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The green-eyed Monster

Do you ever feel as though there is someone better than you? Someone who does more than you? Someone who just seems to have their life together in ways you don’t? You wouldn’t be alone. Sometimes we see in a person all the things that we wish we had and it leaves us filled with envy.

It’s hard not to compare yourself when another person seems to have it all. Their successes may seem to you a direct reflection of your shortcomings, highlighting where you need to improve yourself. Maybe you turn up to university one day only to find out that one of your friends has had five internship offers from renowned companies, that will probably land them their dream job. Maybe another friend is in a perfect relationship replete with breakfast in bed each morning, and to top it all off they just received first class grades on their recent work. Meanwhile, you turned up late because you wanted an extra hour in bed and fell in a puddle on your way in.

The purpose of envy is supposed to secure the survival of the species, to constantly advance ourselves…

You can’t help but wonder: what if you could be as talented as your friends? Perhaps if you didn’t take those extra few hours to sleep each morning then you could be just as productive and worthwhile, and you wouldn’t have to beat yourself up so much.

But is this thinking true? Although psychology suggests that a little bit of envy can be good for us, as it helps us to improve ourselves, too much of it is unhealthy and has a drastic impact upon our self-esteem. The purpose of envy is supposed to secure the survival of the species, to constantly advance ourselves. However, envy has many manifestations and can lurk during times of supposed happiness and friendship.

Have you ever been chatting with a friend, talking about their achievements, and realised you have come up short in comparison? This is because how you feel about yourself largely depends on how you perceive yourself in relation to others. When we create idealised versions of another person, this can shake our sense of self, and rock our feelings of self-worth. It can even go so far as creating feelings of resentment towards the other person whenever these emotions are triggered, leading to feelings of guilt and shame.

You are comparing all your ins and outs to an edited version of their own life…

It all depends on what you value, what your ideals are, and who you ultimately want to become. If you measure yourself against an ideal and find you do not live up to your own standards, you may feel insecure and more prone to these feelings of envy, especially when we compare these standards to someone else who lives up to them. In a comparative culture, we feel we want to come out on top. We want to know how what we do will matter, and how it will make us admired.

However, that person you see as perfect is most likely struggling with their own insecurities and doesn’t have it all figured out. Scrolling through Instagram every evening only to see that everyone has a better body than you can be disheartening. But the fact is you are comparing all your ins and outs to an edited version of their own life, a version that is selectively and carefully pruned and refined and perfected to create a certain impression about who they are, as is also the case in real life. What we see is often not the whole story, whether it be celebrities or someone you know. So maybe it’s okay to take a step back and realise that you’re not perfect, and neither is anybody else.


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