I’d like to consider myself a confident gal.
I take care of myself, I humbly embrace my artistic talents, I relish in my mental capacity to earn a living in accounting, I’m fairly pretty and have two absolutely beautiful daughters, not to mention a movie-star-handsome husband.
Yet, at times, I am the most horrible shade of green….the Envy Green.
I have been for as long as I can recall. I always had this perception that everyone else just ‘had it all’. The perfect parents, the perfect house, the perfect grades, the perfect adoration from friends, the perfect everything. And I had…nothing.
The truth is, I did have a family life most would deem ‘dysfunctional’ at best. My parents’ tumultuous marriage did not set the best stage for any sense of normalcy; neither at school, with friends, at church or worst of all, within myself. I was convinced, that in comparison to the turmoil felt at home, everyone else’s lives just had to be superior. Because if they were as miserable as mine, what is the point of life?
This explanation I planted within my seven-year-old mind has since grown wild with thorns and thickets to my now thirty-sixth year of life. Although having bright moments of life along the way, I seem to have never shaken this shade of green I started nurturing for comfort as a child.
I struggle daily, to not see everything through a chartreuse lens. The woman at the gym with gazelle-like limbs—I have legs about 2.75 inches long. The mother who exhibits a supreme measure of patience at the bookstore with her children—while I’m chasing my two-year-old through the aisles and snapping at my seven-year-old for not watching her. And the seemingly perfect couple, who claim to never argue, never shout—while my ears are still ringing from a screaming match with my husband the night prior—over unmemorable nonsense.
I compare—and I do it well. And every time I give in to the envy, I grow a little weaker, a little less confident. I’m well aware of this self-imposed torment, how it was born and why I keep nurturing it.
My therapist suggested I stop reading parenting and fitness magazines, stop reading Facebook feeds, etc in order to derail this train to perpetual self-loathing.
But I recently arrived at a bit of an epiphany, albeit humility. Why should I avoid exposure to others’ 4 foot limbs, gentle parenting skills and tranquil marriages? Why not, rather, listen to and feel the warmth in my heart when I see the gifts, talents and beauty gracing others’ lives? Envy is a very ugly trait with the potential to damage oneself, relationships and an overall connectedness to the world.
Is this what I want to feel? Is this what I want to teach my daughters? That if you don’t have something, hate those who do?
It was an awakening. Learn to love others and more importantly, myself. We’re all in this challenge called Life, together. We all desire to have more. But the beauty of diversity allows us to embrace ourselves and life around us equally. We’re all the same. We all have flaws, chub around our waists, days when we should be bald from ripping our hair out over our kids, times when we feel the world around us must be playing a royal joke on us.
One lesson that truly drove my newfound insights home, happened while out with my girls. Parents sat and watched their children play in a water fountain square. I sat admiring my girls, happy in the sunshine and relaxing for a change. I glanced around at the other mothers, almost dying to find someone more attractive than me, more prepared with organic snacks for their children, more peacefully watching their prides of joy splashing in the summer fun—so I could unleash my Envy Monster onto her.
And sure enough, there she was. A dark haired goddess. She was perfect in every way. Lovely smile, smooth complexion, inner joy radiating a heavenly halo above her angelic head. I wanted to puke. So I followed her gaze, bitterly in search of whatever well-behaved angel was hers. And there she was; a four or five year old girl with what appeared to be spinal bifida. I wanted to crawl under a rock. I wanted to paint ‘cold bitch’ on my forehead and then crawl under a rock. What the hell was wrong with me?
I’m not going to expound on the emotions and shame I felt. But it was clear, I promised myself to never feel such blind ill will, such unattractive envy, such prejudice again towards another human being.
Envy isn’t just about discontentment, insecurity, a mishmash of our parents’ damage. It’s also about being ignorantly self-consumed.
If we can get off ourselves for a moment, we can see that while everyone wishes for something they don’t have – there are others who wish for the very thing we possess. I wished for her beauty, while she might have wished for my healthy children.
I was humbled. I was reminded to cherish what we were blessed with. I was reminded that sunshine yellow or rose pink or sky blue suited me much more sweetly than vivid ugly green.
Embrace ourselves. Embrace others. Embrace the wild differences in each of us. This is life. This is not a race. This is not about just ourselves.
If someone wins the promotion we longed for, feel nothing but support for her. If your best friend lost twenty pounds and you gained five, give praise and feel pride for her accomplishments. If your playgroup’s mom displayed nun-like love towards her temperamental toddler, take notes and appreciate the example.
There is a beautiful way to recolor envy—learn, embrace, love. So simple, so hard, so worth it. That is something to envy, isn’t it?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise