We feel sad so that we can appreciate being happy. We feel pain so that we can understand what it is like to be healthy. We get bored and suddenly we find out what it is that makes us interested in the world around us. Even when we get angry, it is simply our way of bearing through the unbearable; maybe it is not the most elegant solution, but it works and it works quickly. But why do we get envious?
It has been a while since the last confession time (just kidding; I seem to be dropping these all day long), but this time, disappointingly enough, I must say: I am not a very envious person. This is probably largely due to the fact that, like the Frenchman in the old joke: my ego ends somewhere around two meters above my head… But nonetheless my experience with envy is rather second-hand.
Humble bragging or not, I feel quite content with who I am and what I do – and when I am not, I tend to look for the reasons more in the, you know, inwards looking side of things. And although like most any kids in the world, I was told often in my life that They are just envious of you, I never really believed this and I am still very far from believing it; it kind of grew into something that one should never tell a child in my eyes. I’m telling you: envy and I are just not a thing.
At least not most of the time.
Envious or jealous?
I always found it odd, this idea of the English people that jealousy and envy are not one and the same. So many other languages merge these two words together – and with good reasons for it too. Makes one wonder why this distinction is so important, doesn’t it?
After all, so many people do not understand this distinction anyway. Jealousy as a word has taken over almost all of the lands of envy and it is quite natural to predict that one day we will all just be jealous. Just jealous. Funny thing to say.
For now, though, the distinction is quite clear. We’re envious of what we do not have. We are jealous of what we fear to lose.
Or is it?
So very often we are jealous or something or someone because, deep inside, we know we already don’t have them. We crave taking them back, but they are no longer ours; and although they may still be still up next to us every morning, they are long gone, maybe not onto a new relationship, but onto a new vision on life that simply does not include us.
Whether it originates in fear, insecurity, deeply hidden desires, desperation, boredom, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day the thing both jealousy and envy share is one and the same: a wish that we simply cannot fulfill.
Wishing, wishing, wishing more
When does this wishing stop?
We want other people’s cars, houses, partners, dogs, jobs, lives, but if we did get them, would we be able to stop? What is the border of our envy? How do we decided it has been enough, we have achieved the same and we are perfectly satisfied with the result?
Can we be perfectly satisfied with the result? Can someone else’s life just be picked up and transformed into ours? Can the greener grass spread onto our garden and still be green enough?
Envy, for me, breeds more questions than it answers. It seems to be a bottomless pit of newer and newer problems that I cannot solve. And worst of all, there is simply no end to it. Sadness can lead into happiness, we know that, I know that, but envy? Where does being envious take us?
The internet, media, the people around us, they all seem to say: there is a good side to every negative emotion. We should seek it, embrace it, instead of letting the bad consume us. But what about envy? Sure, one could argue being envious of someone makes us aspire to be them; yet this does not seem to be the case. It makes us wish to be them. Wish, not want, a bit like wishing on a star, I guess, just in a grimmer fashion.
The irrational face of envy
And finding out what it is that triggers envy in us can be a tricky thing. You see, I am not a very envious person, yet I do feel envy sometimes. Very rarely, indeed, and I try to avoid any… contact with the reason for it, as I find it extremely exhausting and not at all a pleasant experience, but it happens.
I envy Taylor Swift.
Judge all you want, but there is something in her that drives me mad. It just opens something deep inside me that wants to… I am not even sure what it wants. Just makes me feel all angry for no reason, and tense, and anxious, all at the same time.
What is it about her that affects me so much? I don’t know. I don’t envy any particular part of her life. I don’t want to be famous; I find being photographed and recorded unbearable, and even if I did want to become a celebrity, I could have picked better. I like singing, but my singing is more of the Disney song type (if I want to dance around the house) or poetry focused (if I want to have my soul shredded to pieces), and I’d make a very bad entertainer anyway. I wouldn’t mind being rich, mostly because I keep finding myself broke, but I don’t have it in me to become rich – and there are just too many things I would have to give up on. That’s pretty much all I know about Taylor Swift as well, as I am not a fan, and, frankly, I never could be.
My boyfriend says this is because I look a bit like her, but I don’t. I just do not. But then again he claims the Dior girl from an advert I see every day on my way to work looks like her as well, so he is really not very good at this.
That’s the main problem of my envy – I cannot pin it down. I cannot combat it with reason. There is no logic behind it. It just happens and I am hopeless, and lost, and there is nothing I can do.
Am I alone in this? I think not. I think there must be quite a lot of us out there, being envious of something we want, but that we cannot describe. Wishing for a different life. Wishing for a different self.
Resisting the temptation
So how does one combat an enemy that one does not understand? Well, I guess for me there is only one answer, and one I never expected to choose: by letting it go.
Instead of thinking over and over again about why-s and what for-s, I chose to forget about it. Avoid it, if I must be honest. Because that is the only way I found to not let this define me.
Instead of wondering why I am so envious and why I should not be envious, and revolving around this envy like if it was the very essence of who I am, I shift my focus onto why I am happy to be who I am and where I am. To what I have achieved that makes me proud. To people who happened to wander into my life and make it the way it is.
There is this sweet little song The Muppets used to sing, that describes this sentiment just on point:
I wish I had a coat of silk, the colour of the sky.
I wish I had a lady, fair as any butterfly
I wish I had a house of stone that looked down on the sea
But most of all I wish that I was someone else but me.
Now I don’t have a coat of silk, but I still have the sky
Now I don’t have a lady, but there goes a butterfly
Now I don’t have a house of stone, but I can see the sea
Now most of all I know that I am happy to be me.
I’m happy to be me.
And although it is entitled The Wishing Song, it is envy it touches on most; the never ending wishing that does not lead to us wanting more and more new things as such, but to us forgetting why we are the way we are and tricking us into thinking that being someone else would solve all our problems.
Because it simply won’t.
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