Let me begin writing this note by first clarifying that I have a reasonably sound sense of self-worth and I think quite well of myself. For a very long time, actually, I thought that I was above the regular emotional trap of jealousy. I’ve been quite fortunate to not really experience the pain and anxiety associated with it for most part of my life, largely because I avoid comparing myself with others, and I do that because I strongly believe in the philosophy of uniqueness.
However, as I realized recently, even I, after practicing a strict ‘mind-your-business‘ code, cannot completely be immune to this feeling. I hate it. I loathe it, I totally do! Even admitting it makes me cringe inside; it feels as though I’ve become somewhat less of a person since I started feeling jealous. It feels like I lack something, like I’m not good enough and that the people whom I don’t like are kinda better than me at those things that I’ve really tried hard to be good at, but have constantly failed at. For instance, making many friends, being liked by a lot of people, being adored, being noticed, being accepted, becoming popular, and so on and so forth. In fact, I’ve only faced dejection whenever I’ve tried to become better at these things. So what do I do? How do I deal with it? I know I’m good, and I know that those who know me well, think of me as a fantastic person. But rather than focusing on my existing goodwill in my private circle and feeling good about it, I can’t sometimes help but notice that my circle is actually quite limited. At moments like these, my mind inevitably makes me think that I’m not known to enough people, and that I’ll never be as appreciated by a whole world out there as those whom I’m jealous of. Though, it is another matter altogether that I’m a selective kinda person and I don’t give an easy entry to most people I meet. Maybe its something I can improve on, but by no means, I am unpleasant, or obnoxious, or repulsive, or weird, or even introverted.
The answer to the question of dealing with jealousy isn’t an easy one, because I think that the only effective way to deal with it is to live through the feeling, experience the pain and anxiety, let myself burn in jealousy and emerge out of the fire in the end. I can’t by-pass the feeling, I can’t pull a blindfold over my eyes and pretend to be fine. I must face things as they are.
I had had only rare fleeting moments of jealousy in my life up until last year. I had a strong handle on my internal ‘compare-o-meter’, and I’d never let myself go haywire, even in tough situations. I wasn’t oblivious to jealousy, of course, but the feeling had never really persisted long enough to affect me in a way that it is affecting me now. Something happened last year that shook my ground, and hit me so hard that I’m still grappling with the after-effects. It all started when I first got a hunch that my boyfriend was cheating on me. As it turned out later, he was indeed cheating on me! With a girl who was younger, more popular, more socially accepted, more invited to parties, and more followed on Facebook and Instagram. Not only that, she was quite liked by people whom I didn’t like at all. She was white, while I’m brown. Sounds like a perfect recipe for psychological disaster, doesn’t it?
What did my mind make out of this?
Lots of things actually, which all boil down to this – That I’m not as good as her. Even when I try to give a dose of logic to myself, by saying things like, “Oh he didn’t love her, he was just in it for the sake of convenience“, or “I’m actually smarter than her, more intelligent and certainly more matured than her“, it still feels as though I’m NOT AS GOOD AS HER, PERIOD! She is going around the world with her friends, to Sweden, to India, to Corsica etc. and I’ve been sitting at home, jobless! (Quitting my work and taking a sabbatical was my choice 100% and I stick by my decision. But it still feels sucky when I compare it with what she is doing). She is getting comments and likes from our common acquaintances on her pictures, where she is beaming into the camera. What do I get? I barely manage to get 20 or 30 likes, at the very best, and almost no comments at all, except from my family. All the popular fun people from among my former acquaintances still comment on her pictures, even after one year of her having left from this country. She was just an intern at our company for 4-5 months, while I worked in the same company for two and a half years. How do you think I feel about that?
Of course, it feels horrible because I’m constantly living in the dark shadow of inferiority (which may be only a mental construction in my mind, at the very best). I’ve tried many things to avoid this feeling – logical self-talk, mental escape and meditation. I have even tried to befriend this girl, so that there remains no place for bitter feelings, and compassion takes over everything negative. (Yeah, I did a Buddhist monk-like thing too!) But only to my dismay and, more sadly, humiliation, my friendly gestures were all met with callous, cold and curt attitude from that girl. Even a simple, sweet birthday wish text became a big deal. And mind you, this is after I helped her get over the initial shock when we both discovered that we were being two-timed! (Remember, I’m the more matured one? Yeah, right. I was more sane and in control than her at the time of tragic epiphany, and she leaned on me for support. I treated her as my younger sister, because she was her age. This, by the way, is not an exaggeration of any kind) I understand that she did not want to talk to me later because I would remind her of the bad things, but at least she could’ve used kinder words to tell me to stay away. I wasn’t her culprit, I was a victim like her. Is that too much to ask for?
So now, once this happened, what did my mind tell me?
This time, it told me that I was NOT EVEN RESPECTED…. Oh man, that was hard! So fucking hard! If after putting out your best behaviour in the time of adversity to your rival, you get what I got, you will be doomed. You will hate yourself for being naïve, for being good, for being the way you are. If I could smack her face for being rude, I would. No kidding, I really would. She deserves it, because she repaid me with rudeness. There she is, happily enjoying her trips and putting statuses on social media of how she is going to fight back and find another love, and here I am, still thinking that people don’t like me as much as they like her. I am not hungry for attention, I’m not desperate; on the contrary, I’m shy of too much attention. I don’t imagine myself in a social popularity duel with her, but on those unfortunate accounts when I do happen to stumble upon something that reminds me of her, I slip into a kind of rage that engulfs me. I don’t know if her rudeness can be considered her fault, but my jealous mind believes it is. And I don’t know if my ranting can be considered self-pity, but my jealous mind believes it is not.
I’m fortunate enough to have an idealistic outlook in life. I try to see the good in most people. I understand that people make mistakes and I give them another chance. I don’t just dismiss them. I try to understand the reasons rather than react on outcomes. With this, it should come as no big surprise that I did forgive my boyfriend. I gave him the space to open up before me, allowed him to be vulnerable and made him comfortable enough to say the truth, as it was. I’m not stupid, no. My forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. I have the strength to see beyond adversity, I have the strength to handle the truth, and I have the strength to make a detached assessment of a tragedy, even as it befell me. Even though it still hurts me, I know why he did what he did. He strayed off, but not without a reason.
I have enough compassion and empathy for anyone who is humble and respectful. It is only the arrogant and the boastful whom I have a problem with. Unfortunately, my rival-in-love was neither humble, nor respectful.
Yet, she has a better social acceptance than me. That’s what makes me sad, that’s what makes me jealous.
As I said earlier, I will have to face things, stay strong and allow myself to heal. I will have to burn myself out first before I emerge from the fire, renewed. I will have to be the PHOENIX !