Who is your nemesis?
I don’t mean it in the way of a bad person who has done you wrong, or someone who seems out to get you – I mean in the sense of an arch rival. The person who is doing what you want to do, or what you are doing, only better.
I have had so many nemeses in my time. One of my many personality flaws is crabbing envy that is at times so acute I am completely stuck, immobilised, paralysed with critical shame and horror at not being as successful or pretty or funny or stylish or whatever as the current nemesis.
A nemesis is extra terrible when they are:
- also much more popular then you even though you see right through them and think they are a phony
- so much more successful than you that to even compare yourself with them is insane
- younger than you
- not actually that hard-working or in another way morally flawed
I’m battling with a couple of nemeses at the moment, it’s hard work. I tell myself that it’s a good thing, it will inspire me to work harder and be better and not be complacent. In the middle of the night, of course, I wonder if the envy will just eventually give me cancer.
Who is your current nemesis?
I love you. That is all. Everything you write resonates with me.
No no I love YOU
Jo Dodsley says
I’m convinced I am my own nemesis.
All the school run mums who stopped speaking to me when my daughter failed the 11+ test. I had the last laugh as my daughter is blossoming at her new non grammar school and their children aren’t happy.
omg do people like that actually exist
Oh gawd, the school run is the epicentre of nemesises (not sure what the plural should be!) – there are always those that have better hair/jobs/sunglasses/cars/skin/behaved children/exam results/houses and it will never change. I’ve got to the stage where I sit in the car waiting until the very last second to jump out and grab my daughter and whisk her away as quickly as possible because I can’t bear the thought of having to speak to anyone.
What about ‘frenemies’? I know it is a daft term but i seem to collect these ‘friends’ who also slightly feel like enemies or that you are in competition in some way?
This is a terrible feeling. When it hits I obsessively comb through their background to find out all the reasons they have been given an advantage over me (family money, a relative in the industry etc) and then triumphantly sit back in my mediocrity.
I am not proud of myself.
I’M proud of you, Nichola
Me too, love this comment Nichola
Me too Nichola. It’s reassuring to read I’m not the only one .
I’m not sure how to word this properly,
but you need to live YOUR best life, comparing you to others is just a waste of time, we are unique. we may be similar but only you live your life, body ,brain so be the best you can be.
try to be content with being the best YOU
did that make any sense ?
Of course, you’re right.
But recognising the negative feelings we have then acknowledging and questioning them is a good way to understand and manage them.
Ignoring and pushing away negativity means you don’t process it. You’re allowed to feel ‘bad’ feelings. It’s just about how you deal with them.
Maybe you are actually their nemesis- because you are more real,likeable, relatable, funnier and they are stuck having to project a certain image that is fake? x
Trudy I wish, but it is definitely not the case
This is great. Thanks for voicing this. It’s something that I have ‘suffered’ from to the extent that I can spend so many hours fretting about my nemesis (nemeses – there’s been more than one!) that I don’t get any work done and therefore feel/am even worse in comparison. My nemeses are almost always work-related. I think it might be something do with deep insecurity combined with a massive ego which I probably need to seek help for, sounds a bit Trump-ish now I think about it. It’s not helped in my particular line of work as our CVs are peculiarly available for all to see (once I did feel entirely justified as one particular nemesis presented my work/ideas as though they were his own RIGHT UNDER MY NOSE)! I have now banned myself from looking at anyone else’s CV and have become very disciplined in not making direct comparisons with others in any sphere of life. It does help. Comparison IS the thief of joy – and remember other people will be looking at you thinking you’ve got it made, even if you don’t think that yourself.
yes mine are all work-related too. I also have the insecurity/massive ego thing … very Trump, very… addict…
Yes … a bit addict-y potentially, or obsessive about certain things in some other ways. Probably quite narcissistic. And self-absorbed. Sounds charming, no? The thing is deep insecurity and massive ego are two sides of the same coin because if somewhere in your head you think you should rightfully be brilliant at absolutely everything (and recognised by others as such!), when (inevitably) you are not, you feel like you have not succeeded at anything. Goes along with very black/white thinking in my case and a certain degree of perfectionism, and not the helpful kind. I would say I am getting better at recognising and managing my neuroses and this has been helped by going through some ‘real’ shit which has slightly put things like ‘success’ into perspective. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that though. I do think it’s great that you have voiced it because it’s not necessarily immediately the most likeable trait but many of us feel it nevertheless (I mean, it doesn’t make me not like you but you know what I mean). And we are different from Trump in so many ways not least because we have the courage to acknowledge and maybe even laugh about our issues – and hopefully try not to act on them in ways which make us dicks (at least not all the time, sometimes I’m a dick to my family).
