Everyone gets jealous. But we're often told that we shouldn't feel envious of what others have or what they can do. We're told not to compare ourselves to others because it'll just make us feel bad. We're told to be happy with what we do have and what we can do.
But I think that jealousy can be a good thing, to a certain extent. You don't have to let it consume you. There are some cases where jealousy can motivate you to do better. There are other cases where it can help you realize that you'll never have what other people have, but that's okay because you can have other things instead.
For example, when I work out at the gym, I sometimes can't help feeling envious of certain girls who exercise there. They're the girls whose shorts are up to here and whose tops are down to there, and all the cute guys are checking them out. Some of the girls who look like they're a size 2 or smaller often have buff boyfriends in tow. One thing I've noticed is that after each set, the boyfriends will meet up with their girlfriends to mop their faces with the towels they're carrying for them, compliment them for lifting those extra five pounds, or possibly so they can look down their girlfriends' tops again.
I, on the other hand, wear gym clothes that keep me covered up, partly because I'm far from a size 2; it's also partly because I tend to dress so conservatively that probably even nuns would tell me to lighten up.
When I first started going to the gym, I wanted to look like those thin girls who I envied not because of their buff boyfriends (okay, I'm totally lying; I was a little envious of them because of that), but because they were thin. I'd seen them drink soda and eat ice cream outside of the gym and they never seemed to gain weight, whereas I could gain five pounds just by looking at a piece of cake.
Most of the other women at the gym look more like me or are bigger, yet I can't help feeling self-conscious about the way I look and comparing myself to the girls with slim figures. But I know that women come in different shapes and sizes, and you don't have to be skinny to be beautiful. I've accepted the fact that I'll never be a size 2, not only because I love junk food too much but also because I'm just not built that way.
But because I felt envious of those girls, I started working out more and more. And then I started enjoying exercise, because it also gave me the chance to listen to music or read a magazine while I worked out. It gave me a break from grading papers and doing research, and I didn't have to feel guilty about taking the time off because I was still doing something productive.
Then I started attending the classes that my gym offered, and I found that it was fun to work out with other people. Every time I went to another class I looked forward to the rush of endorphins I got after the class was over. Exercise became less about comparing myself to the girls who were thinner than me, and it became more about making myself look and feel good. I went from a size 12 to a size 8.
Jealousy affects other aspects of my life. For example, recently there was a big fuss because Snooki from the TV show Jersey Shore was paid more money than Toni Morrison to give a speech at Rutgers University. I will admit that I watch the Jersey Shore because those kids say the stupidest things, like how Snooki said that she refuses to swim in the ocean because it's full of whale sperm. But then I heard that she got paid more money for one day than I earn in a year. Did I wish I had the power to ban her from every bar, club, and tanning salon in the country, and then did I imagine myself pointing and laughing while she wept at the injustice of it all? Hell, yes.
(Side note: When I heard about that story, I didn't wonder why they paid Snooki so much money. I wondered how many of those students at that school have actually watched Jersey Shore and how many of them have read Toni Morrison's books. I read a news article that said that Rutgers wouldn't have invited Snooki if they didn't think that a lot of people would show up to hear her speak. Would I have gone? Yes. But I also would have gone to see Toni Morrison too.)
I have to admit that I feel envious of celebrities like Snooki, not just because they earn all that money but also because it's so easy for them to get novels published. They decide they want to be authors, and then within months their books are out on display at all the bookstores; tons of people show up at their booksignings, and the celebrity authors probably never have to read a single rejection letter.
But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to be like them, because from what I've heard a lot of them don't even write most (if not all) of their books. They hire ghostwriters instead. Nothing against ghostwriters of course, but in my opinion I think that the books belong more to the ghostwriters rather than the celebrity authors; even if the celebrities come up with the concepts of the books, in some sense it's still the ghostwriters' voices that the readers are hearing.
If I ever do get published, I want my books to be mine. I'm not saying that I wouldn't want input from agents and editors. They would know more about the publishing industry than I do, and they would know what would make a book appealing to audiences. But I want to publish a book knowing that it came from my ideas and my imagination. I don't just want to be published for the sake of being able to call myself an author.
So when I hear about celebrity authors like Snooki, it motivates me to keep writing. It makes me think about how maybe I might never draw the same number of readers as they do, but at least I can still work on writing books that are funny, honest and real. And hopefully, all that envy and motivation will help me accomplish my goal someday.
What about you? Who are you jealous of, and how do you deal with that jealousy?
Interview with… Adam Byatt - Today it’s the turn of Adam Byatt to sit down and share his writing with us. This is my 13th interview, and there are still some wonderful authors to come!...
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