Wrapped in my duvet* at 2:00am drinking a third mug of tea from the same teabag, I frown at the smug face glaring from her ‘About’ page.
Like samples of photojournalism that populate her website, her black and white portrait – clearly taken by a professional – is not smiling. The creators of serious journalism must not. They are limited to expressions of thoughtfulness, concern and judgement, especially as you scrutinise them with a bitten lip sitting in your unwashed pajamas.
I put down my mug to view her ‘Credentials’, recognizing the double degree we both embarked on. I escaped the clutches of legal studies to graduate with measly Arts, but soon enough she will be a fully inflated, briefcase-carrying lawyer.
I continue scrolling. Not only has she surpassed me academically, she’s had mentorships at news companies your nan would know, been published online since 17, and ventured on photojournalism tours to document the European migrant crisis. I won’t let it gnaw at me.
Moving onto the sickeningly bolded ‘Accolades’ page I scan her list of awards from educational institutions, speaking competitions and… no. A scholarship youth placement with the UN? Are you fucking joking? I scramble back to her ‘About’.
24 years old.
Two years to catch up. Surely I can be just as accomplished by 24.
I look back to my tea – now cold. Who am I kidding?
Stalking her makes me feel as insufficient as my bank balance.
Envy fuelling my wrath, I browse her social media to see how other elements of her life fare. To my dismay I see nothing but a vibrant existence of gigs, implied drug taking, cute outfits and nauseating congratulations from friends as they link her own articles on her wall. Her mother comments variations of ‘I’m so proud’ under each one, but it is not until I absorb myself in her Instagram and find hints of a lover that I crack.
I hate her.
I know there’s some bullshit saying about how all flowers are beautiful even though they’re different, but if flora she’d be a sunflower. I’d be some dandelion with half my wisps blown off thanks to the breath of a dog that pissed on me earlier.
Like many, I am cursed with the affliction of being a human who compares herself to others. Please do not hold it against me. I’m insecure sometimes, I know.
Envy is unfairly rooted in human nature. Why? Possibly because:
a) We need to be judgmental so we can compare, weigh up options and make informed decisions in our lives.
b) We enjoy wallowing in negative, wasteful emotions that gnash on our souls.
Some days I waste a good portion of my waking hours consumed by the Green-Eyed Monster. She’s a bitch who fixates you on the fact that there’s one person, or loads, most definitely achieving more, being more. She steals your time, peace of mind and kindness, making you hate people you’ve never met. She can make you wallow in your ‘failure’ then beat yourself up for feeling this way even though envy is a rather expected emotion given the society we live in.
I, an expert at self-comparison, can confirm that getting stuck in a cycle of envy is the best way to ruin your life.
Comparison isn’t a demon in itself, but hungering after the life of another is a waste of the one you have. Not a revolutionary idea that only law graduates can figure out, but it’s something I still find myself needing constant reminders of.
Yes, comparison can inspire your own achievement, but it is thoughtful to consider whether you’re achieving what YOU want, or chasing after something else entirely. I mean, once I signed up for a calligraphy class. Calligraphy! All because I thought that if she could do it, so should I. Envy isn’t all bad – it CAN help illuminate goals, inspire action and drive admiration. But it is vicious envy, the corruptive type that preys on our insecurities, that says more about us than anything else.
As a millennial that spends 36 hours a day fanning the vanity bonfire through social media, the Green-Eyed Monster possesses me without much struggle. Social media makes it too easy to compare our gag reels to someone’s highlights, and combined with the toxic nature of self-deprecating humour that saturates the internet, it’s effortless and almost cool to put yourself down.
But you know what? Whatever your version of ‘success’ is, whatever you want to be doing with your life, there’s almost always going to be people doing it less ‘successfully’, and there’s always going to be people who seem to be doing it better. Unless you’re, like, Jesus or Richard Branson.
One reason that envy is so corrosive is due to the pervasive attitude of finite room for success, and that one person’s accomplishments/success/happiness diminishes possibility for your own. But we shouldn’t let this bring us down, my friends. It’s bullshit.
There’s INFINITE ROOM FOR SUCCESS. Good news is that we live in a world of grotesque abundance. Despite the ‘saturation’ of certain markets, or assholes telling you that your version of ‘success’ is impossible, there is space for us to create meaningful work, relationships and lives.
How can this simple yet #woke truth help us envy-afflicted? Well, perhaps instead of crying in our duvets, we should acknowledge the hard work that got the target of our envy to such… enviable… positions. Maybe this doesn’t work for those born into incredibly lucky circumstances i.e. wealth, the genetically blessed, those in the right place at the right time etc, but if we put effort into our own lives, with enough persistence we too could have people stalking OUR accomplishments wondering how the hell we’ve pulled it off.
While you’re working towards being your most badass self, here are some Scientifically Proven** tricks/reminders to help combat envy:
- Life isn’t measured in quantitative success. Numbers mean nothing. Stats aren’t written on your gravestone.
- Age is a terrible way to compare yourself to others. People have different lives and paths, we are not ovens with timers. If we were ovens with timers, we’d be different ones, with different makes and specialities. Someone might be a Subway super-oven, but don’t discount your slow-cooking abilities.
- There is so much more to life than what is broadcasted / available for you to compare to. Nobody has it all, everyone’s just trying to stay afloat in an ocean of fluctuation.
- Get off social media to be less informed of what is broadcasted. There’s truth in ‘ignorance is bliss’.
- Practice gratitude. If you’re a list person (isn’t everyone?) then write down what you are thankful for. Acknowledge your own achievements, you haven’t made it this far on a fluke.
- Fill your life with activities that give you no time to be insecure. Everyone feels it most when bored.
- Nurture differences between you and others – cherish what makes you different from Them.
- Imagine your funeral. Think of all the lives you touch and the tears that would spill over your rotting carcass. Yum.
- Try to decipher your emotions and determine why you lust over someone else’s life/success so much. Journal, meditate, graffiti, whatever circulates your thoughts. Envy says more about our own insecurities than anything else.
- You are WORTHY and deserve success if you work for it.
- You’re not as far behind as you think.
- Self-deprecating humour is toxic, you’re allowed to be proud of yourself. Don’t hang around people who bring themselves (and you) down.
- Animals love you regardless of how your life is panning out. And your mum.
- Celebrate the success of others. Lift each other up – there’s infinite room for us all to be acing this.
Back in my room I recollect my fleeting acquaintanceship with the epicenter of my envy. You know what? She was lovely. She’s really pulled herself up by the bootstraps to produce some great work, and you don’t sneak into the UN for nothing. There’s no point frothing in self-pity when I too should be working towards my own version of this slippery thing called ‘success’.
Next time I feel envy, I’m going to stalk my own profiles from the eyes of a
fictional fan. Then shut down social media all together. Slap myself. Burn my phone. Take up residence in a cave. Live a humble, goblin-like existence. Continue doing all I can – my best. Maybe you might want to try the same, and imagine that in the not-too-distant future the ones you envy might end up envying you. Oh how the turns table.
*note use of ‘duvet’ instead of doona, am assimilating into British culture
**not scientifically proven