Did you ever see ‘Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion’? YOU are the nemesis of someone you used to go to school with/work with/did aerobics with. Not sure how helpful that is really but worth thinking about from time to time.
Catherine MT says
That irritating woman who has the same name & surname as mine is in a similar group of friends, same age and sex kids, similar hobbies, but appears to be younger, richer and prettier. She keeps popping up on FB, and friends keep confusing us, tho I have never met the woman. I’m sure she’s lovely *grits teeth*
The only people I feel like this about are girls who bullied me at school everyone else I can be magnanimous about.
I had flames on the side of my face rage when I opened Elle Decoration and found one exbully talking about her mindfulness design business. This was my my calm moment of zen reading the lovely magazine looking at all the gorgeous furniture/houses I can not afford RUINED by seeing her face and success.
I had to ring up one of my oldest school friends to discuss how we all knew exbully’s mum had done all her A level art coursework for her hence all her success is built on LIES.
I love all of you. This is so honest. I tend to have one at a time that I try to avoid. Much as I like to try and take Sam’s advice, and I believe that comparison is the thief of joy, some times people just grind your gears and piss you off. I am 52 years old. It never fades, I feel. Or maybe its just the way I am. And that’s the best version of me that there is.
Thanks so much for outing this Esther. Such an awful thing but SO prevalent.
I totally relate to this 100%. Thanks so much for sharing. All mine are work related too and it can feel so disheartening. Especially when you know that (in some cases) they really haven’t put in the work or have just stumbled across something and then claim to be an expert in it, their following laps it up and you’re like – ‘seriously?’ – When you’ve been studying and grafting it for years. There are so many people out there winging it, copycatting, getting away with it and flourishing. Of course some of them are just better/cooler/braver/whateverer. I can get so exhausted and deflated by my perception of it that it totally takes the wind out of my sails. While they sail on by – waving to their ever growing fan base with one hand, a selfie stick in the other. Damn them. Some days I can rise above it, other days it eats me for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today is one of those days, so this was a really timely post for me – thank you. Your words and honesty are a tonic.
Ruthie I am often rendered literally unable to do anything by this feeling at least once a week so you’re not alone x
Too many! I can think up ideas but can’t always write them down with any sort of flow. It feels like taking a photograph and knowing you’re including only a small amount of the full picture. And because I can’t always explain properly what I am seeing, I frustrate other people endlessly. Some of my colleagues write in such an easy to relate to way that I am sometimes so filled with longing that I don’t know what to do with myself. My current nemesis is going to have a book chapter right next to mine, is younger than me and is infinitely more talented. I wake up at night convinced the publishers will be horrified, reject ours and my co-writer will be sad and know it is all my fault. I admire him and wish I could absorb his talent at the same time! What can we do though? I think without the knowledge of where I want to go I lack direction and with it, there are always others so much further along the path that I feel a sick, sad yearning which doesn’t really go away. ‘Compete with yourself’ say some experts. Pah! I don’t know how some people find the serenity!!
A Reader says
Mine is a woman who really seemed to be fond of me, actually *volunteered* to do me a huge favour by helping me with a work thing (and she did so, massively, for a short time), then 100% ghosted me. At first I thought it was just me having one of those moments where I think I’m more important than I really am, and that she was just busy and sooner or later I would hear from her, but it has turned out not to be the case. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I thought “oh wow she is being very odd today” and Esther I cannot for the life of me think of anything that changed at that time or what I did wrong.
Anyway, she is my nemesis because she is younger and more beautiful and thinner and doing all the things I want to do in my career, with massive success (where my own success is, shall we say, currently limited). She is also my missing friend, or at least a person who was almost my friend once.
