“I’m So Jealous Of How Lucky My Friend Is”

I’m 28 years old, and after I graduated from college, my first job experience didn’t work out as well as I wanted it to and I got depressed. My older sister encouraged me to become a certified teacher, so I did, and I’ve now been teaching for five years and am even more miserable than I was before. I’m underpaid and I can’t enjoy anything in life without worrying about money. Whenever I try to find better opportunities, it feels like all doors are closed. I’ll be 30 in two years, but I can’t afford to move out of my parents’ home even though my environment is very toxic. I keep trying to do things in order to better my situation, but nothing works. I’m not even lucky when it comes to relationships.

I keep comparing myself to my friend, “Julia,” and feeling jealous of how lucky she is. She didn’t get a college degree but she still landed an amazing job, she gets paid triple my salary, and even though she has had tons of one-night-stands and was never serious about being in a relationship, she keeps attracting men who want to marry her and every man at her job or outside that she meets gets obsessed with her even though she doesn’t dress well or take care of herself in general. When I see how hard I try and nothing seems to work out, I can’t help but feel devastated. I’m worrying a lot about the future, and I’m scared it’ll get even worse. How can I deal with this? Am I doing something wrong? — Jealous of Julia

Your two paragraphs above are about two different things and, though it may feel like it, they aren’t really related. Julia’s success or luck or what you perceive to be those things isn’t related to your perceived lack of luck or success. Whether Julia does well in life and love has no real bearing on how well YOU do. Her success isn’t even related to your mental health. This is good news, because for as little as you think you have control of, your thoughts and feelings about Julia ARE things you have some control over, and cultivating positive thoughts and feelings will foster positive mental health, just as cultivating negative thoughts has the opposite result.

I can tell that you’ve been cultivating negative thoughts because your letter above is full of negative statements and almost nothing positive. You are miserable, your first job didn’t work out, your teaching job has left you underpaid and constantly worried about money, all doors are closed to new opportunities, you can’t move out of your parents’ home which is toxic, nothing works to better your situation, and you aren’t even lucky in love. Even Julia’s life is a negative to/for you as you frame anything positive as unfair, like she doesn’t deserve the good things that have come her way. It’s all just “luck” that maybe she isn’t even entitled to because she doesn’t have a college degree and she’s had “tons of one-night-stands.” You are just dripping in judgment and negativity; no wonder you feel you’re in a toxic environment. It is one of your own making, because your thoughts are attracting the negativity.

So, what to do about this? Start cultivating positivity to attract more of it into your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things every day that you’re grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to misery. Get fresh air and exercise, foster hobbies, make new friends (and make sure you show up for the ones you have to strengthen those bonds), and try to do something every day or every week that helps better someone else’s day. Basically, change the way you approach what you call “opportunities.” Instead of thinking of opportunities as a pathway to more success, think of opportunities as path ways to deeper connections with others and more joy and personal reward for yourself. This small change in the way you think has immense potential to change your life.

One more thought you can change? Instead of thinking that Julia doesn’t deserve her success and you are jealous of her luck, think to yourself “I am happy for Julia’s success and open myself to finding my own path to success. I am just as deserving of love and financial rewards.” Practice this as a daily affirmation that you say out loud to yourself each morning. Maybe it feels weird, but what do you have to lose? You’ve tried things the other way – being endlessly negative – and that hasn’t worked out well for you. Give positivity a chance for a bit, even if you have to fake it. As the saying goes: “Fake it til you make it.”


  1. I can relate to feeling like you’re falling behind your peers or not hitting milestones when you’re “supposed” to, LW. I know I felt that way in my mid-20s. For me, that was when I started noticing that everyone’s timelines and trajectories were starting to look different. Friends were killing it at work, getting married, or moving to cool cities. Some were doing all three! Meanwhile, I’d had to move back in with my parents, had an underwhelming first “real” job in an area hit very hard by a down economy, had a degree I didn’t want to use in a traditional way, and was cheated on by two different boyfriends. I had emotional ups and downs in those years, but whenever I fell into the comparison trap, I’d feel so down on myself!

    With hindsight, here’s what I now know:
    – Everyone has their own path in life. You’re not behind any more than your friend is ahead. There is no goal or finish line. You’re two different people on your own separate paths. Her success has nothing to do with your perceived lack thereof. Thirty is just a number!
    – Everyone has their struggles, even the friend or acquaintance who seems to have everything you want. Maybe Julia feels inadequate for not being college educated. I’d bet money that her amazing job has its flaws.

    If social media is even a contributing factor to how you feel, take a break or delete your accounts altogether. I left FB a couple years ago and don’t miss it.

    Regarding career, you don’t mention what your first career was or the setback that led to you entirely changing paths, but I know several teachers who left the classroom and now work in a variety of related capacities (e.g., educational consulting, curriculum development, program support for a school district, etc.). What interests you? Have you researched alternative career paths? Tried to grow your network to include folks with similar backgrounds who have made moves you can see yourself making? Is graduate school an option or on your radar?

    Lastly, I’d recommend speaking with a therapist to improve your mindset and develop coping skills. Especially in this age of social media, there will always be someone to compare yourself to.

    1. golfer.gal says:

      In your 20s, everything feels very linear. You graduate college, get a job and then another (better) job, move in with a significant other, get engaged then married, etc. It’s very easy to feel behind. The good news is, all of this is going to get absolutely thrown into the air in your 30s, 40s, and beyond.

