When I was about 10 years old, my sister was on the local news. We had both attended a community event that got a little media coverage and they chose to include her in their clip. When our family watched the news that night and saw her on TV, everyone shrieked. Well, everyone except me. I retreated to the other room to pout.
Why did she get all the attention? Why couldn’t I be on TV too? Wasn’t I good enough?
I pouted for a while until my parents found me. When they finally figured out why I was being such a prickly sourpuss, they empathized with me — for a hot minute. And then they basically told me to get my head out of my ass and be happy for my sister. We were a family, after all. We’re in this together. Her moment of fame (and I use the word “fame” very loosely because this was, after all, the local news in a middle-of-Wisconsin media market) didn’t take anything away from who I was or what I could do.
I wish I could say my parents’ wise words turned it all around for me and I never felt the prickly tentacles of envy again, but that would be a lie. Just the other day, I saw another mom at school wearing the coolest, trendiest, best ass-hugging leggings I’d ever seen. I envied her chic style. I envied her ability to look put together at 8:45 in the morning while I was sporting a pair of ratty sweatpants and a disheveled ponytail. Heck, I even envied her perky, tight ass.
If there is one thing that seems to grow with age, it is an IDGAF attitude. I feel less pressure to be one of the “cool kids.” I deflect bullshit like a ninja. Most days, I feel pretty comfortable in my skin, and I might even go so far to say that there are days when I feel like a beautiful badass. But I wish I could say that this IDGAF attitude is all-encompassing and I’m this highly evolved, super Zen, calmly confident person who never feels self-doubt or envy, but that would be a lie. Self-doubt is part of being human, and anyone who says they never felt envy from time to time is full of shit or a lying liar. We all feel self-doubt and envy occasionally — even beautiful badasses — but some people are just better at dealing with it than others.
Personally, I fall squarely in the “working on it” category. I’m getting better at brushing off or moving through the prickly tingles of the green monster, but there’s definitely room for improvement. One thing I have learned is that hiding from the feeling, denying it, or pushing it aside just seems to make it worse. Instead of washing away the envy, you wind up with a plate of green jealousy stew with a side of anger and shame. Acknowledging the feelings is the first step toward moving through them.
I watched a video of Chelsea Handler a few months ago and was impressed with her refreshingly honest admission to feeling jealous of a friend who got a stand-up gig she was also vying for. What a relief to learn that self-doubt and envy can strike even the most successful beautiful badasses among us — which makes me feel a lot less guilty about envying that mom’s leggings or my friend’s popularity or my sister-in-law’s wrinkle-free complexion.
But admitting you feel envy is one thing; acting on it is something else. Handler recommends telling someone about your feelings, but whatever you do, don’t act on them. “I never, ever blow out someone’s candle to make mine brighter,” she says. In other words, don’t be an asshole.
As clichéd as it sounds, a little gratitude and kindness go a long way too. We’ve all heard someone say, “Count your blessings” when we’re feeling a little down-and-out — to which I’ve wanted to respond, “Count these middle fingers, you annoying and self-righteous asshole.” But as annoying as it is to hear, it’s actually pretty solid advice, especially if I take stock of all the good things in my life while baking cookies for my family. Seriously. Doing something nice for someone else usually helps pull me out of my woe-is-me funk, and a few compliments about my kick-ass cookie-making abilities don’t hurt either. Not to mention that a little comfort food goes a long way and cookie dough tastes like a hug.
The funny thing about self-doubt and envy is that once I wade through the muck and ickiness of those jealous feelings, there is usually something that I can learn in the mess if I flip the negativity upside down into something positive. If I compliment that mom at school, I might discover where the hip moms buy their leggings (no big surprise to learn they’re LuLaRoes), and if I take a look at a colleague’s success, I might get the kick in the ass I need to improve.
And when all else fails, I go a little Stuart Smalley on my self-doubting, jealous ass with some internal pep talks. As schmaltzy as it sounds, we are all amazing in our own way and there is more than enough good stuff to go around. We’re all in this together. Like Handler says at the end of the video, “There’s always a space for you, because there is no one who’s exactly like you.”
Which is really just a fancy way of saying you’re a beautiful badass and don’t you forget it!