Dealing with garden envy and social pressure: How to stop feeling jealousy

Dealing with garden envy and social pressure

In the tranquil and sometimes even rivalrous surroundings of suburbia, a tale as old as time unfolds – the story of garden envy. Picture this: you stroll out onto your lovingly landscaped lawn only to glance over the fence to see your neighbor’s garden bursting with life, color, and finesse. Suddenly, your once-beloved flower beds seem lackluster, and your vegetable patch a tad underwhelming. 

Garden envy is a pang of desire mixed with frustration that stems from the perception that your own garden does not measure up to those around you. The lushness of a neighbor’s tomatoes, the vibrancy of their asters, the uniformity of their lawn, it all can leave you feeling green, not with the foliage envy but with a tint of jealousy that rivals your lawn’s verdant heath on a clear summer’s day. 

How can one cope with this green-eyed monster or Dealing with garden envy and social pressure that so often creeps into the garden of our lives, tainting our enjoyment of one of life’s purest pleasures – nurturing a slice of the earth to express our own natural creativity?

Understanding the Roots of Garden Envy

Before we wield our trowels against garden envy, it helps to understand where it springs from. Garden envy can be fueled by several factors:

  • Competitiveness: Humans are naturally competitive creatures. Seeing someone else excel in an area, especially one that you hold dear, can trigger feelings of inadequacy.
  • Social Proof: The concept that if “everybody” is doing or has something, it must be desirable. The neighbor’s impressive garden serves as tangible proof of what could be.
  • Self-Worth: In some cases, gardens can become an extension of our personal values. When our neighbor’s garden looks better than ours, it feels like a challenge to our own worth.
  • Control and Order: Gardens are often places where we strive for control and order in a natural environment. The sight of a neighbor’s more organized or blooming garden can give a perception of not having these same affirmations.

The Comparative Gardening Effect

There is a unique aspect of gardening that invites comparison. Unlike baking, painting, or playing an instrument, our gardens are on display in a way that invites public scrutiny (or, in our case, neighborly scrutiny). With the rise of social media, the “comparative gardening” effect is amplified. We see not only our neighbor’s gardens in passing but picturesque representations on our screens, creating a digital Garden of Eden to which our own plot may feel woefully unseated. (Learn more)

Cultivating Your Well-Being Garden

Dealing With Garden Envy And Social Pressure
Dealing With Garden Envy And Social Pressure

If you’re finding your enjoyment of gardening curtailed by neighborly comparisons, it’s time to cultivate a different kind of garden – your well-being garden. Here’s how to tend to it:

Focus on Personal Joy by Dealing with garden envy and social pressure

When the only reason you’re growing roses is to keep up with the Joneses, maybe it’s time to rethink your gardening motives. Focus on what brings you joy and a sense of achievement, irrespective of what’s happening over the fence.

Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection

Gardens, like life, are journeys, not race tracks. Celebrate the incremental successes – that bloom where you didn’t expect it, the simple survival of a fragile fern through a harsh winter.

Create a Connection with Your Garden

Talk to your plants, get to know their needs and idiosyncrasies. Form a bond with your garden that’s personal and unique. The stronger the bond, the less influence outside comparisons will have.

The Zen of Gardening

Dealing With Garden Envy And Social Pressure
Dealing With Garden Envy And Social Pressure

Gardening has an intrinsic ability to anchor you in the present moment. Engrossing yourself in the art of nurture, of watching life unfold, can be a powerful antidote to garden envy.

Take Mindful Strolls

Rather than quickly glancing over the fence, take slow, mindful walks around your garden. Observe the life within it, the harmony, and the ebb and flow of nature. 

Use Gardening for Meditation

Gardening can be a form of meditation – a mindfulness exercise where you lose yourself in the earth, the plants, and the work of improving the small piece of the world under your stewardship.

Appreciate the Diversity of Gardens

Just as we appreciate the uniqueness of individuals, so should we view gardens. Each is an expression of its owner, and their diversity enriches the landscape, much like the colors of a wildflower meadow.

Overcoming Garden Envy

Garden envy, like most forms of envy, is a perceptual issue rather than a practical one. It’s not that your garden is lacking; it’s that, in your mind, your neighbor’s garden seems to be so much richer. By shifting perspective, you can surface from under the shadow of garden envy.

Relinquish the Need for Approval

Your garden doesn’t need the approval of your neighbors or your Instagram followers. It’s a little slice of nature that answers to no one except you and the forces of the earth.

Support, Not Competition

Why not lemongrass over the fence instead of lemons? Cultivate a spirit of shared gardening rather than one of competition. Perhaps your neighbor could offer tips or cuttings for a plant or two, exemplifying the best aspect of community – helping each other grow.

Turn Envy into Inspiration

Use your neighbor’s garden as a source of inspiration rather than competition. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from their garden that I can use in mine?” A more organized layout, a different plant species, a new technique – all can be gleaned from the gardens that catch your eye.

Growing a Neighborly Community

Dealing With Garden Envy And Social Pressure
Dealing With Garden Envy And Social Pressure

One of the most effective means to combat garden envy is to turn it into something positive – an opportunity to grow community.

Organize Garden Tours

Create a local garden tour where neighbors can share the beauty of their own plots, big or small. Sharing the joy of gardening can dissolve any comparison or envy and replace it with mutual respect and admiration.

Share Resources and Excess Produce

Starting a neighborhood swap for seeds, plants, and produce can not only improve the variety and health of everyone’s gardens but can also foster a sense of community and collaboration over competition.

Mentor One Another

If you’re an experienced gardener, why not offer your knowledge as a mentor to someone just starting out? If you’re a novice, see if someone can guide you. The seeds of new friendships can be as valuable as the ones you sow in your garden.

The Ultimate Gardener’s Self-Reflection

Is your garden a reflection of your neighbor’s, or is it a reflection of you? Each garden has a personality, a character, and, most importantly, a caretaker. The process of growing a garden isn’t just about the results; it’s about what the process teaches you about patience, beauty, life, and yourself.

Realize That Gardens Grow People, Too

Gardening is about far more than just growing plants. It grows your patience, your creativity, your resilience, and yes, even your ability to fend off garden envy.

Allow Your Garden to Tell a Story 

Your garden tells a story, one of seasons, growth, and your unique vision. It speaks of your life’s rhythm and the life you bring to it. That story, unlike any other, is uniquely yours.

Gardening as Therapy

Gardening can be therapeutic – a way to work through feelings of inadequacy or jealousy by focusing on creating something beautiful with your own hands and love.

Blossoming Beyond the Garden Fence

The ultimate lesson of garden envy is that it is not really about the garden. It is about our own sense of self-worth, the desire for control, and the deep-seated need for validation. But by choosing to cultivate joy, appreciation, and community, we can transform something that starts with the prick of envy into a perennial garden of contentment and growth. 

Remember, the grass may appear greener on the other side of the fence because the other gardener has been watering it. But with care, attention, and a change in perspective, your grass can be just as green – and uniquely yours.