For as long as I can remember, I have considered jealousy to be an ugly emotion.
One of the deadly sins to escape Pandora’s Box, I have always done the upmost to squish my jealousy down whenever it rears it’s head
Green, I have always been told, is not my colour.
A shame when you realise that I look fabulous in it.
It’s not something that a Brit normally admits to, but jealousy is a emotion that I encounter a lot, particularly when it comes to my working life.
I have always been discouraged from feeling it openly by a society that attached negative connotations to it, that treats it as some kind of moral failure, so I do my best to suppress it, desperately trying to convince myself that the pangs I feel when I see others with the things that I want are something else entirely.
As a teenager I was nothing but jealous and I can now see a clear link between the feelings of jealousy that were so normal in my day to day life and the subsequent unhappiness that shrouded a lot of my time at school.
Wanting this friend’s stomach or that friend’s hair or her boyfriend of his confidence never got me anywhere, or anywhere that I wanted to be at least. I was obsessed with this idea that if I could be a bit more like everyone else, everything would be okay.
Jealousy, manifesting itself in an obsessive and ever-so-slightly tragic way, was what ultimately led, I suspect, to my inability to love myself… how could I when I was permanently on the hunt for things that would make me better?
Finally learning to accept myself and letting go of the jealousy that left me feeling like I wasn’t enough was unbelievably liberating.
I don’t know what came first, finding enough peace within myself that I was able to LIKE my friend’s hair and not WANT my friend’s hair or letting go of this idea that I wasn’t good enough and thus being able to stop comparing every element of my life and body to that of the people around me.
I suspect the two things depend on each other. In this instance, jealousy is a disaster.
In lots of ways it is fed by insecurity; it is a vital component, if not THE vital component that leads to people everywhere feeling that the rest of the world is doing better than them.
I was very jealous as a child and in my adult life I have done what I can to put all feelings of jealousy firmly to the part of my mind that isn’t allowed to do any of the talking. I swat them away, push them out, ignore them. I now know that not only did it not get me anywhere good, but that it’s not an emotion that becomes anyone.
But the one thing I have become distinctly aware of in this time is the very fine line that exists between feeling jealous and feeling inspired.
Despite the fact I am now pretty satisfied with my life and confident in myself, I’d be lying if I said I did’t occasionally look around and think: THAT. I want that.
That sofa, that dress, that car, that set of teeth, that arse, that hair, that house, that opportunity.
I’d be lying if I said I could spent time on my Instagram and not feel a pang of something in my stomach every now and then. After all, isn’t that what Instagram is all about?
Sure, it’s not the acute feeling that I used to experience when I’d look at a person who I deemed to be ‘better than me’ but there’s still a little sommin’ sommin’ there.
A hangover of an unhappy relationship with myself or a very normal element of the human condition… or a bit of both?
I’ve spent so long surprising jealousy, associating it exclusively with a part of my life I am not proud of, I think I may be neglecting to acknowledge it’s existence and therefore it’s importance in a part of my life that I AM proud of.
Because we would be idiots to deny that a lot of successful people have got jealousy to thank for a huge amount of their success. Jealousy evokes inspiration and inspiration is responsible for… everything.
Truth time. And by that I mean, here are some things about me that I am not necessarily proud to admit:
When I see other people in my field doing well, it is not just happiness I feel for them.
Although I am a firm believer that there is more than enough for everyone, that empowered women empower women, that we HAVE to support one another if any of us stand a chance at success, there is a small part of me that watches other women write the story that I wish I’d written, that sees other girls working with brands that I want to work with, that notices other people with more clicks and likes and followers and thinks: I want that. I need that. Why did they get that? Why did I not???
And although ultimately these feelings mostly morph in to inspiration after time, it so often does start somewhere ugly. It starts with jealousy.
It brings out a competitive side of me that I’m not sure I love.
I did’t notice that as a teen whilst lusting after another girl’s thigh gap, because when I was at school I didn’t want to be the prettiest, I just wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be like everyone else or at least as good as everyone else.
As I have grown up and this has seeped across into my professional life, I find that I don’t just want to be included anymore, I don’t just want to be as good as everyone else, I want to be better than everyone else.
And I’m quite ashamed of that. I’m ashamed of my competitive nature, I’m ashamed of the jealousy that fuels it.
But then when I started thinking about it, I realised that that was a very odd thing to be ashamed of.
This ambition, built in part on the jealousy that I feel when I see others doing better than me, is the thing that gets me up, it’s the fire in my belly, it’s a hunger and an excitement and something that I hope will lead to a life filled with happiness.
I should be very proud of my ambition.
And by definition, I should take pride in the things that got me there too, namely my jealousy. I need to own my jealousy.
It is a catalyst for productivity. When used right, when properly addressed, when channeled correctly, jealousy is brilliant.
Of course there is another side to it, the side that causes bullying in the playground, tension in the workplace, discomfort round the dinner table. The side that lead me to spend my teenage years feeling like I had a body that wasn’t good enough, that my parents weren’t as cool as everyone else’s, that I wasn’t as pretty as my friends. The side that surmounted to a depressing lack of self confidence and pride in myself. That side isn’t good.
But to an extent, that might just come down to what I was doing with it.
I didn’t know then that jealousy for jealousy’s sake was a waste of my time, I didn’t realise that feeling this emotion and choosing to channel it into feelings of resentment was not the only option. I wasn’t processing it, I wasn’t really thinking about why it was there, I was doing my best to ignore it. And that was never going to work. Jealousy is a very normal human emotion and you will always feel it for a reason.
It needs to be remembered, it needs to be taught, that you can be happy for someone AND be very jealous of them. Jealousy doesn’t always need to be an exclusively negative emotion, it doesn’t need to be an either-or situation. Very often the way you feel about someone else has absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with you,
For a long time I did nothing other than allow jealousy to become a ball of tension in my stomach, a ball that sapped the love that I should feel for myself and the love that I should feel for other people straight out of me.
It was exclusively negative when I was younger, and it was bad for business. I projected MY shortcomings, or my perceived shortcomings onto other people and I punished myself in the process.
The minute I realised that channeling it and harnessing it and manipulating it into inspiration was an option, was the minute I got off my arse and did something about the fact that everyone was doing the things that I wanted to be doing, but wasn’t.
Used right, jealousy can be the most powerful tool in your arsenal, but first, you’ve got to see it, you’ve got to process it, you’ve got to own it.