      I’m in my mid/later 30s. A lot of those beautiful weddings and engagements? Divorces! Then second weddings for some. High ranking folks have quit to stay home with kids or were hit hard by tech layoffs. “Late blooming” people have sold an app for millions or started their own successful business. People who lead charmed lives were hit with infertility or are enduring serious illness. You’ve been given some great advice on getting to a healthier place and perspective, please take it. Comparing yourself to someone else will always be a losing game, and there are definitely things you can be doing to improve your own situation.

    2. Wendy’s response is spot on about the negativity. I find that negative energy attracts negative outcomes. You have to change your mindset or nothing will get better. Therapy could absolutely help you break out of this cycle.

      I also really like Copa’s words of wisdom. She’s absolutely right about one’s life path. It’s different for everyone. It’s so easy to feel less than, but everyone struggles with something.

      I try really hard not to compare my life to others. For instance, our condo isn’t really decorated. Like, there is no art anywhere. Or really much of anything on surfaces/walls. I’m particular and have a hard time finding things I want to invest in. I’m sometimes embarrassed about how bare my places looks, but I still have people over! Nobody has ever said anything about our lack of a “home.” Decorating just isn’t my thing and I’d rather go on vacation that pay someone to do it. Priorities!

      What you need to prioritize in the short time is your mindset. It’ll help!

      1. I know better than to compare myself to others — and tbh in my mid-30s I actually now have all the things I wanted in my mid-20s that seemed impossibly far away — but still do it sometimes! Because someone will always have “more” or “better.” Like for me, lately that’s been the realization that more and more friends have director titles at work, but I don’t.

        But I’m self aware enough at this stage of life that it’s not an *issue* for me. I can recognize it when it happens, I don’t spiral or feel resentment toward friends. I see a therapist about once a month, if there’s something that nags at me, I have that space to talk about what the feeling is actually about.

  2. I suspect you are ‘unlucky in love’ because your negativity is apparent to those you date and drives them away.

  3. Does your job offer a possibility of exchange to some other school in an other state or country? Or can start a new training or a graduate school? I think that you need a change of location and perspectives. You are stuck, bored and in a kind of a trap. I have known that feeling, when your past heartbreaks obsess you. I moved for a year to an other continent through an exchange program and it helped me immensely, it changed my life. I returned to my city in a new set of mind, with a new relationship. Sometimes you need to part from your place, your home, your toxic environment, when you feel stuck in order to put your life in perspective. Don’t stay at your parents, don’t stay in a job that won’t allow you to rent a flat. Try something new. It won’t be easy at once, but it will open new horizons for you.

  4. By the way, the friend thing is just a red herring. It is a way for you to avoid any change in your life. You focus on someone else instead of addressing your own situation.

  5. Anonymousse says:

    I recently learned of the term, tragic optimism- coined by Victor Frankl, a Hungarian psychiatrist who survived the holocaust.
    He wrote a book called, “Man’s Search for Meaning” after his experience.

    I’m not trying to say I’m bouncing around like Richard Simmons and changing toxic positivity quotes, but I read this and just felt akin to it. The world is often hard and a shitty place. I am blessed in many ways but have also gone through a lot. The negativity is the biggest turn off, in work, life, relationships. I’m a proponent of meds and therapy. Find your self and get out of this comparison space.

  6. Oof, I empathize with you LW because this was me at age 24. I too was an underpaid, unlucky in love teacher and was so envious of multiple people for what I perceived as a glamorous life and the envy was rotting my heart. Now I’m in my 30s and am in peace and have a family and have built a life I am happy about and very proud of. I think the most powerful things I did to improve my situation was digging into therapy (it takes a few tries to find a good therapist!) and volunteering because a wise person once told me that the best way to build self-esteem is by doing estimable things (aka helping others). Making my bed every day helped too and I’m glad I didn’t laugh off that advice. Going to the gym helps a ton too – it made me feel proud for doing something good for my body plus endorphins are scientifically good! Also please look for another job – job hunting is tricky and I got pigeonholed as a teacher but I did eventually find a better gig where I was serving an important mission but also got better work-life balance and pay. Oh and unfollow/mute anyone that even makes you feel slightly bad about yourself. Or just delete social media in general if you have it. Sure you might feel a bit silly for being bitter about someone’s engagement or vacation in the Maldives but what you feel is what you feel so it needs to be addressed. I promise you, you’ll be able to build a better life, you got this!

  7. Anonymous says:

    The person above me said to delete social media in general and I have to say that was one of the best things I ever did for myself. Whenever I saw people live the life that I wanted, I always felt unhappy with what I had even though I know others curate what they post online so their lives always look perfect and happy. I couldn’t separate the two in my head so I decided to just delete my social media. To be honest, I don’t care what someone I haven’t talked to since high school is up too. Everyone that I care to keep in touch with I do through text messages and calls. I also don’t feel the need to broadcast my own life. It only matters to me that the people I care about know what I am up to and how I’m doing. It might feel weird at first but I really think deleting my instagram saved my mental health. I am much happier without it. It makes me appreciate what I have rather than constantly comparing myself to what I don’t have.

  8. Probably too late for the LW to read this, but she should get screened for depression. This level of negativity probably means you need some help to get past it. Then follow this with regular therapy. The “toxic” environment at home statement makes me wonder if your FOO is seriously dysfunctional. Unraveling THAT and what that has done to your mindset and your ability to empower yourself, will probably do wonders for your career and dating life.

    Once your head is no longer in the blender, you will probably find it easier to move towards a more prosperous path.

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