I have been thinking afresh recently about envy, which is a thing I think about quite often. There are conversations being had online about trolling and trolls and I, personally, think a lot of it is tied in with envy and… I don’t know… I just think it’s an interesting subject.
For a start, the definition of the word “troll” is evolving. Once upon a time there were actual internet trolls, who sent very scary messages. But now a “troll” can be anyone who says anything even vaguely contradictory. Liv, who posts on Instagram as @ultimategirlgang is very firm on this. “Negative opinions are not trolling,” she says. “If someone calls you a ‘fat, ugly bitch’, that’s trolling” but, she goes on, just saying they think you’re ridiculous or they don’t like the way you do your hair – that’s not.
But now all “trolls”, with this new and elastic term often being defined by the person on the receiving end, are generally dismissed as just really, really dark, evil, bad, sub-humans rotting in their dank bedrooms with their sad little lives and grimy whatnots and probably beat their dogs and starve their kids and [cont.] – when in fact I don’t think they are.
A roomful of … not quite “trolls” but people whose attitude is somewhere in between slavish admiration and actual death threats … would probably be quite normal people. Probably good-looking, reasonably successful. Maybe very successful.
In many, many cases online negativity is motivated by envy. I mean, it’s not always envy, but quite a lot of low-level online negging is, I bet. (Which is why, by the way, I get almost none – at least not directly to me. What’s to envy?)
And it is this sort of “trolling” that I find really interesting – as I marvel at how envy can make a monster of anyone. I think that what living a life partly or almost wholly online has done is bring to the surface of our minds and whole being, is the poisonous feeling of envy.
Listen, I don’t have time to list here all the people I envy and why. Sometimes it’s for stupid little things – they have nicer hands than me (I hate my hands), or they have a wonderful tennis swing (I can’t really play tennis) or they can do a nice dive into a swimming pool (ha!) or they are able to get a nice tan. I envy even distribution of melanin! It’s tragic.
Sometimes I envy people for bigger things. They are richer. They are funnier, they are more successful. They have managed to get a big glossy piece into the Sunday Times Magazine while mine languishes on the stack. Their houses smell like washing powder – (how have they done that?? Mine used to smell of dead mice now it smells of cat food).
And envy, I’m talking real, proper envy that strikes you right in the solar plexus, that starts to fizzle at and dissolve your core like a powerful acid, that makes you feel small and mean and ugly and unsuccessful and defensive and panicky about all your life choices, takes you to a dark place. It’s why it’s a sin. It’s not the feeling itself that’s bad, it’s what it can make you do.
I must admit, I do occasionally troll people… in my head. As I’m sure we all do. We all have those thoughts, even if only briefly; and having the thought is not bad, it’s acting on it that is. I’m sure we all do our best not to let those dark thoughts metabolise into actual hate. The only difference between just being a normal, flawed person and a troll, (however you define the word), is the writing-down of it in a public space.
I see envy all around me, all the time. And I am fascinated by how niche envy can be – how someone I have no problem with at all can be someone else’s utter fixated idol of envy that keeps them awake at night. Similarly when I confess the people who drive me potty with envy others look at me like: Huh?
Once you start seeing it everywhere and what it does to people it is a relief to see that most people have a daily struggle to contain it. I know a screenwriter who is having a reasonably serious nervous breakdown because she cannot deal with the success of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I have a friend who is a writer who has had to mute the Instagram account of a close friend because she (the friend) has written a book and my friend can’t really deal with it. (It’s not even a very good book! It hasn’t really sold any copies!) I have muted a few Instagram accounts of people I know and like, who nevertheless spark an unreasonably envy in me that I can’t really deal with.
And I feel, these days, like envy is a greater power than the human mind can reasonably be expected to cope with. The only recourse is to understand what it can do to you and then avoid the things you know make you feel it.
A story that has really stuck with me – about when a friend of mine stumbled on a friend of hers, (sorry, but I can’t be arsed with fake names), posting a really vile and strange comment underneath an Instagram posting from Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift!! I mean… anyway – my friend was shocked to see this comment from someone she regarded as measured and basically kind.
