When it comes to affairs of the heart, we are all beginners. Some of us, however, at least speak with authority. Introducing Shon Faye, author of The Transgender Issue (2021) and the forthcoming Love in Exile (2025), whose advice caught our eye. Contact her at [email protected] for your own chance at enlightenment.
I am struggling with jealousy and comparison with one of my long-time friends. I hate this part of myself; I feel like a bad friend and feminist. She’s someone I have always felt a little inferior to. Numerous people, including my mom, have commented on how beautiful she is; she studied at a prestigious university and had a glamorous TV job; she has a doting husband, adorable child and owns a house in London.
Some of these things I’m not even sure I want, but the latest – she’s written a novel, and has about 8 different offers from agents – has gotten to me. Writing a book has always been a dream of mine, but I haven’t yet achieved this goal. Added to the dynamic is she’s someone who often gives me unsolicited advice, whether it be about my career, dating, or buying a flat. Recently, her advice has started to rankle me, because it feels like we’re in unrelatable situations – for example, she’s in a long-term relationship and has never been on a dating app, while I’ve been single for years; she quit her TV job and depended on her husband’s income to finish her novel; and she had financial help from her partner and in-laws to buy a home. (These aren’t options for me.)
She has also worked really hard for all of her achievements, and I can learn from and be motivated by her too. But I am struggling with how to set aside my jealousy, stop comparing myself to her, and find the confidence to both tune out unhelpful advice (I recognize the irony of writing into an advice column) and focus on following my own path. Is this something you’ve dealt with, and how did you do it?
It is indeed something I have dealt with in the past, something I will certainly deal with again and something most of us will deal with, from time to time, as envy is a natural part of being human. Especially as it’s very much a tendency fostered by our consumer culture: Ambition and aspiration, which we are told are virtues that can propel any of us to material success (despite evidence to the contrary), are often daughters of the more base feeling of envy. From what you have written, it sounds like your own feelings of envy directed at this friend have not caused you to be cruel toward her, and she is largely unaware of how she makes you feel. In which case, the person suffering the most here is you. You are bathing in resentment and resentment is a destructive thing. Buddha compared it to holding onto a hot coal: In the end it burns through you. Nowadays we often say it is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.