by un’ruly Editor, Antonia
We can’t judge a book by its cover. We already know this. That’s not the moral of this story.
To explore why women “hate” each other is inevitably to explore envy and jealousy and the importance of appearance. In April of 2012, journalist and writer, Samantha Brick, notoriously wrote an article titled, ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful. The response to the article was largely, “she’s not pretty; she’s delusional and arrogant.” It seemed that very few people actually discussed the topic at hand—how women respond to prettier women. Among all the comments in the article that berated Brick were a few comments from women that countered her assertion and said that they actually admire beautiful women as opposed to hate them. I thought these comments were cute but dishonest, mainly because I hate pretty girls and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have good reason to hate them—biological and sociological reasons.
Looks matter. There’s no getting around it. The survival of the human race depends on it. Per Wikipedia, “Physical attractiveness is a characteristic that suggests fertility and health. These factors contribute to the probability of survival and reproduction for continuing life on Earth.” (Doesn’t that sound dramatic)? In other words, pretty women are more likely to attract mates and have babies and keep the human race going, while ugly women or women who have deviant features like this albino peacock (which in my opinion looks ethereal) are not likely to find a mate and reproduce.
What’s more, society puts a premium on pretty. To speak generally, pretty people have it easy. According to a 2005 article by Kate Lorenz on CNN.com, attractive people make more money; “attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.” Pretty women also get free stuff. Samantha Brick spoke about it in her article and model Cameron Russel briefly mentions it in her TedX talk. I personally know some striking girls who get flown out to the Caribbean and receive Mac books and designer bags as gifts. And as much as we can shrug off all of that stuff as petty superficialities, who wouldn’t want that? Who doesn’t want free stuff on occasion or a higher paycheck or preferential treatment or a larger pool of potential mates? These aren’t crazy things to want… or envy.
Resenting a beautiful woman because she’s beautiful is like resenting someone born into wealth. They don’t have to work for a lot of the things most people do just because they won the “genetic lottery.” It’s hard to sympathize with that. I’ll hate on that all day long, lol. It’s a natural response.
Like most supposedly negative emotions, jealousy and envy aren’t bad in and of themselves; the actions that might come out of them are what can get ugly. First let’s delineate between the two. Again, per handy dandy Wikipedia, “jealousy is the result or fear of losing someone or something [that one is attached to or possesses],” while envy is the resentment caused by another person having something that one does not have, but desires…” So jealousy = fear of loss and envy = resent because you want something. I’m a glass-is-half-full type of person, so I’ve been able to find upsides in both of these emotions.
Let’s start with jealousy and let’s assume you’re feeling this emotion in a social gathering. You might be the girl that’s at the gathering with her boyfriend. A STUNNING woman walks in. You notice other people, guys and girls alike, notice her. Without realizing it, you’re holding your boyfriend’s hand a little tighter as she walks in the direction of the two you. She walks past you and your boo, the man you love, and his head turns in her wake to enjoy the view from behind. You could bite his head off. You could storm out of the party. You can sneer at her and make fun of her cankles, which most men wouldn’t even notice. Or you could acknowledge that you’re worried that he finds her more attractive and that makes you feel bad. Let yourself feel bad; he might very well find her more attractive. Is that really a big deal?
In this scenario there is a fear of some kind of loss. The woman is just a trigger of that fear. Being afraid of losing something is an indication of how valuable that thing or person is to you. In relationships, jealousy can can be used to remind yourself how much that person means to you. It’s easy to get comfortable with someone and assume that they’re always going to be around. But someone always being around is never really guaranteed. So what do we do about the things we’re afraid to lose? We protect them. Think about your cell phone. If you’re like most, you probably have a smart phone and that phone pretty much contains your whole life—contacts, pictures, your bank account app, etc. It would suck to lose it. So you protect it. You have it insured and you put a case on it. You don’t throw it against a wall or drop it in a toilet when it acts up. I’m not 100% sure of what the cellphone case equivalent of a relationship is, but I do know that as soon as you recognize the value of something or someone, you immediately adjust your behavior, even if the adjustment is simply acknowledging that this thing or person really matters to you.
My solution to envy is actually quite simple. If you want what someone else has, get it. Knowing what you want is half the battle and if you’re envious about it, you must really want it. Listen to that emotion. Embrace the inadequacy or the insecurity it might cause; embrace the threat. Acknowledge it. Feel it. Let it ruuuuuun through your veins. Just don’t bottle it in and ignore it. It will come out in horrible ways if you do. But while you’re acknowledging this emotion and desire, take the time to question why you want it.
It’s so easy to get caught up in beauty, wealth and fame. Our Western society tells us that these are the things we should pursue because that’s how we define success and happiness. But that pursuit is so narrow when life has sooooo much to offer beyond that. Launching un’ruly and moving to Paris has made me start to explore living a “wider” life. I’m an ambitious and entrepreneurial person and I have and will always pursue money. But I’ve come to realize that it’s the act of building something, especially something from scratch, that really satisfies me. So I’ve started to think more and open myself up more to the things that make me happy on that “un’ruly” level. And these are things that are typically outside of the oh so coveted beauty/wealth/fame ideals.
As a result, I now guard myself against obvious definitions of happiness as well as relative definitions of happiness, i.e. feeling accomplished because you’re better—whether it be smarter, prettier, more talented. There’s always someone better. As long as human beings continue to move forward and pass the baton of human progress to subsequent generations, there will always be someone better. The danger of relative happiness is not that you’re chasing a moving target, but more that you’re defining your happiness based on where someone else is versus where you are and where you really want to be.
So, the moral of this story is to not shy away from feelings of envy and jealousy. Embrace them and use them to identify the things you want and the things you value, but also use them as moments to question what really makes you happy. Is your definition of happiness your own? It’s so important to dive deep into this question because in your pursuit of happiness, with all that there is out there to distract you, you may run in the wrong direction or not realize that you’ve already arrived.