She used it to illustrate the fact that envy combined with the internet is an explosive and terrible combination. It can lead even reasonable people astray.
I also now recall about five years ago being directed by yet another friend (all these friends!) to one of those websites that specialises in take-downs of online celebrities – it was American and the thread in particular was about Cupcakes and Cashmere. My friend thought it was hilarious and incredibly satisfying to read; Emily whatsit of Cupcakes and Cashmere was clearly her person, her idol of envy. I read a bit of the thread and then just felt slightly like I was intruding on something and left and didn’t go back.
I’m not saying excuse or feel sorry for the trolls – for any trolls of any definition, I’m not saying it’s okay, (and I must add that the not writing-down of mean comments in a public space really is a crucial thing, I have never done it, I would never recommend it or encourage it), but I am saying that it’s in all of us. Sorry I don’t have a cleverer point to make than that. It’s just been on my mind.
How about you? Who is your idol of envy? You can always email me if you want to get it off your chest privately.
What an excellent, thought provoking post! Can I have more than one idol of envy?
Make a list!
That’s my day sorted!
Oh great post and good timing. I’ve more or less had to come off Instagram because of everyone and their perfect lives/homes/children. I was missing you though of course!
I envy anyone who has their shit together, and finds this parenting easy. You know, oh just a lazy day in front of the telly *tinkly laugh*. Some days I’d kill for my kids to sit bloody still, silently, watching telly. And anyone who puts their washing away.
Yes, people of my age who’ve done ‘things’ (books, screenplays whatever). I have to go and find out what help they got to get there. Because if they’ve done it through hard work then what’s my excuse?
I get pangs when I see someone with a family relationship that’s missing from my life. Why them and not me?
I also put myself through agonies last year. It was a big birthday and I didn’t mention it so it went largely unmarked except for my immediate family. Every time I saw someone having a big splashy celebration I was angry and upset. Like a bloody three year old, drumming my heels.
All kept firmly on the inside, like acid in a strong container.
YES to all of this
A Reader says
I’ve had to mute three people in my industry because they’re all doing exactly what I want do and they look like they’re having so much fun, and they are all so chummy. Meanwhile I’m finding my feet and very isolated because of family commitments.
I don’t get the Envy of stuff per – say I get the envy of friends / people I know on insta showing their kids getting school awards and being so well behaved and doing clubs when my 5 year old struggles to behave and concentrate at school.
Urrggh some days it makes me want to scream ‘F off with your perfect robot kids’
Alexandra Minton says
Such an interesting topic. And you’re so spot on about most ‘trolls’ just being your average people. My sister always says we’re really uncomfortable to admitting jealousy despite it being such a common emotion. And if we just admit it, all the time, it loses it’s power somewhat. She openly says to friends who have just bought a nice new house/got a promotion etc “congratulations but I’m also seething with jealousy.” It really disarms people and everyone laughs because it’s something we all feel but have to pretend we don’t.
This is so interesting. It’s really made me reflect on how those people I envy have changed. I remember years ago when I was single feeling envious of peers who were engaged, then when I was married and struggling to conceive burning with envy towards those who had lovely families and now I have a two year old and a 7 week old I find myself looking at single people and envying their ability to go away on a whim and drink cocktails every night whilst I’m sitting up with a baby hanging off my boob and a snotty toddler snoring next to me. So basically I’m in a cycle of envying my former and future self! Is it human nature to just never be completely satisfied with what you have even if you have everything you need?
Becky McC says
What I find interesting is the relationship between envy and shame. Envy is a very natural response but we are conditioned into hiding it, telling our inner selves it’s immature and just not very classy, somehow, which can make us feel pretty dreadful about ourselves. Almost three years ago my second baby was stillborn and it was the worst time of my life, without a doubt. In the year or so following her death found it very difficult to be around pregnant women and newborn babies. With hindsight I think that was a natural enough response but I was deeply ashamed to articulate it and tried to hide how I felt from others, pushing myself into situations I was not ready for. I was not very kind to myself, I don’t think.. I attended a SANDS support meeting regularly and a lady who also came, who was much younger than me, and was in her late teens, had absolutely no shame in describing her feelings of jealousy when she saw other babies. I was in awe of her ability to own those feelings without regret and I thanked her for sharing them, as in doing so I felt less alone.
