Part 1: Green isn’t a good color on you
“The only person you need to measure yourself up against is the person you have the potential to become.” ~ Michael Berg
I have this memory of when I was 12 years old. It was a balmy summer evening, and my older sister and I were walking home after dinner from a little neighborhood Italian restaurant. My sister was 16 then, I was a spritely little thing—always energetic and playful—and I thought the world of her. I remember being so elated that my “high school” sister (who had pretty much viewed me as a small child from the minute she entered the world of Beverly Hills High School) even wanted to go out to dinner with me. I was dressed as I always did, carefree – wearing cute little shorts with a tank top so I could spring into cartwheels at any given second. I was giddy with excitement that she was spending time with me.
My sister walked behind me as I skipped and ran ahead, in the direction of our home. My sister caught up with me as we neared the front door, she turned toward me and with a quiet regard she said, “I can see it’s starting, you’re beginning to get cellulite at the back of your thighs,” pointing at my legs, to punctuate her observation. I remember how utterly confused and distressed I felt as I tried to make sense of what my sister had said. For heaven’s sake, I hadn’t even gone through puberty yet – I still had a tomboyish figure, with not a curve in sight. Not to mention the fact that she was a block behind me for most of the walk home when she made this observation – how could she have possibly seen that much detail from that distance? In my heart I knew it wasn’t true, but the bad stuff is often easier to believe.
Suddenly I felt worried. All I could think was, “What must I do to stop this? And does this mean I will suddenly become overweight?” As soon as I entered the house I ran straight to the bathroom and checked out my rear end and thighs in the mirror –searching for any indication of the “changes.” It was the first time I began to fret about my weight. If the Monica today could have given advice to the 12-year-old Monica, I would have told her how beautiful and pure she was, and I would have reassured her that those words came from a place of lack, and that they really had nothing to do with her.
Subsequently, 7 years later, I developed an eating disorder. I have never blamed my sister for my eating disorder, nor would I ever, but as I sat reminiscing about that night, I acknowledged that it certainly was a moment that bore great impact. I don’t believe my sister said it to hurt or belittle me. In fact, I think if she had known just how much it did hurt me, she would have refrained from saying anything in the first place. This, I suppose, is the overwhelming danger of jealousy, and its power to negatively affect both the envious and the envied, because “when we are jealous of another person’s gifts, we block ourselves from receiving the same gift.” ~ Michael Berg
Let’s face it, although it’s not our intention, sometimes we are most jealous of those we love – it’s human nature – they are the closest ones to us. On a subconscious level, it is sometimes easier to yearn for and desire what someone else already has, than doing the difficult work of achieving it on your own, for yourself. If we realized what exactly is at stake we would make a conscious effort to shy away from this negative tendency.
Since the dawn of time, jealousy has been as prevalent an emotion as love. It is a central and common theme in many films, fiction (Shakespeare called it the Green-eyed monster) and other art forms throughout history. Perhaps not quite as romantic to talk about or express if you possess it, but it is inevitably something we all feel to some degree, but prefer to keep silent about, because it really is very unbecoming.
Biblically, jealousy is a common narrative, too. Think about Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam. Cain killed his younger brother in a jealous rage. We all at some point in our lives feel jealous or envious towards other people, but it is when we start acting on those feelings when it becomes unhealthy and potentially dangerous to the giver as well as the receiver.
We all have wants and desires… perhaps a vacation home in the South of France, or a Pulitzer Prize, time for leisure, money for that necklace you saw your best friend wearing last week… we all desire things we do not have, but there is a downside to all this wanting and wishing, especially if we become consumed by it. We can begin to place blame on the person who already has what we want. We begin to feel an overwhelming degree of lack, and over time this becomes our reality, not only causing us harm, but wasting away time better spent on positive actions and thoughts that would get us closer to our desires, which I must say, are hopefully a bit more elevated than the list above.
When we become consumed with the idea that we lack things, we slowly become blind to what it is that we already have, and we become ungrateful for the gifts we have.[End of part 1.]
THOUGHT TO ACTION:
Instead of ruminating about the things you don’t have, write down ALL the things in your life that you are grateful for. Express your gratitude to 3 people today. 4 tomorrow!
Stay tuned for Part 2.