In every career, hobby or project you take on there will be setbacks. From lack of time, money and energy to lack of motivation, competence and doubt. The list seems endless and sometimes I am surprised anything gets done at all. A combination of perseverance and passion gets us through but then I came across a hurtle I had never dealt with before. This hurtle threatened to undermine my determination and tear down everything I had worked so hard to achieve. What shocked me was that this had all stemmed from envy.
As children we heard about the green eyed monster. It was a vile emotion leading to feelings of anger, sadness and the desire for retribution. We were told it was not right to feel this way but of course, we are not perfect and it would spring up in our lives. At the time it was reserved for gifts others received, attention given to your siblings and not to you, or that shiny new toy the neighbor was playing with. Slowly, we became accustomed to its presence - almost numb - to envy.
Walking by the shop window, you spot that gorgeous dress you've had your eye on but cannot afford. You are envious of those who can afford it. You think of all the celebrities, the millionaires, perhaps, even your friends who wouldn't bat an eye at its price. Just as quickly that heavy feeling in your gut disappears and you move on with your day.
We see perfect bodies and wish we could look like that. Immaculate houses we wish we owned. Fabulous vacations you can only dream about. Envy and desire go hand in hand. Companies spend millions of dollars a year on marketing to evoke this type of emotion from you. Luxury brands are in the business of selling you fantasy. After all, that new Louis Vuitton purse will not change your life. However, when you see that advertisement with the perfect model, in the perfect house, you might think to yourself that if you got one too your life might get one step closer to theirs. I have heard of people going into debt just trying to keep up. I have heard of people throwing aside friendships because they could not handle being around those they were so envious of.
Without realizing it envy can translate into stress and that's where the problem began for me. We have an innate fight of flight response to stress in our environment triggered by perceived harm, fear, etc. Rational thought goes out the window. What I had not been aware of was that envy could cause a similar response.
I am not eager to admit how envious I feel towards other writers. Whether, it is their work or successes - I cannot help but think "why can't that be me?". Of course, there are plenty of other things I am envious of. I want that new phone, I want that shiny new car but the envy was not potent. With writing it is different. Ever since publishing my own books I have felt envy's sting far more sharply. It got to the point where I have actually considered throwing in the towel.
Why should I bother trying? I'll never be as good as X. I'll never make as much money as Y.
Why did they get all of this recognition?
All of these thoughts and questions have simple answers but they are no less self-destructive. Especially, when you allow yourself to obsess over them. The point is they have all stemmed from envy I felt towards others. Most of the time my response has been to flee. In the past, I did this with ballet, drawing and piano. It had been easier to just eliminate the cause of all these insecurities - to just give up.
But I cannot. I love writing too much and I do not want to be defeated by this. So I have decided to change the conversation. I will fight rather than flee. I will accept there will always people who are better than me, who have achieved more but that does not mean my accomplishments are meaningless either. I will strive to achieve my goals and will focus on congratulating other people's achievements (rather than grumbling about the injustice in the world). Why not channel that energy spent being envious into something proactive? If you want to achieve anything you have to be willing to put in the effort, to overcome your fear. You might stumble, you might never win but at least you can say you tried.
Envy will always be there but I am done complaining. I will start doing.