I have two small kids. I’ve left my job to focus on my own projects which will bring money in the long-term (please God) but at the moment are not fruitful. My husband is supporting me but is away a lot for work. These things are all planned, all what me and my husband wanted from our marriage – everything is as we wanted it to be – hurrah! And yet, being in this lull while friends without children (through choice) are off succeeding at stuff, I can’t help but feel I’ve destroyed my own career. That I’ll be another woman who without realising it, sacrificed herself to do the child rearing. Then I’ll return to the workforce in five years and be mediocre, happy enough but never wildly successful. I’m not even sure I want to be wildly successful, it seems like it involves a lot of effort and I like watching the telly and not doing anything when I can, but when that’s all everyone else seems to be it can make me think that’s what I want. Anyway, I’ve set a timer on my Instagram and Twitter use on my phone. It seems to be helping.
A Reader says
Hey, you could be me.
It’s a funny place to be isn’t it? There’s all this possibility and hope but when it’s not come to anything yet the chances of failure seem as likely as the chances of success.
I’m both glad I’m not alone and also rooting for you (and me too!)
Such an interesting post, Esther for such an interesting emotion. Envy has clearly always been with us humans (see Cain & Abel) but social media amplifies what and who we can be envious about and how we can vent that.
Envy is a really useful emotion. It tells us what we want when sometimes we don’t know, haven’t realised or can’t admit it and then BAM someone walks into the room/ our lives and we hate them for having what we want.
Interestingly, the people I’m envious about aren’t the Taylor Swifts or Angelina Jolie – I mean, they’re goddesses and way out of my league. I just admire from afar. I find I’m envious much closer to home, to women who are just a step or two ahead of me in some way. It happened to me when a friend – a good friend – walked in looking casually gorgeous. I’d just had baby 2 and my wardrobe and my body were shapeless. I was totally green eyed for an hour trying to chat like normal. Bless him, my husband told me to sit down and order whatever I liked from John Lewis. Also then Esther, you put out your capsule series and now I’m no longer envious and have loads of useful stuff to wear and feel good in. Years back, when Zadie Smith’s White Teeth came out, a friend of mine of Asian background who aimed to be a writer said to me, all aghast “but she’s written MY book!”. Except, my friend hadn’t actually written any book and Zadie had (brilliantly, obvs).
There’s an interesting point also about mob mentality and trolling. In politics, there’s a phenomenon where, if you put broadly similar minded people (eg pro-Brexiters or Corbyn’s Momentum crew) together, their natural discussions concentrate opinions and they become more extreme and their views harden. Something like that seems to happen in trolling – people who would otherwise probably be quite reasonable start going with the mob.
I try to remember, when Insta-envy strikes, that those shiny pictures are just that. They’re not real and they’re certainly not the whole story. I knew for a fact that a person posting shiny happy pictures on Insta was having a seriously shit time in life, so it rather threw cold water over the envy I would otherwise have felt.
Interesting, thanks Esther
I am deeply envious of anyone who looks like they’re just ‘born to be a mother’/easy breezy parenting types. I found being at home with my baby tedious and anxiety inducing and really struggled to comprehend what the hell I’d done (shaaaame, shame). I adore my girl who is now 4 and the life we have but can’t quite shake the feeling of not having done it ‘right’. I deleted Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and my god it is freeing although occasionally I’ll have a look at what one or two of the aforementioned types are up to (wearing white, travelling extensively, breastfeeding easily and openly with a kid who doesn’t poo… or cry… or teethe) and the envy is still there.
