I have green eyes. In some lights, they look blue. An ex-boyfriend once said he’d “never seen such depth of colour”. I store this compliment on a brief listed titled Nice Things Men Have Said.
I’ve been a green-eyed monster. In the second of the Big Scary Word series, we’re talking about jealousy. One emotion: three questions. Find out more about the girl behind G4RL. Allow me to confess to my past sins. Let me explain how I overcame jealousy and blossomed into a blue-eyed babe.
1. Have you ever felt jealousy?
For too many years, depression wreaked havoc with my self-esteem. I was the most unlikeable person in any room. I was less attractive than the women on my Instagram feed. I was afraid to write, because I surely wasn’t good enough. I overcompensated for my insecurity in social settings. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I projected confidence. Turns out, I was just drunk and yelling. Low self-esteem is a ripe breeding ground for jealousy. For me, the two went hand-in-hand.
Jealousy can manifest as a suspicion or resentment that your partner is attracted to someone else. In my last relationship, this reached fever pitch. I was often anxious about my partner’s fidelity. I spent my time obsessively stalking the women he’d been messaging. I trawled through their profiles on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I’d tell myself I was better than them. I would tear these women down, criticising their looks, their Instagram captions or their outfits.
This false reassurance did nothing to calm my fears. It did nothing to boost my confidence. It did nothing to change his behaviour. It spawned secondary emotions. I’d feel ashamed for thinking unkind thoughts about these women. I’d feel pity for the small, fearful version of me blinking at her phone screen. I resented myself for spending my precious time comparing myself to others. This contributed to my low self-esteem, which only intensified my jealousy. I was trapped in a vicious cycle.
I’d poisoned my loving, sincere, kind personality with jealousy. This poison had disconnected me from my true, joyful self. Jealousy stood in my way. It held me in an unhappy place. It stopped me from making changes in my life. It stopped me from seeking out the people and experiences which would bring me peace. My negative attitude towards other women was misdirected. My negative attitude towards myself was hugely misdirected. The betrayals of trust which had sparked these feelings should have been addressed with my partner.
Jealousy can also manifest as bitterness towards someone else’s accomplishments. In the age of social media, this is a biggie. I remember feeling jealous of a young author who had also studied at my university. She became an overnight Instagram celebrity. It’s all too easy to say, “Yeah, well I could do that and I could do it better”. But you didn’t do that. They did that. They got up one morning, created their narrative, poured their energy into their work and achieved their goals. And you can too.
We project ourselves into other people’s stories. We think that their successes are directly related to our own lives. We fear that their success will expose our own flaws. We hide our jealousy behind criticism of others. We deceive ourselves. We say that we are justified in our spitefulness, because of a false superiority masking deep insecurity.
I had been experiencing life as a mirror. I was reflecting back the lives and behaviour of others, rather than confidently projecting my own, killer self. I needed to leave this behind, forever. I needed to rebalance my relationship with myself in order to overcome jealousy.
2. How do you deal with jealousy?
Cardi B’s new album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ is a landmark hip-hop record. You betcha I’m going to seamlessly weave it into our discussion here. On her latest single, ‘Be Careful’, she talks about her partner’s suspected infidelity: “You got me looking in the mirror different, thinking I’m flawed because you inconsistent”. If your partner acts disrespectfully towards you or leads you to question their fidelity, it can affect your self-worth. You might believe that their unkindness means you are worthless. It’s through your wounded self-esteem that jealousy finds a foothold.
Where trust has been fractured, jealousy seeps into the gaps. The only way to break the vicious cycle is to cut it off at its source. You are not flawed. They are inconsistent. They are responsible for their behaviour, just as you are responsible for yours. When you are weakened by low self-esteem, it can take time to extract yourself from someone who has caused or contributed to your pain. Once you’re able to move on, then the work on rebuilding self-esteem and overcoming jealousy can begin.
To deal with jealousy, I addressed my low self-esteem at its roots. I built an inner, quiet confidence. This was a brand new feeling for me. I worked really hard in order to embody true confidence. I set personal goals for every month. I got up every day and achieved them. I wrote a lot of lists: positive affirmations; my values and my new rules for living. I created a long-term vision for my life. I crafted my online and offline space to be full of positivity.
My newfound confidence isn’t arrogance, or a mask propped up by alcohol. It’s a comfortable, playful and genuine joy. I’m not immune to moments of self-doubt or envy. What I can do in those moments is direct my energy into reaffirming my own unique strengths or work on my flaws. Practising self-love limits my feelings of jealousy towards others.
There is enough room for everyone to live comfortably and showcase their talents. I created a firm identity utterly unrelated to others and it halted jealousy in its tracks. With a clear sense of your place in the world, what other people are doing ceases to reflect directly on you.
3. What have you learned from jealousy?
Jealousy eventually forced me to love myself. I overcame loneliness by seeing myself as a person worth getting to know. I overcame jealousy by taking this self-awareness one step further. I don’t just know who I am; I love who I am. It makes people really uncomfortable when I say that.
We like women to be humble. We disapprove of “female arrogance”. Women should not be talking loudly and proudly about their positive relationship with their body or mind. Women should feel confident, but only if it’s serenely expressed in a way that doesn’t appear boastful. That means not writing about your growth on the internet. You shouldn’t talk about finding your stretch-marks sexy. You shouldn’t tell others that you see no upper limit on your potential.
The idea that self-love is a mark of arrogance makes me want to laugh and then cry. The corporate world makes billions from our internalised self-hatred. It fuels the beauty industry, the fashion industry and the fitness industry. Capitalism, baby!
I spent too many years thinking I wasn’t “enough”. I refuse to engage in self-hatred ever again. I will never make odious comparisons with other women. I’ll tell you what almost killed me: internalising the cruelty of others, as if it were a reflection of my own worth. Jealousy fuelled by low self-esteem created a spiral of worthlessness, despair and depression.
That chapter is closed. I tossed that book in a fire and sent it smoking to high heaven. I want to spend my days telling the world that I matter and I’m proud of myself. Standing up and declaring that you love yourself is an act of defiance. Radical self-acceptance is just that. Totally radical, man.
Those hours spent comparing myself to other women didn’t make me a better person. I know too many details about women I’ll never even meet. What a waste of precious brain-space! I could have memorised the poetry of T.S Eliot or sent a Tesla into space. Those women are beautiful and interesting in their own narratives, but utterly irrelevant to my life. I was reborn when I focused on myself and stopped quantifying my worth in relation to others.
For our purposes, it’s a perfect transition from ‘Be Careful’ to the next track on Cardi B’s album. On ‘Best Life’ she tells us: “I’m my own competition, I’m competing with myself/I’m living my best life/turned all my losses into lessons”. Thank you Cardi.
Y’all know the drill. If you liked my words as they were beamed into your eyeballs, you have to like them on the internet-machine. Follow G4RL’s adventure on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. See you next Monday for another collaborative post with a prize princess! Check your junk folder if you’re a loyal email subscriber and this didn’t arrive in your inbox.
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