notes for my daughter: on jealousy

constantexchange-3

Ok, it’s not snappy – but it’s surprisingly true.

There will be times when someone is inexplicably rude or mean or condescending, and you cannot figure out why. A girl at school who consistently picks on you; an older woman at work who does all she can to keep you down. “They’re just jealous“, people will tell you.

This never sat quite right with me. I get jealous – jealous of other people’s success, ideas, talent, wardrobe – but it never makes me unkind. Jealousy makes me sad and covetty (not a real word) and resentful, but it also makes me ambitious and brave, and I invariably end up working harder because of it. In other words, my jealousy is all about me, and my relationship with myself.

Bette Midler apparently said ‘the hardest part of success is finding somebody who’s happy for you’ , & I’ve begun to see her point. For every friend who is excited and thrilled for me (& there are many, and they are brilliant), there’s somebody who’s inexplicably mean, dismissive or unsubtly subversive. I was naive, and expected everyone to be as excited as I was by my recent good fortune. I’ve had to wise up.

People will blame jealousy, but I think we’ve all been in situations where we know that cannot be true. If jealousy is coveting thy neighbour’s goods, then this is something different; these people don’t want what you have, but they reallllly don’t want you to have it either. They dislike you for upsetting the status quo, for making different choices to them, and they appear to have no idea why (or even that) they feel that way.

I wasn’t looking to find advice in a Mindy Kaling (audio)book, but the words above made my my thoughts fall into place like jigsaw pieces. I listened to that essay three or four times on repeat, because it all made so much sense.

If you’re trying, then keep going, and shut out the voices that tell you can’t or you shouldn’t. It probably means you’re onto something good.
& if there comes a time when you find yourself on the other side, hoping to hold somebody in one place & keep everything the same, try to catch yourself, and look again. These feelings are a sign that you feel unfulfilled. Find a change you can make to move yourself upwards, too.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this type of envy? What’s your take on the ‘they’re just jealous’ refrain?

  • Julia Williams

    Yes. And it’s bizarre and bothers me immensely. Mainly it’s a wall of silence where friends will offer no comment, ask no questions and show no interest in what I am up to. As if it’s not happening – which is just as bad as saying something mean in some ways. People can be so very weird can’t they? You’re so right that people presumably perceiving something to be a success can bring out the worst in them. It can also bring out the best in others. It for sure shows people’s true colours. I’m always the first to say to others in this situation – they’re just jealous – but what you say about they don’t want what you have but don’t want you to have it either I think is so true of a lot of people too, as you’re right when I’m jealous it’s never malicious, only about myself and my own insecurities and I never let it stop me expressing how delighted I am for or proud I am of said person ❤️

    • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been on the receiving end of this too – sorry, though not surprised. You are so right to say it brings out the best in others, though – and it’s often surprising which side people fall on! I’ve often said ‘they’re just jealous’ too, and always meant it, but this sees like it explains it better…
      & on that note, you have genuinely been one of the most encouraging and supportive about what I do. it means such a lot! x

  • xantheberkeley

    Keep shining and doing what you’re doing. You have plenty of cheerleaders. Other people’s reactions is about them, not you. What a shame people choose to ‘put down’ instead of ‘lift up’ each other… xxx

    • Thanks Xanthe! I’m shaking my colourful pompoms all over the place for you! x

  • Melanie

    Good words lady. Let’s let others shine as bright as they can. If we are feeling unfulfilled, then it makes sense to turn our focus inward and concentrate our energy on making ourselves feel content and happy. xx

    • It makes perfect sense, and yet sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do, isn’t it? I write these as ‘notes for my daughter’ but the secret truth is, they’re really just notes to remind myself down the line I think! 🙈 xxx

  • I have immense dislike for the ‘they’re just jealous’ platitude. It seems to be something used all too frequently amongst women & often as a way to gloss over questioning a little deeper. Sometimes, there can be reasons under the surface as to a lack of immediate support or cheering, sometimes it can actually be the perception of the successful if reaction didn’t meet their own expectation. On the whole though, I would absolutely agree that it is possible to feel an element of resentfulness whilst celebrating the success of others. For me, it’s usually a reflection of my own current limitations that cause this feeling, but that serves as a healthy reminder that comparison does no good & all I can do is keep striving & following my path, whilst cheering those that deserve it.
    You undermine yourself in your ‘recent good fortune’. There are perhaps elements of luck, but you’ve also worked bloody hard to maximise the potential of this & create something brilliant & fulfilling, and you deserve every success x