Really good post (seethes) I often wonder what’s on the other side of envy – is it contentment or have you just given up trying and competing if it doesn’t spark in you in some way? I think you don’t inspire too much negativity because whether people are picking up what you’re putting down or not, it is no BS and I think it comes through. Incidentally, and this is probably not interesting, but I think envy is often the basis for some of the funniest comedy. I think people recognising that emotion in themselves, the feeling of frustrated hopes and never quite getting to where you want to be is why people can feel affection for essentially hateful or annoying characters. There’s always a nemesis or 3.
Alexandra Heminsley says
I felt *deeply* seen by this piece on “Unfluencers” earlier this year. I have almost everyone I know on a rolling mute as I just can’t deal with all of it all of the time, but I also look at stuff that doesn’t sit well with me just to feel what the piece defines as an irrational sort of superiority. Jia Tortenlino is also v good on how instagram has commodified identity. I think people will put up with all sorts online til money starts changing hands, because when you’re the currently, you don’t get to dictate how people are spending you. https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/meet-the-unfluencers.html
Im lucky I dont really get envious not because my life is perfect but because I know and have learnt that nobodies is. I am however envious of people whose houses smell of washing powder how do they do that???
I think yours probably does, you just can’t smell it any more. If you changed washing powder you’d notice x
I think it’s a funny relationship, following someone on social media. It’s like having a really popular /good looking /rich friend who ignores you. You like all their posts and get the occasional reply from them which is exciting but generally it just feels like a really one sided sh*t friendship. Logically you know they have thousands of followers and are just too busy to be friends, but I can understand why people end up feeling resentful but oddly intimate. Like bitching about the popular girl at school. Obviously no excuse for actually saying anything though!
Ps. I challenge anyone to not be envious of Clemency Burton Hill, impossible
Omg. I was so envious of Clemency Burton-Hill circa 2010 that I spent two days in bed contemplating my inferiority before fleeing to South Africa for 2 months to volunteer for a charity she was trustee of. Anyway, haven’t thought of her since, which just goes to show how irrational these feelings are.
Ha ha! Clemmie was in the year below me at school! Yes, she is highly enviable xxx
My friend was at college (Cambridge obvs) with her. She just needs to leave me alone.
@Alexandra – gosh. “How Instagram has commodified identity” – that sums up*perfectly* what I see and think about the platform. Am now off to read the article in the Cut.
@Esther, thoughtful and great piece. As for me, I am very lucky to finally lead the life I always wanted (after years of bad relationships and the usual drama) but what @Nichola upthread said resonated – I feel quite jealous and sad for myself when I see people with fantastic family relationships that are missing in my life. I don’t envy them, but it makes me feel gutted and sad and upset that I can never have that.
There was an incident a few years ago when I was extremely envious of someone I knew who I thought ‘had it all’ and an incredible glam life. On the surface it looked like that. But in the end a public persona (in friend circles as well as celebs) very, very often is not what it seems on the inside. Once I reminded myself of that – boom. All envy disappeared and I felt quite cross with myself for having those quite visceral feelings. turns out that this person’s life wasn’t so perfect after all.
Really interesting post. I think when it comes to ‘trolling’ (I miss the good old days when troll meant a harmless contrarian thread-derailer!) there’s often a combination of envy and disillusionment when fans see a parasocial relationship for what it is. Big influencers depend on dedicated fans for engagement on posts and to buy what they’re selling, so it really takes no more time to be a troll than a fan. Which is another reason it’s naive to think that trolls are basement dwellers buried in their own takeaway wrappers! Obviously I’m not supporting trolling or harassment, it just seems patently untrue that trolls have no life.
As for actual envy, as someone struggling with fertility I feel quite ashamed of the number of people I’ve unfollowed and muted when they’ve become pregnant. When I hear an announcement in real life it’s a horrible mix of being pleased for the person and feeling completely jealous. I haven’t found any solution to this other than accepting it’s how I feel, and making sure to never mention it to anyone other than my husband!
