Thursday, 15 October 2015

Deconstructing Jealousy

It's widely understood that 'comparison is the thief of joy', and nowhere is that more applicable than online. 

Whilst inundated with the dazzling highlights of everyone else's ~amazing~ lives, achievements and successes, we can't help but poke at our own lives with a stick inevitably only to see it wobble lethargically in response. I think we can all agree we've each spent time sunk way down in the solitary confinement of the envy pit before, no matter how hard we've tried to fight it.

But it sucks. And I'm bored of accepting this must be the only way, so I'm gonna bloody well figure out what's really going down here, and try and build a little rope bridge across that pit in the process.

The Two Components of Jealousy

After some thought, I think I've figured out what jealousy is actually made of:

Self-deprecation - I wish I was like that. Why aren't I like that? Why don't I have what they have? Why can't that be me? I'm sad for me in comparison to them.

Injustice - They don't deserve to get that. There are people who work so hard and get nothing and these people just get everything they want handed on a plate. It's not fair. I'm angry on behalf of me and everyone else.

I think it's possible to feel just one, the other, or sometimes both. For people we're friends with or that we think are nice people, we're more likely feel the former. We feel bad but we can't help it. For people we don't know, or celebrities, we can convince ourselves that they aren't actually nice people in a way to legitimise the latter. We can't help it, but we feel secretly they deserve it.

But You're Not a Dick 'Cause You Get Jealous

But the difference between the two is that the sad 'self-deprecation'' is internally focused and vulnerable, and the angry 'injustice' is outwardly focused and bitter. This means that feeling jealous doesn't mean you're a bad person inside. It doesn't begin within, it's outside stimuli that permeates through your defences and translates negatively toward the good that is already inside of you. Part of the reason why jealously feels so shit is because really, the good in us feels guilty as fuck about it.

Jealously is not something which can be controlled or stopped, but I am firm in the belief that we can divert that energy into a more positive place. Instead of trying to force up these defences to block that negativity getting through, we can ricochet it down another path.

Friends in High Places

On a daily basis I find myself dazzled by one of my closest friends in the world. She is a symbol of everything I've always dreamed of being, and every day it amazes me how she can continue to do and say such wonderful things, and, quite rightfully, motherfucking kill it at life, too. She has become wildly successful and has paved the way for others at the same time. She's incredible, but my brain is so often paralysed by awe that I frequently feel at very high risk of jealousy creeping in on it's tiptoes while I'm preoccupied.

Another very close friend (and soon to be sister-in-law) that I've known since girlhood is a stunningly beautiful fashion model and actress studying at the best drama school in London. I've sat in wide-eyed-wonder as she's told me stories and shown me pictures behind the scenes of the movies she's been in and shoot's she's done. And as she speaks my heart genuinely soars with love and pride but a cold, firm hand gently taps on my shoulder like a Dementor that I have to try and desperately shirk without her noticing.

I feel so lucky to be surrounded by passionate, creative, inspiring and powerful people, but sometimes it does come back to bite you in the butt, because with such astronomical achievements all around, it's not hard to succumb to astronomical jealousy sometimes too.

Bare Witness To Your Own Shitness

But the key to avoiding it, I've discovered, is to divert it. When I feel myself falling into the trap, I face head on all that is currently making me a shit person, and with full honesty - either in real life or just mentally -  I make a note of exactly what it is that I'm jealous about.

It could be this persons hair and that persons blog. The opportunities one person gets or even the confidence of another. The way that girl gets to travel across the world, or the amazing job that guy has. The way that person writes, or this persons selfie game. It can be anything from the most trivial things, right through to envying the whole way a person leads their life, but in every single case it actually comes down to a combination of two things: aspiration and admiration.

The texture of that feeling easily falls into bitter jealousy, but once diverted to a positive it actually makes so much more sense - it's in fact the inspired admiration of the path they have trodden, paired with the aspirational desire to create something of my own that's just as great, and I'm just as proud of, as what they've done. These people aren't my rivals at all, they're my heroes.

