Asking for a Friend: Help! Everyone around me has money to go to Disneyland or study overseas, but I don’t

  • If you’re feeling jealous because you can’t have the same educational opportunities or fun outings that your classmates can, it might help to discuss your feelings with a friend you trust
  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers, and our team of clinical psychologists gives advice and resources you can turn to
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Not everyone has the money to spend on pricey theme park tickets. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us.

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google form. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend
I’m feeling very down. A lot of my former classmates left my school for international schools, private schools or to study overseas. Nearly all of my classmates have been to Disneyland or Ocean Park recently, posting pictures and buying souvenirs.

But I haven’t. I’m not from a rich family. I don’t need subsidies from the government, but I would never be able to waste a couple hundred dollars just on entertainment.

I feel like everyone around me is wealthy. And I sometimes feel jealous of them because they have endless opportunities to see the world or have fun. Although I’m grateful for what I have, I feel that the gap between the rich and the poor is too huge. It makes me feel discouraged. What should I do to stop thinking about this?
Best, Not The Happiest Place On Earth

Social media makes it especially difficult to keep your mind off what your friends are up to. Photo: Shutterstock

Dear Not The Happiest Place On Earth
These situations are never easy to go through, but it’s great to see that you are thankful for what you have even when you may not be as well-off as your friends. This positive mindset is important, but it is also okay if you can’t be this way all the time.

When someone’s family has more money than yours, it is a pretty normal reaction to feel jealous of what they have.

Whether it’s access to educational opportunities or just being able to have a fun day at a theme park, there is a lot that money can buy in our society. Especially in a city like Hong Kong where wealth inequality is a massive problem, you are not wrong in feeling that this is unfair.

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Despite all this, it is important to focus on the things you can control. You’re still in school, so it’s unlikely that you can wake up tomorrow morning and find a high-paying job that can afford the school fees or fun activities you want.

You could try looking into scholarship opportunities or find a part-time job to fund a couple of outings. But regardless of what you do, it won’t be healthy if you continue feeling jealous of your classmates.

First of all, it might be worth sharing how you have been feeling with a close friend. It might be embarrassing or awkward at first, but strong friendships are built on good communication.

Maybe your friends need to make sure their plans to hang out are inclusive of your financial situation. And it could help you feel less resentful once you’re able to voice your thoughts and be heard.

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Whether or not you feel comfortable discussing this with a friend, it might also be helpful to take a break from seeing your classmates’ pictures on social media.

While Instagram and other platforms can be fun to scroll through, it can also be toxic if all you see on your feed are your friends’ posts about doing things you can’t afford. When you find yourself going down a rabbit hole of feeling left out, keep in mind that most people only post the best parts of their lives, and they usually have their own struggles going on in real life.

If you end up spending less time online, you can focus more on the things you do enjoy and on goals you have for yourself. Instead of envying your friends’ adventures in new schools or at expensive theme parks, spend time on things you care about – whether it’s playing a sport, reading new books or volunteering at a non-profit organisation.

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Especially since the topic of economic inequality seems to be weighing heavily on your mind, working with a charity that helps those in need can be a way to do something about what you’re feeling.

Pursuing your goals builds confidence, which can also help you feel less discouraged and benefit your self-worth.

Just because you may not be able to do things your friends do right now, it doesn’t mean things will stay like that forever. And that works both ways, too. Just because your friends seem to be having all the fun in the world right now, it doesn’t guarantee them smooth sailing in the future.

We hope you can find some joy in sharing your feelings with a friend, focusing on your goals, and developing your self-worth and confidence.

Check out the websites of Youth Can or Shall We Talk for more resources on this topic.
Hope this helps, Friend of a Friend

This was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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