How often do you find yourself saying to someone: "Oh I wish I had your...."
I do it all of the time. I have friends with the most enviable boobs and hair and faces and skin, I have friends with great feet and strong legs and crazy long eyelashes and time and time again I tell them how beautiful they are and how I wished I had their [fill in the blank]. It is a huge compliment. What is it that they say, 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'? There is nothing nicer for a person to hear (short of that they have won the lottery) than that someone wishes that they had something that they had.
Or is there?
I normally cannot help but compliment my friends in this way, usually because I am just telling them what I am feeling at any given time and I always assumed it was a really nice thing for them to hear: 'yes!' they'll think 'I must have REALLY great cheekbones if someone else is spending time wishing that they had them!' and that will surely, give them a great boost. What could possibly be wrong with telling someone that you are jealous of how pretty they are?
Earlier this week, I found myself scrolling through Zoella's Instagram feed (as you do) and then, because it's all too easy to get sucked into the black hole that is the internet, I started reading through the comments that were left on her photos (as many of the 40,000+ that would load anyway) and I was neither surprised or heartened by what I found there. Hundreds of comments along the same vein from, what I can only assume, is mostly young girls saying: "oh my god, I'm so jealous, I wish I looked like you, you're SO pretty."
And I'd say on the whole those are some really nice messages for Zoella (real name Zoe Sugg - duh!) to receive - I reckoned if I got messages like this, by the thousand, I'd be on cloud nine like the whole time. But then I started to really think about it, about the times that someone has said to me that they are jealous of the things that I have that they want, and actually about the pressure that Zoe must be under to be told these things time and time again. And of course, it's not just her. Any woman with an army of female followers probably receives similar compliments, and whilst they are so much better than the alternative, I do wonder whether that pressure starts to take it's toll after a while.
When I was younger I sort of had to 'girl crush' in secret. Although my obsessions with various women came and went throughout my teenage years, there wasn't actually a space that existed where I could air my feelings. Instagram wasn't a thing, Facebook was brand new and I was very busy trying not to make an absolute tit of myself in front of everyone I'd ever persuaded to be my online friend. So instead, I internalised my feelings. In many ways, this was probably quite damaging, I would sometimes wish SO hard to look like somebody else, to have their flat stomach or long hair that I would get myself into a state of total and complete misery; hating my own body. But since I only thought of these women when I saw photos of them or when they were acting in a film or as a gust on a panel show, I was lucky that I could get away from them, in lessons, in bed, walking down the street, I wasn't totally confronted with their beauty, I didn't have to compare myself to it all the time, and I certainly didn't need to admit it to anybody.
Don't get me wrong, my fan-girling hasn't stopped as I've got older, if anything I've just found more people to think are great, but thankfully, my overwhelming jealousy does seem to have stemmed and although I do tell my friends all the time how much I would like to look like them, I'm generally pretty happy in my own body. I am not so jealous anymore. Not like I used to be, not like the people commenting on Zoella's Instagram are.
Now, I know that, particularly where bloggers and vloggers of this scale are concerned, they slightly count on people being jealous of them, without that they wouldn't make nearly as much money out of affiliate links and they wouldn't have millions of people watching their YouTube videos, but I do wonder if there is a line between people being jealous of their clothes and material possessions (an incentive for the viewer to work harder to get to that place) and a jealousy of the person themselves, the things that they were born with that make them special that they can't do anything about (an incentive to make people bitter and insecure.) I noticed a blog post that Zoe wrote a few years ago about her weight and how so many people tell her how jealous they are of how skinny she is - in it she points out that there is nothing that she can do about it, she physically cannot put on weight.
I notice this too sometimes in my life, obvi I'm no Zoe Sugg but people sometimes do say to me that they wish they had my figure or my eyes or my hair (take it!!!!) or whatever it is, and although that is obviously hugely flattering, I do sometimes end up with some slightly conflicting emotions, and mostly, it's guilt. Guilt that I have something that somebody else wants, guilt that I don't appreciate it enough, guilt when I don't love it, that I'm taking it for granted. And sadness too, sadness for that person that they are wasting their time wishing that they looked like me.
It's weird isn't it, this idea of jealousy. They say that the colour green doesn't suit many people, and they're right. Jealousy IS an ugly emotion, but it's also human nature. I know that that isn't going anywhere, it's something as old as time so it's not the jealousy that I have a huge problem with here (since I'd be wasting my time fighting something so inherent), it's the vocalising of it that I'm worried about.
Because I'm not sure that anyone benefits from you telling someone that you are jealous of how they look. In your head all that happens, is you have validated a concern in your own subconscious and made it really real. Like when you're nervous about something and you say it out loud for the first time and then you become absolutely sure that you are going to totally fail at it. And then in their head, the person who is the focus of your admiration? I'm not sure it's very good for them either. OF COURSE it's nice to be told that you are beautiful, of course it is, but to have people WISHING that they looked like you, that they were you? It's a huge responsibility. And maybe not one that is very fair.
I don't know if I'm making a whole tonne of sense here and I might be barking totally up the wrong tree, who knows, but I think it is food for thought.....