Becky McC says
Rosie, I’m not sure if you’ve seen my post above re how I felt after my daughter was stillborn but I think what you’re feeling is completely understandable and you are certainly not alone. There is no need to feel ashamed so please be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel how you feel. I really feel like ttc, baby loss, infertility draw out some incredibly intense feelings in anyone who has a window into that world, but there seem to be so few outlets to express the rollercoaster of emotions, which can be utterly all consuming at times, and not being able to discuss these feelings is so isolating, which exacerbates the feelings of shame. I have found some safe spaces on Instagram actually, but it’s certainly not easy when it seems like everyone apart from you is pregnant and gets to take their baby home too. Curate your feed as you see fit and I wish you the best of luck.
This is a really honest and open take on an interesting emotion. Envy and self-esteem are intertwined- when you see someone who has something you are jealous of, it can go one of 2 ways depending on how you are feeling about yourself at any given moment. You will either use the envy as a positive springboard, an inspiration and aspiration- or the envious emotion can drag you downwards, especially if your self-image is fragile for whatever reason. There’s that momentary feeling of reward or boost when you have that spiteful, depreciating thought about the subject of your Jealousy, but it only ever really results in lower self-esteem. It’s a natural emotion to have but it’s how we act on it that is key. I think life ‘online’ has enabled society to become much bolder in voicing its spiteful opinions because of anonymity. You can spew bile at somebody online that you wouldn’t dream of saying to their face -safe in the knowledge you won’t be found out. It’s no better than bullying someone in person, it’s still taking aim and firing at someone to cause harm (to make yourself feel stronger, superior – typical bully behaviour) I worry about my children and how the tide of these things seems to be going. My Nan always used to say the old adage ‘if you’ve nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all’ – it’s normal and natural to have negative thoughts triggered by envy, it’s how you deal with it that matters.
I feel very relieved reading this post, as I’ve been struggling with the self-righteous responses to the trolling issue over the past few days, as well as my own envy problems.
I don’t doubt it is extremely difficult to be on the receiving end of envious public venting, and I definitely think public meanness is crossing a line. And I agree that the perpetrators are likely normal women – probably some of them the target of other people’s envy. I have certainly done an amount of private spewing of meanness over envy issues…and I present a reasonably together public facade.
Social media is definitely toxic for bringing you face to face with what is missing from your life – and aspects of anyone’s life can be triggering if you are feeling a little vulnerable. Weirdly, that’s even the case where you know that the posts don’t reflect the truth of the image – I’m thinking of a friend who, every time she finds out her husband has slept with another woman, posts a picture of them as the perfect family, which he then reposts captioned with love hearts. I mean…I still feel a pang of envy at their picture-perfect family life, their children and the marriage they’re in, although I know she is finding this period of time extremely difficult…there’s something almost impossible about reconciling complexity with an image designed to promote a simplistic and idealistic ‘brand’. I guess that’s why these gossip sites and those who’ve decided to vent there swing back to the ‘influencers are corrupt and utterly disingenuous’ time and again. Things have to be black and white for us to digest them on social media. It’s not a form
That enables nuance. The fact is influencers are humans with flaws, and hypocrisy in how they present to the world just like any of us…
omg I think we know the same woman
Brilliant, brilliant post. I am struggling in a way that I know i shouldn’t really with one particular persons IG stories and posts. I don’t want to block them but how do I mute in Instagram?! I know I shouldn’t look at them but then I can’t look away and they pop up even more Aggghh
ha ha! mute is a very useful function – go to any of their grid posts, open it up, click on the little (…) at the top right and it will offer you Mute x
Thanks. I’ve tried that before and mute isn’t one of the options listed for me. I don’t know whether it’s because I have an open account ..
I’ve done it! Ironically this wasn’t working as I deleted the IG ap to stop me looking! Now I have reinstalled I can see the mute x
I read that Cupcakes and Cashmere thread! I LOVE Emily from C&C but I know that is because her lifestyle is so sufficiently far from mine there is no point of even the smallest tinge of envy.
When I find myself feeling envious I do find it useful to flip it around a bit and look at me from their point of view (friends obviously not Taylor Swift 😂) which usually helps as everyone has something that someone else wants. For me it could be the big job I gave up for my kids whereas maybe the person who got the big job has had a marriage breakdown or difficulty conceiving. Or big house with loads of debt vs small house with none etc etc
I sound quite sanctimonious, I’m not, but do think this helps.
