20 Jun Envy: Friend or Foe?
When I read the card my son wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, I teared up. But those were not tears of joy. They were tears of envy.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines envy as “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined by a desire to possess the same advantage.”
Painful awareness describes what I was feeling to a T. My son had written a lovely message about what a wonderful Dad my husband is (which is true), and how he is his inspiration to work hard and chase his dreams. He had also drawn a fun caricature of my husband (see featured photo).
I couldn’t help but compare this card to the one I received for Mother’s Day. It also had a drawing — two measly pink hearts — and a warm message, but the core of it was gratitude for the many things I do for him, not how inspiring I am.
As we rode to San Francisco to meet my mother-in-law for lunch, this was the reel playing in my head: “After all the miscarriages, the months of bed rest during pregnancy, the hundreds of nights with no sleep, after organizing his school, after school, playdates and medical appointments for 17 years, after working my butt off to pay the bills, and having all the tough conversations… my son can’t help but love me, but he adores his father.”
As we crossed the Bay Bridge, the water shimmering under the beautiful, clear sky, I tried to compose myself, as to not spoil the day. I silently recited a mantra that helps me with difficult emotions: “Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.” (Those hours of meditation must be good for something!)
After a while, I was able to stretch again the scrunched fibers of my heart and pay attention to the world around me. My son was riding shotgun because he gets sick in the back of the car. He and my husband had their usual lively conversation about three passions they share: sports cars, action and super hero movies, and music.
I realized I would never be “the fun parent” but that doesn’t mean I parent worse. My husband and I both play key, but distinct roles, and our son loves us each in a different way.
I shook off my sadness and went on to have a great day, enjoying the strong bond the two men in my life share. And I also allowed some tenderness for my weak, very flawed self.
Dealing with Writer’s Envy
Envy is a common sentiment among writers. Many resent the success other writers reach before them, the network that supports them, or the quality of their writing. I started writing very young, but I only fully commited in the last few years. Many friends that started with me were more consistent. They went on to full-fledged writing careers and well-deserved success.
Fortunately, the occasional pang of envy I feel never overshadows my affection for them. I have always done everything in my hand to support them.
The best way to fight envy, for me, is staying in my lane and obsessing about my own process. You can turn envy from foe to friend if you use it as inspiration to learn and motivation to do better instead of comparing yourself and feeling less than others.
I’m not competing for accolades. I’m trying to realize my dream of telling stories that delight and help other people, and myself.
Envy versus jealousy
According to psychology professors W. Gerrod Parrot and Richard H Smith, “Envy occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it…. Jealousy occurs when a person fears losing an important relationship with another person to a rival.”
Envy is characterized “by feelings of inferiority, longing, resentment, and disapproval of the emotion.” Jealousy is characterized by “fear of loss, distrust, anxiety, and anger.”
How do you fight your own feelings of envy?