This is a very unnerving story
That is an awful feeling, and undoubtedly it’s not due to anything you’ve done, and all due to her being a stone-hearted grifter. All I can say is, and imagine the broadest Essex accent you can as it’s more comforting that way, you’re better off out of it x
Esther’s writing gives me life and is one of my faves to read so I agree with comments above saying Esther must be someone else’s nemesis.
Ha ha! I really doubt it
You were TOTALLY my nemesis during the RR years! I also had a cooking blog but nowhere near as popular as yours! Plus you had a Nanny (my eldest and Kitty are v similar in age) and could skip off to Waitrose for an hour every now and then!
Oh no!!! I hope I am no longer your nemesis. I no longer have the cooking blog nor the nanny. I do occasionally go to Waitrose it’s true
Just to clarify, I meant this in the nicest possible way 🙂 I didn’t know anyone else at the time who had completely lost their mind and not gone back to work after their baby so it was a relief to find your blog, even with the envy inducing baby free trips to Waitrose!
It’s the fairness gap that gets me. When I secretly seethe about people, it’s usually a case of the injustice of style over substance. PR and pushyness winning out over effort and lack of self promotion. And the bitter resentment that the world at large don’t seem bothered about glorifying a lightweight or that I’m not cut out to win in a competition for recognition.
I am both lucky and unfortunate enough to have always been part of strong female relationships. These have gone disasterously wrong a few times, and the sting of betrayal and shock still smarts, even though one was 10 years ago. I sometimes find myself obsessively stalking Facebook to find out what they are up to, even though it will upset me. WHY DO I STILL CARE? I also have an obsessive need to make people who don’t naturally like me, like me. Maybe emotional maturity will come with my next decade??? One can only hope
This is all about Megan Markle, isn’t it. LET IT GO ESTHER. Giles takes you to MUCH nicer restaurants than Harry would…
There are many of us lurkers out here who think that what you do is clever, funny, life enhancing! Keep on nudging into your space, the space you’ve created. Others will do what they will do – sure, acknowledge that it can eat at your soul but then write your stuff. Your witty, clever, funny, insightful – oh I already said that, worth reiterating …..
I might say that into a mirror tonight
I was in quite an ambitious higher-degree program for a while and it was chock full of people who both were my nemeses and played the nemesis game super hard… you know the type, women with excellent skin and well-off families who honestly should have gone into finance or national politics but because of The Patriarchy I suppose they had to confine their goals to nonprofit careers and so were more cutthroat as their scope was smaller… one of them once went to some effort to dig up the precise reasons why I’d unscheduled myself from a yoga course in order to establish that I was worse at time management than she was which was entirely unnecessary of her as I work midgrade clerical and she once ran a national program for a small country (we are from the same country she was just That Good that another country asked her to come run an entire office straight out of university…)
Anyway that all sounds really properly bitchy of me but I suppose if I’ve gained any Wisdom from it it’s to look and see if someone I resent is being forced to operate on a smaller scale than their ambition/talents/background/perfect flawless skin really suits them for. Maybe if I was myself very very ambitious this wouldn’t work but as is it helps me understand why other people are coming into my very modest life and being so tediously extra Basically: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZMbAg7zIc8
Umm… Everyone? I get older, uglier and stupider every day, after all.
Fairly recently a friend was telling me she had found out girl we knew at uni regarded me as her nemesis. I don’t think I’d ever had a proper conversation with this woman or really thought about her in anything other than the vaguest way. Made me realise that those people I seethe about really don’t give a crap about me… kind of sad but also very freeing.
MAKES IT ALL SO MUCH WORSE
I console myself with a quote from ‘the art of war’ (office mate lent it to me after we talked about nemeses) ““If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
omg I keep meaning to buy the Art of War, I must must get it on my kindle RN
I have this quoted pinned to the notice board over my desk.
I work in a wholly male – wholly male – field and hitherto I’d thought it was just men that bothered me with their swaggering machismo. Now I find out it’s PEOPLE. Argfhh! Love this post Esther, thank you.. So funny, so true and I’m definitely jealous of everyone here because you’re all so entertaining!
