My relationship with jealousy is intense and complicated.
I’m competitive by nature. Ambitious as hell, too. I’m also the kind of person who can’t always be happy for other people. I know, I know, it's a crappy thing to admit. I want to be someone who is just bursting with excitement for everyone’s achievements—even when it feels like my own life is spiraling into obscurity—but I’m not that person. I know I’m supposed to support all women, and never be competitive, but I can’t and I am.
As my jealousy rages, the little self-doubt demons come crashing in: “Hey, why haven’t you achieved that yet? You must actually be all the things you fear you are!”
There’s that familiar punch in the gut when I see someone get something I want. They got that byline. That contract. That check. That opportunity. They look like that. Have that many followers. That many favorites. That many of whatever I don’t have enough of. The Internet is the perfect place to feed the comparison beast. Who’s doing better than me? Well, let me open up a new tab, and find out!
I used to try to contain the monster. I’d try to diminish the target of my jealousy, and make myself feel better, by focusing on some inadequacy of theirs. Or, I’d try to lift them up in my mind, find a way to align myself with them in my imagination to see some commonality, to maybe sponge up some of their success by telepathic osmosis (admittedly, this technique didn’t work very well).
But here's the weird thing: I ended up realizing that my jealousy fuels me. Men are taught to embrace their competitiveness, so comparison and jealousy become motivating forces. They serve men well in sports and at work, where everyone is free to compare and climb. Competition and one-up-ness go hand in hand. Besides, if someone isn’t doing better than you, who are you competing with?
The Internet is the perfect place to feed the comparison beast. Who’s doing better than me? Well, let me open up a new tab, and find out!
In many ways, this form of jealousy is healthy, yet many women demonize it. But I understand why. It's because we've been taught to be competitive around BS things like men and who can be the hottest in the room. Not only is this kind of competition boring (there are enough men to go around, surely. And we can all be hot, thank you very much), but it also distracts from the larger, more important forms of competition: opportunity and advancement in the professional world.
If there's someone to be jealous of, that means there’s a bomb-ass chick doing something incredible—and I want to be in on it. Instead of shying away from my jealousy, I’m using it as motivation, because it's a signal that I want more and can do more. When I see a woman achieving, it makes me consider the untapped opportunities I could be seizing myself. It drives me to push myself further.
I've spent a lot of my life living on the sidelines, looking into the window of other people’s lives, and feeling sorry for myself. Instead of using my jealousy as motivation, I used it to chip away at my sense of self-worth. I would recoil into myself, incorrectly believing that if someone else got something, it meant the well had dried up for me. Yet, every opportunity that someone else seizes—especially if it’s a woman—opens up a world of opportunity for me. Jealousy is just showing me a new level I want to reach.
I used to hate the idea of someone being jealous of me. It made me uncomfortable, which in turn, inspired me to make my life smaller, share less of what I was doing, and then eventually do less. But I realized that you can either be the person looking through the window of someone else’s life, or you can be on the inside.
When it comes to jealousy, there are the only two options: Let it get the best of you, or let it drive you. So, if life is a competition of who can do it best, I'm stepping up to the challenge.