Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green...with Envy

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?


  1. I'd like to say that I am above those petty sort of human emotions, but I am not. I am very much human. When I saw Snook's book in Barnes and Nobel I almost feel to the floor and howled like a toddler. After a longish time, maybe a minute or three, I regrouped and allowed myself the wallow. I can' deny my humanness, it's part of me. I truly don't believe any one person HAS IT ALL, life just doesn't work that way – there is a ferryman to pay, tolls or dues, whatever it is you want to call 'em, are a part of the natural order. I do credit Snooks for taking what she can now, and she does seem to be somewhat savvy to the business she is making money off of. As for coping with it when it hits me.. as I said, I wallow, maybe have a cup of pity me, but that's about it. I keep moving. It's as you said about exercise, the more you do something (reasons aside) eventually there is some unforeseen benefit that arises from the effort. Humbling post, thanks for reminding me of my humanness.

  2. Hi Brenda,
    I peeked into Snooki's book too, but I couldn't bring myself to buy it even though I think she's funny. (I'm not so sure about "her" writing, though.) But like you said, the Jersey Shore Stars are smart to capitalize on their fame now, because who knows where they'll be once their fifteen minutes run out? As far as I'm concerned, if I do become famous someday, I want it to be because of my work, and not because of the other reasons that those celebrities are famous for. But anyway, the thing about writers is that most of them don't write because they want to be famous. Like you and me, writers just write because they like writing.

  3. I feel jealous of those who have talent in what they do. Everyone seems to be blessed with at least one skill, one thing that they are very successful at whether it be writing, talking, singing or dancing.

    I have always wondered about what i love most and what i can do best. End of the day, i can count so many things that i enjoy doing but i am not master in any of them. I feel jealous about those who are talented in what they do and how successful they become in it.

    I am not jealous in a bad way though. I am happy for them. I just wish i could be successful in something that i love doing too.


  4. As a wannabe author, I am super envious of those who are published: both those who have worked hard and written their own stuff, and the celebrities who have ghostwriters. Speaking of which, Snooki’s book was ghostwritten by an author named Valerie Frankel, whose books I have enjoyed in the past.

    I know what you mean about the gym. I’ve grown up dancing, and I still take classes because it’s a fun way to keep in shape. However, it’s a HUGE body-comparison game: you’re facing a mirror the entire time, for God’s sake. And there’s at least one dance class I attend fairly regularly where 95% of the participants are much younger than I (mostly college students). I do console myself with the fact that I look and feel better at 30 than I did for most of my twenties, because I now make an effort to eat better and exercise more (and this was to be healthy, the accompanying weight loss and better skin were perks).

    Yoga’s a little friendlier because the studio I go to has no mirrors and there’s more diversity in age and body types.

    Envy/jealousy happens to everyone. We’re human. I try to use it as a motivator rather than a deterrent.

  5. Hello,
    I am now following you. This really made me think of who I am jealous of and whether it is acceptable...lol Thanks for making me more aware of myself...Please stop by Areyouamom.com and say hi

  6. Hi Rose,
    I don't think you necessarily have to be a master at something that you love to do, but there is definitely pressure in today's society to be the best. Everywhere we look - TV, magazines, the Internet, the workplace - we hear news of these people who are succeeding at the things that we want to do, so it makes us feel pressured to do the same. But at the same time it's good that there are things that you love to do, because you can still enjoy them.

    Hi No Way Cupid,
    I haven't tried yoga yet because I'm always afraid I'm going to fall over and bring down everyone with me. But I've heard it's good exercise, so one of these days I'm going to try it. The good thing about exercise is, as you said, that it motivates you to live a healthier lifestyle, so as long as you find something you like to do then it's all good.

    Hi Maureen,
    Welcome to my blog! Like you said, jealousy does make us more aware of ourselves. I think it makes us realize what we want and what we're capable of doing, and it can make us want try new things too.

  7. What's so great about being a size 2? It's harder to find clothing in that size.

    It's good that you dress modestly. You have an air of mystery that surrounds you.

    Snooki's a flash in the pan. Where do you think she'll be in 5 years? In 10? Where will her book be?

    In the end, it's all about quality. So what if Toni Morrison earns less for a speaking gig. Her books will be remembered far longer than Snooki's.

  8. I wonder how you get to be a ghost writer? I think I would like that job.

  9. Hi notesfromnadir,
    That's a good point about Snooki's book. There's a reason (several reasons actually) that Toni Morrison's books are still read and respected decades after they were published.

    Hi Plain Jane,
    I'm not sure how one would go about getting that job. That would be interesting to know what that's like though. I think the writing process would be a lot different.

  10. I'm quite often jealous, sadly. I compare myself to other people way too much. To an extent, it's a good thing -- in moderation.

    My Blog is Down So I'm Temporarily Here

  11. Hi Talli,
    I think that it's perfectly natural to compare yourself to others, because I think we've all done it at some point. I think that jealousy would be an interesting thing to write about, especially because of the different ways that people deal with it.

  12. I agree that it's natural -- people categorise and compare all the time. I do think it's important that we watch for letting it affect our self worth though, or comes between us and the people we care about.

    India Drummond

  13. Hi India,
    That's a good point. Being jealous does come with the risk of driving people apart. I've seen it happen to other people, because they couldn't stop comparing themselves to others.

  14. I'm envious of you and your (purpoted) ability to do menial tasks others shove in front of your brain without being perpetually distracted by fascinating things like the rayleigh-plesset equation, blogs like this one that allow you to get your feelings out, and throwing and catching your pencil over and over. I am supposed to be doing my homework right now, but instead I'm writing this. Why? WHY, BRAIN? Can I please borrow your workaholism for the rest of the school year?