Hey Jealousy

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This post is not, in fact, about that really terrible 90s song that's absurdly catchy. This post is about a bunch of things I think about when I'm trying to process the fact that I'm hugely jealous of someone - or lots of someones, as is my way - usually because they're a splendid writer who is incredibly well-liked (sometimes just because they're a splendid human being who is incredibly well-liked) (I'm also quite jealous of non-humans, like my dog, Abbey, who just lies around all day and doesn't have to worry about anything, but again that's not what this post is about). So! I am not really an expert on these sorts of things, but maybe you'll find my techniques useful? Thus:

How to deal with jealousy

1. Try to figure out why you are jealous of this person. For me, it's usually because they have something that I would really like to have for myself (for instance, money! best-selling books! good looks! I am envious of lots and lots of people). But them having their riches and wonderful way with words is not really, truly why I'm jealous of them - the real reason I'm jealous is because I perceive that having whatever they have would make me feel happier and more fulfilled than I presently do. So it's not really about them at all (these things never are).

2. Remember that they're a real person. I think the reason it's so easy to see other people's lives as easier and more wonderful than yours is that you never deal with the internal reality of anyone else's life. We all get pretty good at putting on a face and packaging our life in a way that makes it seem very magical to other people. We don't really talk about our sadnesses and lonely moments and long periods of mediocrity. So we see this person with this incredible success and a life that appears wonderful, and that's annoying, because why do they deserve that over you? The truth is that life always has times of boredom and weirdness and monotony, and no achievement instils a sense of inner peace, I don't think. That person who you're insanely jealous of and who seems to have the perfect life is probably really very similar to you. They still have to do their taxes and vacuum and worry about their family history of heart disease. 

3. Remember that awesome is not a finite resource. Someone else's excellence does not take away from your excellence! You already know this, but we can all be reminded. If you're a writer, jealous of other writers who are doing well and/or panicking because so few people read/so little shelf space/so many writers, you need to be thinking about other writers less and actually writing a lot more (that's the most important thing and the most positive way to spend your time). And know that writers being successful and lots of books being sold and more people reading is good for all writers! (I think it's good for all of humanity, but then I am prone to hyperbole.) 

4. Reframe 'jealousy' as 'inspiration'. Be happy for people who are doing well and succeeding in the field you'd like to succeed in! This is a bit tricky if you're used to thinking about the people you're jealous of in negative terms. I don't mean comment on their facebook post 'I'm so happy for you' and then secretly seethe. I enjoy being the stereotypical miserable writer as much as anybody but there's a point at which you need to realise you're just being a pretentious idiot. Remember: the people you envy give you ideas for the sort of things you want to achieve, just as the folks you admired as a child did - and they let you know that it is possible. Choose to be inspired instead of resentful, and put your thoughts and efforts into your own writing/what you do best (I genuinely get so myopic that I think writing is the only thing in the world I could possibly do, so forgive me for not referencing any other career paths). 

5. Remember that your journey is different to theirs. Okay, sorry if I start going new-agey life coach on you, but I think this is important. People say this to me less now, and that's something I'm glad of, but when I first started having a bit of success as a writer when I was fifteen and sixteen people would say things like 'I wish I had achieved something when I was your age!' Sometimes flippant, sometimes regretful, which is sad. I didn't like it when people said this. You did accomplish stuff. Just different stuff. Having a book published when I was sixteen was just a thing that happened. It doesn't make me superior to any other teenager or person or writer.

You have stories to tell that are entirely unique to you. Your life experience contributes hugely to your viewpoint. There is validity and worth in your writing whether or not it is published, and irrespective of the age at which you publish it. And if you're not a writer, you don't have to know where you're going or what you're doing or achieve anything in particular by a certain age because such-and-such other person did. (A strange kid on the internet is giving you permission.) There are likely many things you have done and ways in which you've contributed to other people's lives that aren't big or dramatic, but are important. Relax! There are no end-points, really. You achieve one thing and your life is mostly the same and then you have another goal. The people you envy and the sort of person you want to be shifts dramatically. Don't get too caught up in other people and where they're at. Being that you're the only person who regards you as the central character of the story, you really need to focus on your narrative arc.
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