The Envy Monster Ducks Her Ugly Head

EnvyI think of the seven deadly sins, envy is quite possibly the worst.

All too often, we see what others have, who others have become, and we admire it. That’s a natural human sentiment.

If we leave it at that — admiration — we might discover something good.  (ex. — a friend gets a new job; it encourages us to leave our dead-end job or go back to school).

But sometimes admiration turns ugly, and envy rears its ugly head. Envy makes us feel bad about ourselves; like we’re not good enough. Envy is not a pretty thing.

Which brings me to this little tale.

There’s a girl at my gym that I’ve noticed has lost a lot of weight over the past few months. 

I see her slaving away on the step-mill each night when I’m there, and each week she looks leaner and leaner (not sickly lean; she looks fit and toned).

She is probably a college student or just out of college maybe — my guess, she looks about 23, 24.

And she looks fantastic.

I’ve never spoken to her, so I don’t know what her background is. Was she someone thin who had gained weight and was losing it, was she losing weight for the first time, was she new to working out and saw stellar results?

I don’t know, though I think she’s training for a fitness show or something, given some things I’ve overheard her say to some of the other girls at the gym.

Anyway, I admit, when I first noticed she was losing weight, I felt that ugly twinge of envy in the pit of my tummy. 

I don’t like that I’d feel it each time I saw her, but it’s the truth. I think given my own weight gain this past year, it’s a natural emotion — certainly not one I’m proud of, but the truth of how I felt. And usually, the level of envy was dependent upon how I felt about my own body that given day/night. (Sad, but true).

Then last night at the gym, the envy turned to admiration. It hit me that the same way I was noticing her hard work paying off, noticing her body slimming down … experiencing mixed feelings of envy and admiration, I’d gone through a similar transformation only five years ago, myself!

And for all I know, maybe people had noticed it in my gym back in D.C. (besides the trainer, who always commented about it to me).

Who knows, maybe back then, I was the girl that made someone else envious, or who someone else admired?

That realization was strangely comforting. Not because I liked the idea of knowing that perhaps someone had admired my dedication/transformation back then, but because I liked the realization that we’re all human … and that life kind of goes full-circle.

Suddenly I had this newfound awareness.

Back then I was 24, 25 and felt invincible. I spent all my free time at the gym, focused on my body, obsessing over it. It was the most selfish time of my life, and frankly, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed back then if someone had been eyeing me up. I was admittedly in my own little world.

Yet I remembered how nice it felt to hear people acknowledge my transformation. It gave me confidence, and so I wanted to drop a subtle message to this girl that — not that my opinion matters for squat — but that her efforts weren’t going unnoticed.

I’m a firm believer that women need to be each other’s best and strongest support network. So I decided instead of “competing,” (i.e., feeling envious)  I’d rather voice a compliment (express admiration).

I tried to make eye contact with her when I left the gym to flash her a smile, but her back was to me and she was talking to someone else. I’m not discouraged; I’ll just try again next time.

It felt nice to reframe things and admire her dedication vs. being envious of her clear success.

All I know is, I’m glad I can go to sleep with the envy monster tucked deep in my psyche. I know there will be times when she rears her ugly head, but for now, she’s right where she belongs: hidden.

How about you? Have you experienced envy at someone else’s good fortune, weight loss, recovery, career moves, finances, etc.?

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17 thoughts on “The Envy Monster Ducks Her Ugly Head

  1. My mom jokes that I practically came out of the womb envious of the world around me. I have always fixated on the best in other people and felt threatened by it. It’s worked for me, and it has certainly worked against me.
    I think I’m that 24-year old girl who’s in selfish mode right now. Not necessarily the weight loss/physical aspect, but the “working through what’s really important” part. It’s nice to know that you’ve been there and you grew out of it 🙂

    1. LOL Lara — my dad teases I came out of the womb hungry! 😉 I wouldn’t say I’ve grown out of that selfish stage so much as my life doesn’t revolve around the gym anymore — with my then-boyfriend now-husband abroad all those years, I could easily spend my nights at the gym if I didn’t have plans with friends. Now, I don’t want to do that as much. And I still think it’s important to focus on ourselves — but not necessarily on the constant need for improvement so much as enjoying the present. It’s tough for me though!

  2. I struggle with envy on a regular basis. I have to spend a lot of time trying to talk myself out of it. In the same breath, I am ashamed to admit sometimes I find comfort in other people being as overweight as I am. That`s the truth.
    I am working on it, and some days are better than others. Sometimes I can remind myself that I`ve been all those things and this is where I am now and I might as well enjoy my life as it is, other days it`s not so easy. I think in the weight loss situation, it frustrates me because I was not able to lose the weight and be happy and confident. I didn`t even know how physically healthy I was when I was it. I can`t to go back, I just have to move on. All the elements for health were not present at the time- although it might have appeared otherwise. I just hope that one day they are and I can be happy for other people more often.