Trying Not to be the Worst : An Autobiography

And if you think about it, if you were to genuinely write down on separate playing cards the name of every person you were jealous of and why, and the name of every person you wish you were more like and why, you'd probably have a fair few cards. But say you then made a card tower of all those tiny admirations, aspirations, wishes and sighs and take a step back...

Suddenly you have captured exactly who you want to be and what you want to do.

And isn't that truly what we spend our who lives trying to figure out? And here it is in perfect architectural form, reverse-engineered from everything you're jealous about! Nice.

Because underneath it all, jealousy really just means you care. If you didn't truly care about your writing, your art, your blog, your style, your music, then why would you be jealous of someone else doing it better than you?

Instead of being nothing but bitter, we've suddenly got a plan to become better. Not trying to be better than those better than you, (because malicious one upmanship is still pretty shitty behaviour tbh) but trying to be a better version of you that you're so happy with, you no longer have that wish to be more like someone else.

Jealousy Ain't Optional, But Bitterness Is

Now I'm always wary of writing in a way that insinuates that I know what I'm talking about, because I'm literally a mess of person who would only be a hypocrite to try and hand out advice, but every time I stumble and then somehow figure it out, I like to share my findings with y'all because... I guess it might make sense to anyone else stumblin' around too. Or not. Or maybe. I don't know.

But basically we are all human beings who care about stuff, so it is not our choice whether we feel jealous or not. But what is our choice is how we react in response to it. We might feel shitty, but we don't have to be shitty about it y'know? So instead of looking at those cards as a big old pile of reasons why everyone is else is better than you, you can pick them up one by one, realise they actually come from a good place and build it into a plan to become a better person, yourself. 

And I know that I for one, will never choose being bitter, over being inspired.


  1. LOVE this. You're right, there is a huge difference between being bitter and jealous. I do get jealous of people, but not in a "grrrr, I wish you didn't have that" kind of way. But "I'm so jealous of your successes but it's only making me either proud of you/wanting to succeed even more myself."

    I sort of wrote a similar piece on the pressures of being successful nowadays - especially with the jealously we feel towards other people's social media lives:

    Loving your writing as usual Katie <3

  2. Your writing on this topic reminds me of this post by Alexandra Franzen which also helped me a lot on this matter. If you don't know her blog I highly recommend it :)

    Your article made me aware that I too was guilty of jealousy. I often feel envious of the success of others, especially in this virtual world where everyone seems to achieve so much more than what I am capable of. Your words help me to acknowledge that it's okay to feel that way, but more importantly, they remind me that I have to reformulate my thoughts : It feels better to redirect those feelings into the question "What exactly about this person does resonate in me, and how can I use it ?"

    I'm not jealous of you, but I feel inspired by you. And that makes all the difference :)

  3. I think the problem with jealousy is that the thing we are jealous of is not real, it's only part of the whole truth. Nobody is perfect but people have a tendency to depict their lives like their are in fact perfect (especially online). So all we get to see is a part of something. There are negativ, bad things in everyone's life, we just don't see them. Whenever I feel jealousy creeping up, this is what I remind myself of.

  4. This was such an amazing post! You can always control the way you act or react even if you can't control your feelings! Loved this! XO -Kim


    So so much.


  6. I love this. I'm one of those people who is constantly envious of other people's lives and things, and a few years ago I realised I could turn that into a force for good by using it as my motivator. Instead of feeling bitter, we should feel admiration and use that as inspiration. And one of the things I always struggled with - and still do - is trying not to feel silly for admiring and being inspired by others, rather than being the genesis of my own greatness. But everyone is always inspired by someone else, by some other external thing... We are all in a constant networking circle of inspiration, and we should see it as a positive thing, as you've pieced out here. Really loved this post. (Sorry for the ramble.)

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