Yes!!! I’ve thought this exact same things for ages now, so thank you for articulating it!! I often look around me, at the office, the supermarket, out for dinner, etc. and wonder how many of those people have left shitty comments on someone’s Instagram post or blog, or have contributed to THE forums. And I bet it’s fucking loads! Must be!!! You’re totally right – the word “troll” conjures up grimy, grotty people living alone in squalor with no friends or family or life to speak of but that just can’t be true. The vast majority will be just like you and me, I’m sure. I am also guilty of thinking plenty of shitty things about people, whether I know them or not, but just wouldn’t dream of actually saying anything and that is the difference. It’s the old free speech argument wheeled out again. Yawn. Anyway, just yes yes hard agree yes to this whole piece. Thank you, good day.
Oh this is VERY interesting and I have many many thoughts. I wish my baby slept better so I could articulate them properly.
This seems so connected to how we live our lives now in our little parallel bubbles as well as to the commodification of identity. I think it goes beyond Instagram etc and into our politics. Tapping into that little sense of dissatisfaction in our souls keeps us buying and keeps late capitalism going even though most of us have what we need. And now it seems we have Machiavellian political types pressing the same psychological button – telling us someone else is getting a bigger slice of the pie. Coming over here and taking our pie!
Agh come back when I’ve had 6 hours’ consecutive sleep and I’ll get this nailed down.
An interesting meditation which I found resonated often.
Personally, I really loathe social media. I hate the tone, I have the performance, I don’t want to waste my time on this earth scrolling through pictures of tiles and avocado, I don’t want to perform and I’d like to think of a way of marketing my business without the jazz hands. It is one-way. It is not about relationships. It is not for me.
People say ‘if you don’t like it, don’t look’, but that absolves posters from being held to account for their responsibility and integrity.
In the case of this weekend’s ‘trolling’ drama/brouhaha*, while I am sure envy is part of the story for some of the posters, it feels reductive to me, like an explanation a Mothers offer their daughter when a playground pal is mean.
What I read was an expression of the deep and probably reasonable feelings of powerlessness and resistance which many have for the tidal wave of influencing and selling we are overwhelmed by. Cruelly done, yes, (I think Elfinkate had it right when she said “I don’t doubt it is extremely difficult to be on the receiving end of envious public venting…”) but in the main, the underpinning argument seemed to me to be born of something reasonable (at a societal level, at least).
I suspect the general tenor of the weekend’s ‘call and response’ has only added to their feelings.
*delete as applicable
*haTe the performance. FFS
Jill Cherry says
I’m not sure I have someone that I envy. I certainly have a person whose success/life/strengths I resent. She was a girl in my larger friend circle at school, always made me feel quite inferior and silly. She ALWAYS seems to land on her feet, often encroaching into areas that I deem ‘my interests’. She did something potentially illegal, certainly awful nearly 20 years ago. Yet still, lands jam side up every sodding time. I used to occasionally look her up on Instagram every now and then and then I had to stop because it made me furious.
So I think there is envy, and there are people who have success that is undeserved or achieved from deceit or wrong-doing. Do they fall under the same umbrella? Certainly think it’s an interesting distinction in light of current debates about trolling sites/bullying.
Jill Cherry says
I say ‘deceit’. Could it be deception? Lack of integrity? Creating an illusion or just lacking in honesty, both about their business, their lives or even them, as a person?
I feel envy (or it is jealousy – is there a difference?) about anyone that is ‘brave’ and by that, I mean makes decisions about their lives that are not about toeing the party line. All my life I’ve done the ‘right’ thing by those who have expected things of me, whether that is teachers, parents, family etc and never actually followed my heart. I have a wonderful life for sure, I’ve a degree, am married to a steady man who is a terrific father, have a good job, three children, a dog and a house plenty big enough for all of us which is ‘insta-ready’ but what I’d really love to have done is trained as a picture restorer and lived in the sunshine, not being too bothered about money but instead about what makes me happy, surrounded by people I feel PASSIONATE about. Sure, its not too late to do this, but I am 46 and to do any of this would mean throwing my whole family, and our set-up under a bus and that’s just not the done thing where I come from. It’s the biggest regret of my life that I wasn’t brave enough to speak out about what I really wanted to do, and a lesson I am making sure my children learn.