Mrs Themark says
I’ve recently accepted my mediocrity. I work hard and do my best but now, I expect very little. I’m much less INVESTED and, strangely, I sense good things will come my way because of it. (It’s occurred to me that this is maybe how a man thinks.) (I am not a man.)
god only knows how men think
Reminds me of that scene in Sex & The City (the TV show not the terrible movies) where Carrie is intimidated by Natasha – Big’s new model-y wife- and is thrilled when she discovers Natasha’s spelling mistake on a thank you card. “The woman’s an idiot!’, she crows gleefully to Samantha. That’s EXACTLY how I feel when I stalk my nemesis on instagram and find a 2012 post where her caption game isn’t as strong. It’s horribly petty and I’m not proud of it, but there you are.
Deb K says
This is so useful and honest. Not sure if it helps but -I struggle with insta. We joined to promote our book -a necessary strategy in today’s content led multi platform who knows what’s going on half the time world. Is it working? I don’t lnow. What I do know is one of the very few things I like and I’m thrilled to have discovered Ester is you. Despite you being younger, thinner, blonder, posher etc ( and potential nemesis klaxon) your verve wit charisma and practical tips are truely helpful. Plus wickedly entertaining. I edit ruthlessly. You made the cut.
. Gravitate to people who make you laugh/ give you energy. Haters gotta hate. Don’t join them
Instagram is a minefield for nemeses. I will survive on your compliments alone – no bread or water needed – for a month
Literally everyone or no one it so depends what mood Im in!!! Xxx
there’s two types of nemeses (plural?) for me: the ones that make me want to do better, who are sort of inspiring, even if it’s out of spite and the other ones, who i radically have to unfollow on insta because they made me bitter and shout at my phone. i think your list is correct except the youth-thing: how is being younger anyone’s achievement? i feel if i start making that a criterium i’ll go gaga.
I usually feel like this most intensely in the 48 hours before my period’s due. Once I spent a straight two days seething with envy over Tina Fey. Which is a madness because not only is her success just so ridiculously SUCCESSFUL as to be unacheivable, but I am not even a TV writer or comedian.
Tina Fey is an occasional nemesis of mine. In my top ten, definitely
Also Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Oh god Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Sent to make us all feel shit and yet love her for it.
On top of all the myriad of qualities that make my nemesis a nemesis, they’re also really nice! Very lovely in every fucking way! I can’t even feel good about hating them!
School boy error no. 1. Giving it a name gives it power over you. And gives it an energy you feed into every time you dwell on it. Nemeiiii aren’t the problem- your crippling self doubt is. Remind yourself of your aceness. Picture an outcome where you reign supreme. Then move on. Your writing is fab btw!
I once applied for a job I *didnt even want* because I convinced myself my nemesis would apply and I couldn’t bear the thought of her getting it and then being senior to me. I must have spent about 15 hours of my life on the application and interview prep. Neither of us got the job.
Lisa Unwin says
So, there’s this one organisation – very successful I think – who work in the same space as me but just have never been very collaborative. Virtually told me to get off their turf, despite the fact that I don’t do what they do – they are much bigger, more successful financially I’m sure (this is not difficult). About 18 months ago I was about to pack it all in, & the leader of said organisation sort of encouraged me, saying “Yes, we should all focus on what we’re good at ” – meaning “We’re good at this stuff, you don’t know what you’re doing, go away” – at least that’s how I interpreted it. So off I went feeling very down, & then thought, you know what? she’s right. What am I good at? Writing. So off I went and decided to write a book. And now it’s out and people are saying it’s very useful. What did I learn? I guess, to stop being a victim and buck myself up.
Now I have another nemesis ….. someone else doing the same as I do, but younger and funkier, with more followers, and a publishing deal with a bigger name ….. It never ends
Hey I want to post a positive response to this post. I’m terrible at doing anything for me as I have felt like a career failure, I’ve actually enjoyed being a wife and mum and bringing up my now adult children….but I’ve always done and continue to do mundane jobs. I’ve never aspired to be a slave to a mortgage just to show off wealth ….I love my manageable and very spacious beautiful Victorian terrace. I’ve been that woman in the playground feeling rubbish. I’ve kept quiet about what my kids are good at whenever others shout loud. I’ve kind of stifled a laugh at the Dad who introduces himself by his job title….only to be struck off years later for fraud.
Hey the best feedback on me was from my 22 nearing 23 year old daughter and her 20 year old brother who just simply said ….in a moment I felt a bit lost….hey Mum you made us and we know what you gave up to do that. That really just makes it all ok , and it will for you lovely people one day.
