I’ve always wanted to be like her so much, I brushed off anything positive people said about me. I don’t know when it started or if this was caused by the environment consistently pitting women and girls against one another or if it’s 100% me and my delusions, but I used to always think that the grass was greener for the next chick.
There was a classmate of mine that I was so envious of that in the 4th grade, when I saw that she was upset about something, I railed on her: “how could you be upset about anything? Your life is perfect!” And to my nine-year old self, it was. She had a house complete with a play room, well-dressed parents and luxury cars. Moreover, she was pretty, popular and got to do both dance and gymnastics.
When I compared that to my life: small apartment where I shared a room with my parents, not enough money to get me into anything but public school and parents who had to work two shifts a day, I was jealous. Not to mention, this was a time when I was getting picked on, horribly, for my puffy hair and urban – read Ebonics- vernacular, and Payless shoes. I tasted envy for the first time. I wanted to be like her. No. I wanted to be her.
It became a hard habit to shake. In my twenties I continued to be envious of others. Even when I saw that no one person was perfect and everyone’s life had some trouble I would then pick pieces of a person and yearn for what they had to be mine. Wanting to be pretty like this woman, or stylish like that one, or even financially stable and responsible like those women. It didn’t help that for most of my twenties I was in a relationship that was far from positive. And when that relationship fell I wondered what I could have adjusted to have been more like the women he wanted.
And that’s when something clicked and everything changed. Between long talks with my mother and girlfriends, time alone and changing my overall approach to life, I realized that I, too, was something amazing. Now, if someone complimented me I didn’t feel as if they were pitying me, I believed them. What really let me know I had changed was that I didn’t need them to tell me I was attractive or intelligent. I found it in myself.
Here’s what I did:
Meditation. It is everything. Every.thing. I became more mindful and grounded. I no longer envied because I was learning that there is no constant in life. When a person is up or down they feel like it will last forever, but it won’t. So if I was envious of women who had it all, would I stop being envious if they fell? Would I then be happy? And if I was what was that saying about me?
Exercise. Ok so I’m still slightly a chubster but I swear by the dopamine released when you exercise. It is a natural high. When I was learning to love and appreciate myself I was at the gym almost every day. There was no major body change, I am a live to eat type of lady, but the dopamine and good vibes came rolling in and it made me feel more confident.
I stared at myself. No, really, I did. Naked and in the mirror. I noticed things that I hadn’t really seen before. We’re all so used to our own faces we don’t appreciate ourselves the way we do other people.
Work. I began to take myself as both a teacher and a write much more seriously. I began to focus on my craft and between writing classes and my writing group I re-realized a passion I had forgotten. I didn’t want to follow anyone else’s dream anymore. I remembered that I’d had one of my own and I needed to make that happen for myself. How could I achieve my dream by watching other’s fulfill theirs? How could I be successful in a field I only entered to be like such and such? I couldn’t.
I put flowers in my own barrel. Instead of wanting to go to war with women, I wanted to ditch the patriarchal act of competition and befriend them. The last thing I wanted to do was to go from “they are better than me”” to “I am better than them”. I worked towards understanding that we can all be amazing, together. Another woman’s beauty doesn’t diminish my own. Her success isn’t going to stifle my own. In fact, if I could just talk to her, get advice and wisdom from her, I could one day attain my own success. And then we could both be on a beach sipping mimosas, together, celebrating our success, together.
For the first time in my life I started seeking out strong women so that I could build friendships with them and learn from them. And the universe has responded and where I had maybe two girlfriends and a handful of associates, I now have a tribe of beautiful women standing with me. Beautiful not just physically, but women who are compassionate, powerful and brilliant.
So now, my grass is green. It isn’t more or less green than any other woman’s. Still, I have watered it and tended to it and now it isn’t just grass. It’s my garden. And it’s in full bloom.