This last weekend, I got the opportunity to speak with a group of high school girls about what it means to be women -- as in, what makes women unique? In what ways might women struggle? As women, where does our value lie? Where do we try to find value instead? What does the world say about who a woman should be?
All of that stuff.
It was a conversation I have been a part of many times, both as a speaker and as a listener, but this time it struck a new chord in me. Or maybe an old chord. A chord was struck, but I'm not sure which kind.
In leading this discussion with these girls, I realized that their answers to what they struggle with are not that far off from mine. In fact, if I really think about it, my current fears don't stray all that far from the ones I had when I was their age. Sure, these concerns manifest themselves differently now (for instance, my fears of inadequacy no longer lead me to rehearse obsessively for the spring musical), but the point is I still have them. And, guys, I'm practically a million years old at this point.
I know that as human beings we learn and relearn the same lessons over and over again, but I don't know, at some point, I guess I just expected one or two to stick.
Anyway, the struggle I've been working through a lot lately is one of jealousy. I made that word look big, fat, and imposing for the sake of impact. It's a gross word, arguably one of the worst possible human emotions. It has synonyms such as "envy" that sound slightly better, cute almost (imagine a baby german shepherd named Envy. Adorable.), but I'm sticking with "jealousy" because it kind of sounds like it could be a disease of the intestinal tract, and I think that's more fitting to the way I experience it.
If you are not of this planet, and you don't know what jealousy is, simply put, it is anger inspired by the success, possessions, or status of others. If you need to see jealousy personified, here you go:
If you need to see a scenario in which jealousy might occur, here you go:
If you need to see a picture I drew of the expression, "jealousy rearing it's ugly head", here you go:
|I'm not an artist.|
If you need to see a list of 20 stupid things that make me jealous in life, here you go:
- Jennifer Lawrence
- People who can afford to take taxis
- People who can afford to live in Park Slope
- That person who got that opportunity I didn't realize I wanted
- That person who got that opportunity that I definitely did not want, but now they are happy, and I wish I was the one who was happy
- People who are able to sleep on airplanes
- Girls who can french braid their own hair
- Men who eat garbage all week long and are able to still look like Disney princes
- People who can barely spell their own names yet they have some kind of exclusive, high-paying job
- Dinosaurs because they know what happened to the dinosaurs
- People who live in Hawaii
- Birds because flying
- Toddlers who can wear tutus and no one thinks it's weird
- People who travel
- Bloggers who just seem to understand how to run their blog
- People who enjoy exercise
- People who are eating Tex Mex right at this very moment
- That girl wearing that dress I wish I was wearing
- College students who don't yet know the rejection that awaits them after graduation
- The guy in front of me in line who got the last croissant
All of these jealousy-triggers are crazy, and when I see them all written out one-after-the-other, they seem even crazier. The thing about this twisted feeling is that it pulls from two other incredibly powerful emotions, anger & fear, and it confuses them so much that processing rationally is out of the question. Even if we don't want to admit it to the people around us, it is easy to assess whether we're starting to become jealous. There's that hot feeling that goes to your head, that punch-in-the-gut sensation that happens in your stomach. It's much more difficult, however, to diagnose where these feelings are actually coming from.
I would argue that our jealousy stems from one simple, yet very toxic lie -- that if we have this thing/opportunity/status in the way that someone else does, we will somehow become a more complete person.
And it really is a lie. Ugh, intellectually, we know that! Somehow, though, jealousy has the power to bypass our logic and fester in the ugliest parts of our mind. It defies reason, common sense, and it thrives on all of our deepest insecurities. It seriously is the very worst emotion, come to think of it.
So how do we fight it it? How do we keep jealousy from rearing its ugly, stupid, wrinkly head?
Well, first off, allow me to remind you that I'm no expert. You saw that list up there -- it's not pretty. Still, I have found that there are a couple of things that I can do to help me stay in check.
One is to remind myself, as a mantra even, that none of the things that make me jealous are ever going to be the things that fulfill my life. Not Park Slope, not traveling, not Tex Mex, not tutus -- ultimately, none of those things have the power to save my life. None of them. And to crave them so outlandishly is nothing short of idolatry.
The second thing that helps me is exactly what I'm doing right now -- confessing. It sounds crazy, I know, but seriously try it: admit your jealousies. Tell the person whose life you want that you want their life, and watch as they tell you about another person, maybe even you, whose life they'd swap for in a heartbeat. Allow it to be a conversation that reveals everyone's brokenness instead of yet another chance to try to one-up our neighbors. Try it, and see if you don't feel just a teensy bit petty.
Still, even as I say these things, I know that creeping feeling is far more clever than I am, which is why I'd love even more perspective on all of this. How do you fight jealousy?