    • Such a thought-filled comment, Sarah (I know that isn’t really a thing, but ‘thoughtful’ was already taken..). You are right: I’m sure there are times when our own assessment of our successes leads us to expect a greater response than we get, & that can be misconstrued. Although I’m the kind of person who usually turns this around on myself and thinks ‘oh, I didn’t do so well after all!’ 🙈
      I’m exactly the same – I get those twinges, and have to take it as a reminder. It doesn’t always come naturally, but it gets easier the better I know myself. This was my conclusion that surprised me the most – it wasn’t how happy or fulfilled people were that determined their supportiveness, but their own self awareness and ‘sorted’ness. Perhaps because we all feel those feelings of envy, but when we’re sorted in our own heads, we can process them properly?
      This is turning into a novel, but thank you for that last point re: ‘good fortune’. It’s never easy to take credit for hard work, is it? But you’re right, I have, and thank you for the reminder xx

  • lou @ Littlegreenshed

    Oh Sara, we have had many conversations about this subject here. Dan always uses that phrase ‘they are just jealous’ when I discover that someone has blocked me or is actively trying not to include me. Then I think it’s all in my head and feel paranoid. No we are NOT doing anything wrong, we are achieving our own goals and striving for our own best self. I have your back, and I know you have mine my darling. This is the whole reason why I set up SISTERHOOD – so we can all look out for each other. xxx

  • Melissa

    As a kid I never bought that jealousy thing either. For me, the reason the kids that picked on me did, was because they had awful home lives. There was a kid whose parents divorced and that were using him as a bargaining chip. The poor kid was ripped out from where he grew up, forced to live with his dad here, when clearly he wanted to be where his friends were, and he was acting out because of it. Another girl had terrible parents who were drug dealers, so she was too grown up for her age, and so she made up rumors about me and spread them around school. It was a horrible couple of years, but I knew they were doing it because they had a sucky family. I at least had a good family, knew I had other people who would be parents if something happened to mine, and friends who were not at school. I was an easy target because I was naive and too desperate to be someones friend. So I think the jealousy thing is incorrect as well. It just minimizes their experience as well as yours down to something that has nothing to do with why they are actually acting that way, which is unfortunate.

  • Rebecca Harrison

    You deserve your success, Sara! You’re brilliantly talented and super hard-working. It’s hard not to be disappointed when friends are mean-spirited.

    I often get derogatory comments but reckon it’s cos I’m a mousy lass and an easy target, rather than they’re jealous of me. The remarks are often seethsome n cutting like ‘I used to write stories like yours when I was a child, but didn’t bother to keep them.’ ‘I do admire how brave you are to keep going with your writing.’ etc etc *eats weight in lard* Sometimes, it seems like a subtle form of bullying.

  • Jealousy, envy, covetous thoughts… I completely agree the difference is in how we process these and the way we do this depends solely on our own state of mind. It all goes far deeper than many of us are comfortable admitting.

    Sara, I am so grateful to you for writing these notes. I only hope Orla will appreciate them as much as we all do (which is a significant amount) x

  • Love this! The way I make sense of envy is that its longing that has been hijacked by fear.
    I try to remember this when feeling covetty (totes a word). And also when grown-assed women direct their feary longings at me, I try to remember that there is a voice inside their heads that is telling them they can’t have what they think I have. And that must be a really shitty place to live.
    That quote is bang on #teammindy

  • Old Fashioned Susie

    Another corker of a post here lady. Whenever this has happened to me (broadly speaking here) I’ve taken a step back from that person/s and left them to get on with it. This has got easier as I’ve got older but it still can be upsetting.
    It is of course to do with their mindset more than anything else. Life’s too short.

    Spend time with people who support, not suck out the spark in you xx

  • This is a good post. I found it via Twitter, someone had linked it. I too have a daughter named Orla, who is now ten. She is the love of my life. We have had many conversations about jealousy and the meaness of spirit. It seems to me that it is a quintessentially English trait not to celebrate success, or at least I have always thought so. Maybe that’s why we celebrate the underdog.

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  • Dorrie

    Thank you for this post. It resonated with me because I have been on the receiving end of such behaviour in the past. I do think it’s jealousy but like other emotions/feelings, people react in different ways. Perhaps jealousy makes some people turn nasty because they’re not nice people anyway and it just brings out the worse in them. Maybe it doesn’t make you act like that because you’re not a nasty person by nature (I’m guessing).

  • Elizabeth Dalton

    I’m reading through lots of your blog posts tonight I can’t help but jump from one to the next your writing is emotive, engaging and generates so many thoughts I just want to chat back with you about. Your success is so deserved from all your hard work and what it gives back to the reader like me tonight x

  • @oftheeveryday

    Ok, now may be this one is my most favouritest!