O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
-William Shakespeare, Othello
I have been jealous of someone or for something for most of my forty-four-and-a-quarter years.The constancy has faded as I’ve settled into adulthood, but events arise at the most inopportune of times, rattling my hard-earned interior, my stability, my purpose. Jealousy is uncomfortable and painful, particularly when we work so hard to live authentic and well-adjusted lives of meaning and purpose. The threat to me, to my well-being, to my relationships is real.
I was a perfectly fine and attractive child, in fact, I think I was rather cute, with my mop of curly hair and big brown eyes. My mouth tilting toward a frown with an unrivaled surly bottom lip, which alerted the parents to my unhappiness.
All the little girls were fair game for my envy, specifically the cute, little ones with blonde hair, blue eyes, thin legs. The boys seemed to like that type the best. I fantasized, praying my way to sleep, of waking in the morning with a slighter figure and long, straight hair. Somehow, somewhere I heard and believed that I was flawed. I don’t remember a particular moment for this message, but it settled in, to the depths of my core. I was not enough, I needed fixing.
As my body developed and shifted, my hips and thighs filled out, breasts appeared. I despised this divergence from the penciled line of my little girl body. I wanted to shrink down straight like a board. I was jealous of those girls.
Jealousy has been my compatriot, linked arm in arm we have judged and we have evaluated, lifting high the measuring stick to assess my position, my ranking amongst the others. Jealousy can rear up at the most inopportune moments, morphing itself into superiority if I measure well, or despair if I don’t. Jealousy can ruin a day, or a life, delivering us to the doorstep of self-hatred and loathing, worthlessness and fear.
I’ve followed Elizabeth Gilbert for some time now, particularly since she wrote the book Big Magic. Her podcast, Magic Lessons profiles discouraged creators. With loads of encouragement, intervention and personal challenges, she sends the artists back out into the world, armed to do what they love. In a recent episode, Liz offered a priceless, redemptive definition for jealousy. She stated, jealousy is a great teacher, an emotion we try to tamp down because it is uncomfortable. Jealousy is there to show us what we are longing for, our best indicator of what matters to us.
This feeling of jealousy is not a life sentence of misery, but a beacon. When I pay attention to the icky feeling, ask some healthy questions while treating myself with an overabundance of kindness, I am informed about me, about what makes me tick, about longings I didn’t know I had. To me, my appearance matters, my things matter, my writing matters, my mothering matters, my faith matters, being a generous human matters.
There is nothing more threatening than witnessing another’s excellence, my eyes light green with envy, but when I’m secure, the threat disappears and envy is replaced by admiration, inspiration, curiosity. My best armor against jealousy is pursuing what I love, finding what matters, discovering who I am apart from what others think of me. If I am contributing and loving and making things, jealousy can threaten but it can’t find a home. When I am jealous of another, usually it is because I see in them something I want to be or do or believe.
When I am at my most generous, I have goals and purpose and a few, good friends. At my most gracious, I recognize my privilege, I am serving, I am informed. When I am most kind, I am caring for myself, treating me with tenderness and love, eating well, getting regular exercise.
When the green eyed monster rears its ugly head, I’m eating crap, should-ing on myself, comparing and measuring, fearing another’s success, believing lies, fatigued. I get stuck in scarcity.
There is enough to go around in the world. We are not relegated to a life lived in the shadow of scarcity. We get to claim the goodness and the mercy. We get to be generous and kind. We can encourage and find beauty in the people around us. There is no need for threat, we are each gifted with remarkable and wonderful skills and offerings.
I’m not blonde, I’m not blue-eyed, I don’t have straight hair, I’m never going to be the smartest or the prettiest or the funniest or the greatest. But, I can be the smartest, prettiest, funniest, greatest me. And that’s all I can do. And that’s all my people want. They just want me. Your people just want you.
Let’s be that gift.There is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful painting in front of you! It is intricate, detailed, a painstaking labor of devotion and love! The colors are like no other, they swim and leap, they trickle and embellish! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the small fly which has landed on it! Why do you do such a thing? -C. Joybell C.