Envy is the engine that eats inside you like acid. It doesn’t really move you anywhere, but it makes you angry and sad. That anger and sadness feels productive: you get all stirred up and unhappy, and then, uh…nothing changes. You stay the same. You feel worse. Rinse and repeat.
Social media leaves us all chasing ghosts. We’re rivals with moments, not lives. Brunches, trips: go fuck yourself I mutter to every trip to Paris and Copenhagen chronicled on my Facebook feed. Go fuck yourself I whisper to every writer with the gall to get published somewhere I haven’t.
But, more than that, go fuck yourself is what I tell the mirror. It’s what I tell myself. I bubble in spite as though it helps.
It doesn’t. Really. If angry, hateful jealousy worked, I’d be the president of the world. I’m an expert in the hobby. And my life remains the same. It’s the same if I’m happy or sad. It remains if I’m angry or amped. It remains.
When you aren’t who you wish you were, it takes a courage to accept yourself. It’s almost easier to be anxious, spiteful, worried and jealous. If only you were the other person, you’d be happy. Just one more thing. Then another. Your successes don’t count. The only thing you feel is the absent space that separates you from your ambition.
And you thrash within it.
Look, look, look: I have gotten better as a writer through writing. Not through wanting it, or wishing for it, or for hating myself or from spiteful meltdowns. It just sort of happened. Time and practice are absolutely neutral, but those are the only true agents of change. Any itching of the soul does nothing but irritate you further. It isn’t productive. It doesn’t even feel good.
So why do we do it?
Simple. Ambition exceeds the physical space of the actual. That means we aren’t who we want to be. Universally. So when ambition is prized and fragments are presented on social media, it stands treason that we – our actual selves – are the ones at fault. I don’t travel or cook much! I am literal garbage compared to the Instagrams of acquaintances.
I have all my flaws tallied so vividly in my heart. It curdles into jealousy. It thrashes within me. It feels productive to give in to it but it doesn’t help me. It doesn’t help you. Cliches are cliches for a reason: they hold a truth so prized that they survive cultures and generations. And the lesson of loving yourself and being yourself and otherwise chilling is more, not less, important when the going gets tough.
Free yourself from envy. Chill. Love yourself. And, in a pinch, act on the thing that bothers you. Actually cook a little breakfast sandwich if the feast on Instagram is impossible for you. Go on a little day trip if Europe is out of reach. Actual, provable improvement will do more for your soul than the envious tempest inside you.
I know, I know: easier said than done. But everything is easier said than done. Let’s try and do it.