Can I admit something?
I’ve often struggled with envy. And comparison. I’m sure you never have, but it’s dogged me my whole life.
I think the middle school and junior high years are prime time to develop this vice. That’s when it happened for me. I wasn’t popular by any stretch of the imagination – I was picked on, called a tag-along, rejected by boys, talked about behind my back by friends and people who ought not have had any interest in my life whatsoever.
That drove me to not only feel less-than, but I also discovered that one way to defend myself was to point out something wrong with somebody else, or use sarcasm to subtly put someone down. I didn’t do it often, but enough that I can remember it happening.
I did something especially heinous in 9th grade that I won’t discuss in detail, because you’d all unfriend me. Just take my word for it. It was Mean Girls worthy. Basically I made a terrible joke out of a hard life circumstance another girl was facing – behind her back, of course.
One of our mutual friends kind of encouraged me to do it, then went and told her and it was truly awful. To this day I wish I could beg her forgiveness.
I’m sensitive to people’s emotions and empathize with their pain, typically, but my insecurities turned me into something wicked that day. That’s what envy and insecurity do to us.
In addition, the envy I felt toward those who had what I didn’t have, or seemed to, caused me to resent them. In my later years I was unable to celebrate another person’s victory. I felt like I needed to ignore it or try to one-up them.
My senior year of high school, I was talking to a teacher when a classmate came to share that she had made a good enough score on her ACT to be accepted to college. I casually mentioned my score, which was a good bit higher than hers.
Total jerk move. And my teacher looked at me like, “Whaaaat the heck?”
I cringe whenever I think about that. It was a really big deal to the other girl because scholarships were probably the only way she would be able to further her education.
She worked hard for that score and I tried to steal her moment of happiness.
The jealousy and insecurity continued into my adult years, and since I never felt like I was hitting the mark in my own life, or getting what I wanted, I refused to be happy whenever someone else did.
It didn’t matter whether she was having new wood floors installed or a had great new job opportunity – I didn’t want to hear it. In my mind I’d belittle it or tell myself she shouldn’t be doing whatever it was.
And when something didn’t work out for her, I might even feel a secret sense of satisfaction. Because it turned out she was no better than me, after all.
Don’t I sound wonderful?
The good news is that I’ve finally learned that we are all better when one of us is better. Your success gives me strength and encouragement. As women, we need to support one another and cheer each other on.
I can’t be you and you can’t be me. Nor should we try. If I’m trying to run my race in your lane, I lose. That’s the rules.
The more I’ve learned to see my sisters as unique and gifted, the more free I am to be who I am. Funny. We are tall, short, big, small, funny, serious, smart, creative, artsy, organized, disorganized, married, single, and a multitude of other things.
Rather than being eaten alive with envy, I’ve determined to encourage my friends in their hopes and dreams. When one steps out to try something new, I want to give words of support and belief that she can succeed. If she receives recognition for a job well done, I want to congratulate her. Even if she’s succeeding at something I wish I could be doing – especially then.
Friends, the bottom line is that we need each other. We need to set aside comparison and envy. I can’t say that the thoughts never come into my mind any more. I just don’t give them airtime. Instead, I open my mouth and speak encouragement or type it or text it or whatever I can do to combat negativity.
It works. I’m genuinely happy about the successes of my friends and I’m able to celebrate them honestly. Their wins don’t diminish me. They inspire me.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:3-7
Where are y’all in this? Do you relate or am I alone here?