that this “comparison and despair” does not always change as our situation improves.

This status awareness begins when our siblings are given a bigger dollop of ice cream or the biggest dinner plate, and ends with us complaining about our neighbor’s house annex. Call one of your rich friends and ask them how they are doing. And then call another friend who has a lot less than you. You might be surprised to find that they have a lot in common.

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You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to the coronavirus at [email protected]. You want to know more ?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of its columns here

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