Who’s that Green-Eyed Monster in my Mirror?

Your best friend starts dating a gorgeous, rich new man.

A colleague gets a promotion.

Your sister loses 10 pounds and looks fantastic.

Your new yoga instructor looks like a younger, hotter, fitter version of Giselle Bundchen.

Congratulations, right? So why do you have to smile through your teeth while fighting the urge to rip off her head? Welcome to the emotions of envy and jealousy. Wicked feelings that can creep up on you and turn even the most demure woman into a raging, irrational lunatic.

First, let’s distinguish between the 2 terms.

Envy: To bear a grudge towards someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys.

Jealous: Apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else.

If you are envious of someone, you want what they have. If you are jealous of someone, you believe they can take something from you. For example, you may believe they are a threat to your job or your marriage.

Why am I writing about this topic? Because this blog is devoted to issues that affect women, and to put it frankly, women are jealous bi***es! This realization came to me a couple of days ago as I miserably complained to my fiancée that a colleague had enjoyed a career success that I felt was undeserved. I admitted I was envious. I admitted I was being irrational. He said I was being petty. PETTY?? Now that is just… Well ok, I was being petty. I thought about other instances where I had been jealous or envious of others women. When I really thought about it, I had to admit that I begrudged people success, happiness, beauty, talent, popularity etc. an awful lot, and had been doing so for years.

There are many types of envy/jealousy. You can make adversaries of strangers on the street, your friends, and your colleagues. And we have all heard of sibling rivalry. I have experienced them all. I don’t want to make it sound like I resent everyone’s achievements, prosperity and good fortune. I root for the people that I care for. But intermingled with the pride and joy I feel for them when good things happen in their lives, there is a tiny yet uncontrollable yearning for them to fail miserably (or at least flounder a little).

I clearly have a problem. But I know I’m not alone. I hear the way women talk about other women around me all the time. Bullying between girls as a result of envy/jealousy/insecurity starts in elementary school and continues well into adulthood. A group of women see a beautiful woman walking down the street, claws come out and she is immediately shredded apart. Her hair, her outfit, her makeup, her shoes, anything is fair game. My grandmother still gossips about her friends, and is still competing with her twin sister. Feminist Germaine Grier said at the Fem08 conference that what worried her ‘about the future of women’s equality and feminism was women’s own misogyny”. Is it true? Do women hate other women? Gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash, author of ‘Tripping the Prom Queen-The Truth about Women and Rivalry’ has conducted research and interviews with 500 US women. She has found that 40% of women say they have had another woman steal their boyfriend, lover, husband or job in their lifetime. 25% have done the stealing. 90% of women are or have been envious and jealous of other women in their lives, with 65% saying they feel that way about their sister or best friend. 80% have been victims of another woman’s envy or jealousy.

So why do women treat each other this way? One reason is likely insecurity. If a woman has a negative self-image or poor self-esteem she may not believe herself to be worthy of obtaining what the other woman has that she covets, or she may believe the other woman superior and able to steal what she has. If the other woman is someone like a good friend or a sister, then the feelings of envy or jealousy can cause a lot of guilt, thus contributing to poor self-image. Susan Shapiro Barash believes that women create rivalries with other women due to “scarcity of goods”. She says “We (women) are taught winner takes all — the sense that there is only one (glass) slipper, one crown. And therefore, if she has it, I cannot have it.” Apparently men are immune to this practice. They may be competitive by nature, but “because men have always competed for what they do, and women compete for who they are” they are able to shout obscenities at each other on the basketball court and then shake hands afterwards. To women, being the thinnest, the most beautiful, the most successful, the richest, or smartest will help to define them and so these titles are so coveted that they are willing to push each other under the bus to achieve them, and if they cannot they will sure as hell resent the hussy who beat them out.

Envy and jealousy are natural human emotions that everyone has experienced at one time or another. But where do they get you? Wishing somebody else ill will for something that they have just wastes time that you could be spending making good things happen for you, and could potentially damage important relationships in your life. More importantly, isn’t it time that women started lifting each other up instead of holding each other down? Perhaps if we start cheering each other on and celebrating each other more of us will have the self-confidence and drive to love and believe in ourselves and strive for what we want out of life. And then we will have less to begrudge others for.

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One Response to “Who’s that Green-Eyed Monster in my Mirror?”

  1. truthandcake Says:

    “Perhaps if we start cheering each other on and celebrating each other more of us will have the self-confidence and drive to love and believe in ourselves and strive for what we want out of life.” This is a very important concept that I’ve been working on over the last year or so. My best friend decided she also wants to be a writer, and I’ve had to navigate the tricky terrain of sharing successes and being honest about failures. If you view other’s successes as inspiration and fuel for your own creative fire, it’s amazing how it flows right back to you. There’s room for everyone because we are all unique. No one can steal your exact thunder. You’re the only one who can produce that sound.

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