Thank you for this. I have done what I wanted to do in life and right now the difficulty of not confirming (having no partner, children, outward social markers of stability) is weighing heavily. I don’t think there is a right way, and whichever path you choose in life there are regrets for what might have been.x
Esther I fucking love you. Because this is SO true – and rarely discussed. When I first had my son (13 years ago) I felt totally insecure as a mother because I missed my old life and fun and just felt like I had been sold a lie. It made me start a blog – and I absolutely was consumed by envy for any mother that loved it and made it look easy. I felt like a massive failure. It was all about me, nothing about my objects of envy. My own demons… Then I had a second kid and got on with it and somehow, felt better. I also (pre house move) used to envy those with fabulous houses… Now I have realised that envy is a wasted emotion – unless it inspires us. I’m a script writer and yet I don’t envy Phoebe W-B – I just think good on her. If you really think about – the people one might envy like that – do not affect your life one iota. They won a lottery – right time, right place and also – they still have to deal with all their own shit too… No life is ever perfect. Social media is simply the edited highlights of a real life… It rarely shows the truth – so edit it to have only those that enhance your life in it. My insta has Esther, Farrow and Ball paints, some soft furnishing house porn and lots of Timothee Chalamet fan sites. Ace.
I think there’s a big difference between healthy and unhealthy envy. Healthy envy is the sort that keeps you up to the mark and better, motivating you to work harder or go to the gym or cultivate a calmer approach to life (or whatever it is you’re envying in your object of envy). Unhealthy envy is completely different and demotivates you (“what’s the point? I can never be as successful/thin/rich/funny as her”) and I think can also be at the root of nasty comments online etc, depending on whether you turn it in or turn it out.
I really think that the healthy sort of envy is a great motivating, dynamic force. The only time when I felt no envy at all was suffering from post-natal depression, when I sort of felt myself to be hors de concours- slobbing about in leggings with dirty hair, eating everything in sight or not eating at all, feeling that the whole idea that I might aspire to improve anything about myself was utterly laughable (but of course not funny). It was grim.
I tend to envy people who are thinner than me (basic much?), richer than me or who have been successful in interesting careers. Hoping this will inspire me to go to yoga, not spaff my money on rubbish and be brave and committed in my work. Hasn’t quite happened yet though but I live in hope!
I like the way you say what most people are afraid to, which I suppose in itself could be something people envy you for. It takes a lot of courage to say something that most people wouldn’t really dare to.
I’ve spoken on here before about life after my husband died 4 years ago (the wheel of fortune rolling over me, then reversing and doing it again… and again). I’m certainly not in the place I was when I was consumed by raging envy of couples in supermarkets doing their shopping together. Just a normal, mundane task, but one that my husband and I would never be able to do again, yet here were all these couples smugging round Sainsbury’s, choosing what to have for tea, deciding which washing powder to buy that would cause all the visitors to their house to envy them (!). I couldn’t bear to see them holding hands at the till, packing up the shopping, and tried not to hope that they would stumble over a pothole in the car park and twist their smug bastard ankles. I would regularly sit in the car after doing the shopping and cry. I still struggle with doing the big shop at Christmas because that’s when he died. And it still really grinds my gears when people slag off their partners for stuff that really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things.
But as many people on here have noticed, it’s not really a permanent feeling. I don’t envy couples any more, although I do still feel a pang of sadness when I see a post on social media of a happy couple or family I know, and think of what my sons and I have been deprived of. But pictures often tell a different story, and there really is no-one I would actually want to swap lives with. As a friend of mine once said, we all prefer the smell of our own shit. And maybe I’m very lucky not to generally feel envious of other people, because they’ve got their own problems. Life’s too short to give a furry fuck about the stuff that doesn’t really matter.
Karen you’re a heartbreaker x
Karen – beautiful post x