P.s read Playground Mafia……😂😘
At the moment mine is a particular Mum who is doing everything RIGHT. You know: baby signing, breaking off mid conversation to burst into song for her toddler, home cooking organic food. She says things like ‘oh you’re letting him eat that are you?’ And ‘I always put his needs before mine, that’s motherhood.’ Whilst I am muddling through the day shoving raisins and bits of chocolate at my kid, dreaming about a couple of free hours and very strong cocktails.
Also any ‘Mum bosses’ because I’ve had to give up my job and miss it terribly!
TBH that women sounds to me like she’s doing everything WRONG. I had to work when my kids were little (for the ££) and that also sucked. I just wanted to be NOT doing two full-time jobs and was super jealous of anyone that didn’t have to work. You can’t win either way when they’re babies. Dear god, I’ve just realised who my arch-nemesis is. That 1950s Dad who used to go off to his 9-5 job, come home to a clean house, pat his three bathed and fed children on the head before bed, eat a cooked dinner while he moaned to his wife about his day and how hard he worked. Then pipe and newspaper by the fire while his wife finished the dishes so she could put out. How sweet would that gig be?
I know I’m really lucky to be at home with him but it’s so strange having nothing to myself, it sometimes feels like my brain is shrivelling up. I’d miss him terribly of course if I was working. The balance is impossible. Yes that 1950s man, specifically the husband from Bewitched with Elizabeth Montgomery. He had the best life going!
Parenting full time is super hard, for sure. I definitely find the day-job easier! Just not doing both together (or either well). I have become a crazed feminist since having kids. The UK has got a looong way to go in terms of respect for full-time parents (it’s bloody hard work), decent affordable childcare and returning to the work force. Flexible working hours and the concept of taking a few years off and then going back to work should be normalised for both men and women. The antiquated school system also doesn’t help. Anyway rant over but yes I resent Mr 1950s so much. Our poor grandmothers.
Margaret McGarvey says
Thought of the Moment:
To be truly free, we need to liberate ourselves from the need to
compare. When we live with the mindset of comparing ourselves with
others, at heart, we do not believe we are worthy of being loved and
accepted. This mindset is why we gossip, why we judge just to judge,
and why we process others’ suffering as entertainment. To be free of
such states, we must live in a way that allows us to genuinely believe
we are worthy of love. To simply tell ourselves we are worthy without
actually making the effort to be worthy is delusional or unsustainable.
Lesley Somerville says
I’m guessing most of the replies are from younger women. As an older (60 something woman) who had a career, (some success, some money, failed marriages, nice kid – usual stuff) let me reassure you; getting older makes nearly everything better!! I am happier now than I have ever been. Not, hopefully, in a smug way. It’s just, easier somehow? So hang on in, it will get better. Or as they say, this too shall pass – they do say that, don’t they?!?
I might be alone here, but sometimes a nemesis isn’t thinner/wealthier/better looking/nicer than you, sometimes they’re an arsehole and it appears that most other people don’t/can’t/refuse to see it. I find that almost crippling at times. How come they can go about their lives behaving so appallingly and “get away with it”. The only thing I tell myself in such a situation is that I definitely wouldn’t trade lives with them and therefore ultimately I shall carry on being me!
I write away on my gardening blog, telling myself that it’s totally FINE that only my mum reads it and I don’t particularly want money/fame/a book deal/a massive readership or anything. But it’s not true, and it stings when someone breezes in and gets all that stuff and they’re desperately mediocre (in my not particularly humble opinion) but nobody else seems to notice and they ‘get away with it’! Despair and ugly envy and feeling like what’s the point in playing the game if you can never win. Thank you again Esther for shining a forgiving spotlight on a not terribly attractive side of human nature which it seems we all have but tend not to admit to.
I commented up thread on this but had to come back as this weekend I found out that a male peer who I think of very much as my nemesis has got a job I really wanted. And thought I was well qualified for. I didn’t even get an interview. I am totally gutted and it is SO comforting to read that I am not alone. Although I wish none of us felt like this.
Lou this is nightmarish
Every single bloody person who wakes up at 5am to “catch up” on anything, really