I spend a lot of my time on the Internet, looking at fashion and lifestyle blogs that epitomize elegance and beauty. It’s both a requirement for the types of writing I do, and a way to gather personal inspiration. I don’t spend much time on jealousy. Thinking about it, that is. But I feel it every day. I’m human after all.
The human card is an easy one to play, isn’t it? Anytime our imperfections come to light, we can flash it to get out of jail, free. Jealousy is simple to overlook, because it’s a downfall of all humans, as basic and boring as Wonderbread. Who thinks about Wonderbread? No one. It’s the same with jealousy. We give ourselves permission to forget. Let your green flag fly. Welcome to the human race.
With the Internet, with social media, with blogs and Pinterest, comes a million more avenues for our jealousies to set up shop on. So while it’s been one of the 7 deadly sins for as long as sins have been around, it’s never had so much room to grow as it does in the Internet age. And never more simple to hide either. We don’t even have to face the subject of our envy anymore – a more successful peer, an ex’s new girlfriend, some unknowable person/a behind that one fashion blog – which means our jealousy can be kept private. But not necessarily silent. I’ve buried envy before, using smiles I thought were genuine or shoulder shrugs I thought could pass for indifference. Online, it takes form in ‘liking’ someone’s status on Facebook, or including excessive amounts of smiley faces.
At some point, everybody comes face to face with their own jealousy. Even if no one else does. Even if online identities make it easy to delete from our profiles. You know how people will describe jealousy as “rearing its ugly head”? You might think you’ve been hiding it well. You haven’t. Your friends or co-workers or significant other have already seen that ugly face showing. You may be able to hide behind online smiles, but the real faces in your life are the ones that matter the most.
Someone I admire greatly once told me that “Elegance is survival”. Jealousy cannot survive. Envy is not elegant. A jealous personality is not a happy one. It is incapable of finding success. Jealousy makes enemies easily, creates excuses instead of lessons from its failures, and will eventually tear itself apart with anxiety.
It would be easy to close the door to jealousy by closing off the things that seem to spur it. Ending the texts to your ex will give a temporary fix. But like some pervasive species of plants, jealousy will latch onto anything it can find. The better solution? Learn how to control it. Mend it regularly. Use it to find out things about yourself, as if jealousy were one entry in your own personal encyclopedia. Is it other people’s success that’s bothering you? Or is it really your fear that you’ll never achieve that same success? Are you angry about your boyfriend’s female friendships because you think it’s taking time away from you, or because you’re afraid he’s not happy with your relationship? Don’t think about what’s normal, or fall into the trap of “I’m only human” excuses. You are. That doesn’t give you a pass to ignore your human instincts.
It’s not realistic to eliminate jealousy from our lives entirely. And that’s actually a good thing. Jealousy can serve us in certain positive ways. It can become a source of motivation, an impetus for change, like when we realize – after years of dating – that our man is still one foxy dude, and it’s been a while since we’ve shown the “Like a Prayer”-style devotion that, well, keeps the faith alive. But we can keep it in mind, as much as its in our chest, sitting and growing the bitter-tasting buds that will one day be impossible to remove if we don’t pay attention to them.
(Insert image of bitter old woman here.)
The stunning dresses, the carefully curated apartment, all the beautiful things in life I find myself wanting represent one type of elegance. But long after the dress is hung up or the apartment is emptied out, it’s the elegance we’ve cultivated within that sticks around.
That, and it makes smiley faces look a lot more smiley.
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