My Jealousy is Ageing Gracefully
Whilst jealousy is a feeling often seen to have negative connotations, it’s almost a given that this experience is something we’ll all have at some point or another in life. And despite the misconceptions that sometimes come with the so called green headed monster, jealously can in fact be a sign of caring, of passion and of ambition.
Today’s post from Jodie Smith discusses how jealousy has manifested in and shaped her world, and how to stop sweating the small stuff to pause and enjoy your situation for what it is …
“Jealousy was ever-present in my family. My Dad socially mobilised himself, and ascended to what he confesses is the “dream life” of his youth. But looking past his own dream car on the driveway, each day he watches a local ex-footballer drive past in an ever-so-slightly more expensive car and growls “lucky sod.”
I have vivid memories of being 15 years old, and feeling jealous of Peaches Geldof's journalism career. When we were the same age, she wrote for The Telegraph, The Guardian and my then-favourite magazine: Elle Girl. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer - although journalism specifically wouldn't find me until the end of my twenties (a geriatric starting point by industry standards.)
The combination of youth and success is one which can create an especially inflammatory comparison: holding a mirror up far too closely to every fine line on our face and asking, “why didn't you achieve that yet? What were you doing when you were that age?” Whenever a story breaks in the media about the success of a woman under 30, the focus is how few years it took them to secure their wealth, power and influence. A large part of Elizabeth Holmes’ story in becoming (fleetingly, seemingly) the richest young female in Silicon Valley was the media coverage which bolstered her credentials as a tech wunderkind.
As I've gotten older, the script of my inner monologue has changed. Though both admiration and pangs of longing strike when reading about Emily Weiss’ billionaire status, I’m not looking backwards anymore. It bears so little resemblance to my own reality that it would be nonsensical to sneer at Kylie Jenner's fortune - a great deal of which was amassed because of an incredible campaign of personal branding throughout her teens. I adore Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but what’s the purpose of feeling envy for what she’s achieved if I never dreamt of becoming a politician myself? Why pit yourself against an imaginary competitor, whose only similarity to you is their femininity? After all, I admire Elon Musk’s intelligence, but let’s admit that whenever we discuss jealousy, it’s in relation to other womxn. Or other mxn if you identify more closely with my father.
Through aging I've gained perspective, and with that comes the knowledge that time isn't a simple, equalising commodity. I despise the hustle culture's favourite trope: “we all have the same 24 hours in a day.” To be the same age as someone is in no way to assume you've had the same amount of time for personal growth, creativity, or career development. 30 years of a great education, followed by connections to powerful and influential figures, leading to easy access to chosen career paths is not equal to 30 years with any less than that.
One thing that has greatly eased the workings of my own mental finance comparison calculator is that practices of sponsorships and advertising have become more transparent on social media. Even three years ago, I had no idea how many products and experiences were #gifted to the people I filled my own personal newsfeed with.
Besides, the stories that really excite me now aren't about the exceptionally young and wealthy, but rather those who have changed their life trajectory unexpectedly. Maybe I'll stop grinding my teeth in my sleep because I'm not making as much money as my partner. Maybe I’ll write a TV series before I’m 35. Maybe my own jealousy isn't a monstrous instinct which could ever disappear completely - but if my Dad taught me anything, it’s that it’s always good to have extra fuel for the motor.”