At 24 years old I find I am reminiscing at my past selves and learning; and also wondering what my future will look like.
I see my friends and family progress with their goals, some of which I’d like to achieve. And the inevitable comparing of myself to them begins.
Why don’t I have my own house?
Will I ever afford my wedding?
Will I achieve the career I want?
On a grey Thursday night—after watching British Vogue’s video of nine models speaking about their mental health—I realised that comparison is the death of contentment.
Maybe we have become hard-wired to hate ourselves; deny ourselves unabashed happiness and confidence. So, our insecurities turn into fears that maybe morph into jealousy and taints everything with its greedy tendrils.
Up until recently, I have always wanted to be someone else. Erase myself and shape it into something else. Something more readily accepted by a standard I thought was paramount to my happiness. I realise that’s wrong. That I imprison myself with these poisonous thoughts, and if I should wish to, only I can free myself.
Other people are not responsible for making me whole. Only I am, and why should I ever give away that much power to another person? My well-being is my responsibility. I am the architect of my life. I wish that I had realised this earlier, but now is better than never.
When I was in primary school, I grew accustomed to kids pulling their eyelids when they saw me. “King Kong Chinaman,” followed me into Secondary school, and there I began to hate myself. I hated my facial features. My black hair on my head and body, the way my lemon skin wasn’t milky pale, and I wished that I had blonde hair and blue eyes with alabaster skin. I hated that my body couldn’t fit the ideals of Western or Chinese beauty ideals. My height too tall for the Chinese norm, and as I grew older my hips and shoulders took on more shape.
Unsurprisingly throughout my teen years I was depressed. I was filled with self-loathing and anger that my mother’s fragile pride couldn’t bear the weight of my emotions. When she realised I was shaving my arms—after a schoolboy innocently mentioned how dark my body hair was—all she could say was how unnatural it is to remove hair, and why did I hate myself enough to do it.
When I started university, my features changed from being the focus of taunts to curiosity. In a mostly white campus, I was different and received male attention. Some girls would make snide comments, not realising that I had no experience with this level of attention and was trying to adjust to a new reaction. Their jealousy was ugly, and I wanted nothing to do with them.
Now that my friends, family, and I are navigating a post university world, I find there are a variety of things to be jealous of and compare. But at least I have the smarts to now think, is jealousy worth losing a friendship?
Comparison births jealousy. I think jealousy is fear that we are inadequate or will never achieve what we want. Fear is a part of living. It’s the flip side of love. It’s the vulnerable stage of admitting that rejection and hurt is possible. But instead of moving beyond that, fear is being stuck.
Jealousy is a vulture. It takes everything and leaves no remains. I have lost enough time to jealousy. Friendships have cooled because of my inability to overcome jealousy. Even now I have to pinch myself if I feel the familiar feeling of envy overpowering affection. Instead, I try to be encouraging and supportive. A reassuring and enthusiastic voice, realising that my worth isn’t diminished by another person’s success.
I would like to think that I’ve learned to accept myself, but doubts remain. And some days it’s harder to ignore them than others. Those sneaky, greedy voices stealing any self-belief I have and trying to mute them, are a battle. But life is a medley of happiness and sadness. I have a lot to be happy about, and during those down days I try to count my blessings. Reinforcing the positives outweighs the negatives. Realising that my value doesn’t increase or decrease depending on another person’s actions is incredibly liberating. Joy shared is joy doubled.
The only permanence in life is impermanence. Jealousy is a reaction to a fleeting moment that will most likely change into something new. Jealousy is a black hole that steals our time which can’t be reclaimed. Now, I try to focus on creating lasting relationships, built on trust, acceptance, and love. And if that’s not possible, then compassion and understanding.
My goal is to live a life where I can say I didn’t waste time. I’ve spent enough time wishing to be someone else. I want to be accountable for my actions and happiness. I want to be a person who makes herself and others happy. Someone who lives freely, and although imperfect, someone unafraid to cultivate herself into someone better.
I know it’s impossible to stop comparing ourselves to others. But I wonder if we took the time to love ourselves, appreciate ourselves, comfort the fragile part of us, maybe jealousy wouldn’t be so prevalent? If we can love ourselves without constraints, maybe we can be more loving and compassionate to others?