    1. Susie, I think that’s a very normal feeling and actually this guy we were looking at using as a speaker for our social media conference at work — James Fowler — did a whole study on that phenomenon — Obesity is Contagious, Study Finds – James Fowler
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pwHJ18P0eg. How it’s contagious, and it makes us feel “normal” when we see others who are as heavy/heavier.

  3. Usually I am only envious of people when they brag or flaunt things….like my boss who will go on and on about her (expensive) season tickets to the Colts, or my friend who shows off a brand new car every 2 years. I HATE the feeling of being envious – it makes me feel evil! 🙂

    As far as those who’ve lost weight, I guess strangely I’m not envious, but with a FEW people I can get competive. I HATE to admit that, but it’s the people who I know are constantly watching MY weight. I feel like I’m being critiqued by them on my eating and exercise, and it’s only with a few “friends” in my life (I limit my time with them because I realize it’s not good for me).

    Envy really can be an ugly thing, but it’s wonderful when you can turn it into admiration like you did!

    1. Hi Holly! I agree — envy makes me feel evil, too.

      I feel like there are people who watch my weight, too — esp. now that I’ve gained. There’s a couple females where I feel their eyes … and can sense judgment. I could be off-base, but it’s how I feel.

      Good for you limiting your time with those people!!!

  4. Great story! I used to feel envious all the time of women like that at the gym. Now they inspire me. If they can do it, so can I!

  5. I don’t like to complement strangers on weight loss becuase when I was going through my ED I got tons of compliments and it just fueled my obsession.

    I do still struggle with envy over weight/body and also money. I do feel very fortunate for what I have especially these days when people have been hit so hard by the economy. Not to mention the huge numbers of people who live in poverty. But many people I know take several nice vacations a year, go out to eat a lot, don’t think twice about going shopping and buying something new on a whim, etc. The travel particularly gets to me because it is something I love and just don’t have extra money for.

  6. I agree with Lara on the commenting. Sadly you just never know who takes it in an unhealthy way. I still remember when I lost all my weight and a woman who did gym classess at the same time as me commented on my weight loss, the next day another woman did. The two of them commenting made me even more paranoid that I couldn`t gain and that led me to losing more to be on the safe side. I know they were just being nice, but for me, as a person with disordered thinking and eating, it didn`t help. I felt like people were noticing and would notice just as much if I gained.

  7. I am with Lara and Susie. As someone who used to not get much attention, I got such a high when people complimented me back in my “innocent” weight loss days. It was those little things that turned my new healthy lifestyle into something disordered and obsessive. This girl at the gym could have the type of personality who could appreciate the comment, but we never know how others process things. The thought is sweet though.

    I need to work on the envy thing though, although not necessarily in the weight loss area. I get way too caught up in the fact that at 28, so many of my friends are married and are having kids and I am still single and struggling. This envy fueled a progression in my eating disorder this past winter because i used food to soothe these envious feelings. I am in a better place now, but i really need to stop playing the comparison game if I am ever to heal myself of these demons. Great post, as always!

  8. I guess I can see where you ladies are coming from — my DE was fueled from success, empowerment … but not everyone is triggered to be that way, or hardwired to react that way. I guess it’s good to be sensitive to it.

    With close friends, I always compliment them on a new haircut, weight loss, new outfit because I know them and don’t worry about their reactions … but a stranger? I guess that could get dicey and the last thing I’d want to do is trigger someone.

  9. I am going to refer back to the age post when we commented on how we felt about certain ages/decades. This is the beauty of my 30s, any “evil envy” I used to experience towards other has completely disappeared and now I just feel really happy for whatever they have accomplished (be in weight loss, a new house, a fab vacation). Maybe it has roots with just being happy with my own life?

    P.S. I want to mention a conversation one of BFs and I had recently: My BF had gone back to her hometown and met with an old college friend who had become quite thin since she last saw her. My BF said she had felt a bit “envious” over her weight loss. Well, sadly it was the beginning of an ED that took her friend’s life last month. 😦

  10. I’ve struggled with weight loss envy as well. Right now I’m in a time in my life where I’ve lost weight and really toned up and lots of people are complimenting me and it feels great! The most common thing for me to be envious of though is breast size. At 4’11” and 115 lbs, I still have a D cup and everytime I get dressed, look in a mirror or see pics of myself, they just look huge to me! I’m so envious of small breasts, of women that can walk around in little tank tops or sundresses and look great! Anyway, it’s bad and I definitely need to work on it.

  11. is there such a thing as a loving envy? i dont feel this envy in a negative or harmful way towards myself or my sister, but she just had her second child and i do envy this. i may never be able to have children, and through my sheer joy about this new baby, there is still a little bit of “i wish that was me.”

    but there is certainly no ill will or bad feelings involved. so maybe envy isn’t the right description. maybe more longing.

  12. Hey Clare, I think what you’re experiencing is absolutely normal and is a compassionate form of longing … done with love, not envy. I don’t know what you’d call it, but I can understand what you’re getting it. I hope you will be able to experience having children but it sounds like you have a wonderful relationship with her and will work through your feelings as time goes on. ((Clare))

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