Yesterday I took a woman’s writing class. The class was intriguingly titled Split Wide Open: Women Writing Ourselves. A couple of days before the class we received our writing prompt:
In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says, “My jealousy had actually been a mask for my fear of doing something I really wanted to do, but was not yet brave enough to take action toward.”
While who we admire says a lot about us as people, we could also say that who we envy says a lot about who we are as well, maybe even more so.
Interestingly enough I had just posted about jealousy and friendship. It was a topic in the September issue of O, The Oprah Magazine where Oprah was quoted as saying “A friend cannot be jealous of you or want to take advantage of you in any way.” Her quote got a lot of retweets and sparked an interesting conversation about friendship. On my IG post, someone said that they felt jealousy was a natural emotion. I think there’s some truth in that. Although they’re often used synonymously there is a slight difference.
I personally think that envy (desiring some quality, possession or attribute that we believe someone else has) is a natural emotion, but I believe that jealousy is a result of what we do with that envy. It’s the fear that something of ours will be compromised by the envy. And the subsequent actions we take to prevent that. (i.e My new co-worker is so smart and funny, which means she’ll take my place as the office favorite, so I’ll make her seem less likable by pointing out her flaws).
I considered my definition of the two when I sat down to write my response to the prompt the day of the class. I am usually much more prepared but things have been particularly busy lately. So hurriedly I wrote about the first person that came to mind when I thought about the word envy and It went like this:
Words on a page.
I’ve often heard the saying “Don’t let anyone else’s beauty make you question your own.”
But I never really thought much about that saying until I discovered LaTonya Yvette’s new book Woman of Color.
I was excited to hear that a blogger and a black woman blogger, more specifically, had published a book with a major publishing house. This is no easy feat for any blogger but especially hard for a woman of color.
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. First out of support for her and her mocha-colored skin and then for me and mine-as a way to hold in my hands the tangible possibility of my dream.
I gave it away.
It was wrapped in plastic and I didn’t even look inside.
It was a gift for my daughter who is also a writer and a mom blogger like LaTonya. I wasn’t truly interested in reading it. I just wanted to hold it.
But then I decided I’d get a copy for myself too. I peeked inside out of curiosity more than real desire and suddenly understood that quote in a way that I never had before. Her writing was poetic, lyrical and brave in a way that mine never was.
Her words strung together like a vine suffocating my own dreams.
I don’t write this way. I’m easy and conversational. She’s thought-provoking and challenging. Her writing makes you pause to reread lines. Soaking it all in the way a biscuit does gravy.
You take your time to savor it like you’re eating a macaron. Slowly, carefully, daintily.
It’s magical honestly.
I had so many questions after all.
LaTonya’s writing was a fancy boutique and mine was simply a 5 and dime.
Did I envy LaTonya’s writing? Absolutely, but here are three things that made me turn those negative thoughts around.
- I turned my envy into positive action. Not only did I buy two copies of her book (admittedly before I realized how good it was) but I also tweeted about it and addressed it an Instagram post. Instead of holding back out of jealousy I supported her work. I shared about it. I embraced it. I didn’t secretly seeth about it. I knew I really loved it and though it made me question my ability it didn’t make her book any less amazing. There was freedom in saying “This is great!” Next time you find yourself envying someone try supporting them instead. I promise it feels so much better.
- I said how I felt- out loud, to someone I love and trust who gave me great feedback. “Her writing is great mom,” Courtney said. “but she writes for a very specific niche. Your writing is more universal. You have different writing styles-embrace yours.” Gotta love that girl. If you don’t have someone like this in your circle please make that a priority. You need someone you can vent to who will acknowledge, not judge and instead of tearing down the other person they can see both sides and point you back to your strengths too.
- It made me take charge of the things I could control– I won’t become LaTonya Yvette but I signed up for that class I mentioned earlier in part because of my desire to be a better writer, not a different writer because Courtney was right, I had my own style. But it did make me want to work on my craft. You can acknowledge where you are and still want more. Instead of being envious of what someone else is doing, figure out what you need to do to achieve the result you so desire.
That’s my way of dealing with envy and not letting jealousy get the best of me. I would like to hear your thoughts on the topic too.
Until Next Post,
Tonya (Ironically LaTonya) Parker