Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard somebody say that they are “living vicariously” through you or another person?

Have you wondered what exactly this phrase means in English?

Have you ever had the desire to do something that somebody else was doing?

We’re going to talk about what it means to live vicariously through somebody, and how that can be both good and bad at times.

Let’s take a look at this common phrase and what it means to you in your conversations and your connections.

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Understanding This Common Phrase

The phrase “I am living vicariously through you” is a popular and common one that you will hear used often in American English.

This basically means that you are enjoying somebody else’s adventures and imagining them as your own.

The definition from dictionary: indirectly, as, by, or through a substitute That’s for vicariously.

So in the case of Japan above–Michelle wasn’t in Japan but she LOVES travel and Japan, so Lindsay’s photos and videos on Instagram and also the video chats gave her a little taste of it for herself.

Social media definitely has people living vicariously through one another.

Sometimes you want what somebody else has and so you want to share their experiences and hear their stories.

Using This To Make Connections

So how does this phrase connect you to others?

It lets them know that you think what they are doing/experiencing is REALLY wonderful.

In that way, it’s a compliment and it’s meant to say that experience or story is something that sounds cool or appealing to you.

However, in thinking about it and seeing some things online, it can also be a bit of a put down on yourself.

It’s almost like saying “I wish I were you.”

So overall, it’s a nice connection phrase, but it may signal in some way that you would rather have that other person’s circumstances than your own, which isn’t good!

Negative and Positive At Times

This is a phrase that indicates that you wish for something that somebody else has.

You may mean it as a compliment and therefore it may be taken as such.

It may also mean that you aren’t happy with your own situation or circumstance, and then it can come across as bad or negative.

It may indicate jealousy or desiring what somebody else wants, which can be a bad thing.

In the situation referenced above, it’s more of an equal thing–Michelle loves being with the baby but of course she would also love to take a big trip!

Think of times when you could or have used this phrase, and how it could come across in a positive or negative way.

Looking At What Exactly This Means

This is a very common phrase, but you do want to be aware of how often you are using it and in what context.

You don’t want to come across as somebody who is always envious, but rather as somebody who is complimenting the other person.

There is a good article that speaks to the idea of living vicariously.

This article is well worth reading because it speaks to living vicariously through others.

Is Living Vicariously Through Others Dangerous? By Nicola Kirkpatrick Updated December 19, 2018. Go here to read the article.

You can sometimes push others to do something that you didn’t do, and try to feel good about yourself that way.

Living vicariously may make you less likely to pursue something on your own.

You might see this with parents who push their kids to do things that they wanted to when they were young.

You may see this with close friends who are afraid to try something, but see that perhaps their friend may try it out.

Living vicariously isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless it takes the place of real life experiences–that’s when it becomes a way of hiding behind fear.


This is a phrase that you can use well in your everyday conversations in English.

It allows people to talk about their life experiences, and that’s a wonderful thing sometimes.

This phrase lets you connect, but don’t get so stuck on living through others that you don’t live for yourself!

Use it to connect, but always remember to do things to create your own experiences too.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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