03/11/2011 01:07 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

And Then I'll Be Happy: Don't Let the Green-Eyed Monster Undermine Your Happiness

A woman I knew was fond of saying, "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all! I'm one of the 'have-nots' in life."

She really wasn't a have-not and her luck was actually pretty good. She and her husband were healthy and lived fairly well. They were a two-income family who were able to enjoy many material comforts. Yet she always believed others had much more than she had and was constantly envious. This attitude defined her life and had a negative impact on her family and her work. A colleague said that she "oozed negativity." This woman equated happiness with having what "everyone else" had. The fact was that she was in competition with everyone she knew and everyone she met. No wonder she saw herself as a have-not!

Envy is one of the most common of human feelings. Realistically, we know that most people have times in their lives when they covet what others have. Whether it is a nicer car, a bigger house, a better wardrobe, or just an assumed happier life-style, we envy it and, oh boy, do we want it. It's human nature. What others have sometimes looks better than what we've got; most of the time it isn't, but it sure looks better to us!

Eventually we are able to get over an attack of envy and it has little impact on our daily lives.

Truthfully, there is nothing terribly wrong with having envious feelings every so often. You can't help entertaining the green-eyed monster once in a while. And truthfully, there are times when a little envy can actually work to your advantage. Using that small amount of envy can spur you on to work harder for what you want. If you are envious of someone who may have succeeded in something you want to do -- say, changing careers, relocating to a better area, or furthering your education -- that feeling of envy might just help you to set new goals and make you determined to achieve them. The "monster" then, is little, friendly and helpful.

That same little monster, however, has a tendency to grow to become a big problem when you allow it to take control of your everyday life. It becomes a negative thought process that colors every single thing you do. You're never happy because you feel that you're not getting what you want and deserve.

How you think defines how you feel. If you think you look good, you'll feel attractive. If you're contented with the way you live, you'll feel happier. Like your job? You'll do well at it and your workday will be happier. But thought processes that are consistently negative can adversely interfere with all that. A little bit of envy is not harmful; it only becomes an unhealthy problem when you allow it to become a constant part of your thinking.

How happy can you be when you are always unfavorably comparing what others have to what you have? Being envious of what other people may have in their lives is not only unhealthy, it is downright unproductive. You develop a relationship with the "green-eyed monster" and it can be a destructive, lifelong one if you allow it. It not only affects you, but all other relationships you may have.

Being satisfied with what you have now does not make you complacent and "stuck" with what you have in your current life. Let that little spark of envy work for you not against you. Let it energize, not exhaust you. Look around and make needed or wanted changes to your life.

The danger of courting the green-eyed monster named "envy" coupled with calling yourself a "have-not" can become a self-filling prophecy because eventually what you "have not" is happiness.


To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen and visit her Keys to Happiness blog. E-mail Kristen at

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