Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Envy

By Anči

Want to hear something embarrassing?

Sometimes I get envious of other women. I know it's not technically a bombshell when every single person on the planet has (on multiple occasions) experienced this brand of booger-hued bitterness, but stay with me:

Because shouldering even the slightest chip of covetousness is an admission that we're  seldom allowed to make - for fear of being labeled pathetic jealous bitches. (You recall that age-old accusation, programmed to beckon from the bowels of any broad, deemed a social threat?)

I mean how many times have you heard someone say "she's just jealous," to temporarily appease some affronted party's ego. (As though the existence of said 'jealousy', would somehow justify any level of needy hostility.)

Another challenge to owning a charged emotion like envy, is that... well, envy's often read as a marker of defeat. Because the only logical grounds for the casting of jaundiced eyeballs must surely be a pathetic, empty existence. Right?

Except envy isn't logical. And it's never directly proportionate to its conjurer's assets. In fact, jealousy is more often a reflection of personal dissatisfaction. (Which even billionaires are subject to.)

Not to mention that it is possible to be self-assured on most fronts, while harboring a healthy dose of self-doubt in others.

So I'll say it again: Sometimes I'm envious of other women, and I'm okay with that. It doesn't keep me awake at night, nor does it give way to personal resentments or rivalries.  Mainly it serves as a reminder, that my life could be more together.

And what is "togetherness" but a glittering tiara?

A few weeks ago, I perceived such a pang while looking through an acquaintance's online album of her new baby. I bring this particular example up, to illustrate one thing: that the target of one's envy doesn't necessarily reflect some futile desperation towards attaining said object. (Like we're shown in movies.) I mean, a bouncing bundle of infant chub of all things, is the least improbable milestone to procure for a 26 year old woman in a relationship. If anything this was a symbolic reminder that I'm not entirely secure with the space I'm taking up right now. (And while I suppose a mean-spirited person could interpret this as proof of failure, or... I dunno, secret infertility,  I like to think of it as proof of vulnerability. That's that thing all human beings are equipped with, to inspire us to share and connect?)

The baby in question was just an echo of that capitalist mantra, etched permanently on my susceptible subconscious, (and presumably in the form of a watchful goat) bleating "achieve achieve, attain, attain." With no obvious end in sight...

behold your god.

Then, a few days later, a significantly older facebook friend shared the news that she was getting published-- and once again, cue the alarms!

The familiar ache of "not there yet" had penetrated the hysterical recesses of my frontal lobes. This time, with the additional component of sulky annoyance (by far, the most dignified of emotional crises.)

The feeling lasted for about ten minutes, while I struggled to break it down, and this is what I came up with: If the ability to magically wish away this other person's well-deserved happiness were presented to me, I wouldn't take it. Never, in a million years, ever. Because this talented, hard-working comrade-in-arms had nothing to do with my own existential uneasiness.

And that's when it hit me:

What I really wanted was the assurance that success wasn't finite-- and that another woman's grasp on it didn't represent my own diminishing prospects for happiness.

Of course, that kind of "us vs. them" thinking originates from a global capitalistic-patriarchal agenda, making it a bit trickier to untangle our personal perceptions from. But the truth is that regardless of any alarmist myths of scarcity we've been made to swallow, there is room for everyone to make it here.

Or, more accurately, we can make room for everyone's success.  Because the more progressive voices there are out there, the better it is for all of us. And also because, it is fully possibly to grow, and gain professional recognition, without impeding another's progress.

And that is why, though I may never fully eradicate my own covetous compulsions, I won't ever actively compete against other women. Professionally, or socially. (I may still sigh inwardly at the sight of a beautifully written sentence; wishing I had been the one to pen it...  but that is to be expected...)

The point is, that as humanity continues to negotiate the demands of collective prosperity, with its personal ambitions,  I'll be in the background doing my part. First of all, by utilizing any unsettling moments of envy as a cue to reevaluate my own commitment towards the dismantling of oppressive constructs like social dominance and obligatory competition.

I'll also continue to speak frankly about my personal and professional setbacks as they come, with the confidence that my community will be there to prop me up as I need it. And lastly, use all of the platforms afforded to me through privilege, and professional advancement, in order to  highlight all the ways we should be lifting each other up.

Because if you haven't figured it out by now, envy isn't a symptom of personal inadequacy, as much as it is of a systematic failing. Particularly for women, who would benefit the most from a worldwide campaign of solidarity.

(Plus it would also look really cute. Check it out.)

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