When I was in high school I was jealous of a particular girl in my grade. We were worlds apart in personality, but very close in achievement level. We were friends, but it was a friendship filled with tension. One would come first, the other would come second. The problem was, I was too often the one coming second. And I didn’t have the personality to match.
When she came second it seemed like she could carry it. She had the charisma. The laugh. The jokes. I was awkward and more serious and less willing to show what I was really feeling. I was jealous of the way she could capture and keep attention, and that she would win a lot of the time. This jealousy made me feel vindicated when I did win. Or when I received acknowledgement before she did.
This ugly, spiteful, bratty side of my personality meant that I did better in high school than I ever probably expected. My competitiveness – but more than that, my jealousy for this one person – made me fight harder to be just as successful, acknowledged, ‘celebrated’ as she was.
(Spoilt and lucky and privileged, I know. But true none the less.)
This morning I read that 30% of us are motivated by envy, more than any other factors. More depressingly, the study found participants were more likely to ignore a larger prize in a raffle, and settle for a smaller one, in order to diminish another player’s chances of winning.
This surprised and shocked me at first. But then I thought about it.
(Diminishing another players’ chances aside) The way that we can be motivated by jealousy is so true.
Google’s traits for success. Post continues below video.
Given, the study wasn’t huge. It was a survey of 541 volunteers, published in Science Advances. But it got me thinking.
Seeing the things that we might or might not want in other people, and feeling envious of what they do or do not have, helps us more effectively identify and address the holes in our own personality or life path.
There is a more positive take on this. It’s called ‘Shine Theory’, and it was coined by Ann Friedman from The Cut. Shine Theory suggests we should be celebrating other women’s success, instead of seeing it as a cause of insecurity, because it will benefit us in the long run. If we surround ourselves with successful, smart, confident women, who are achieving great things, we are going to rise up under these circumstances, not fall further into our supposed (likely imagined) hole.
Friedman says there are different types of confidences. Sometimes a person’s confidence is designed to put others down (a sure sign they’re faking it). True confidence, on the other hand, should bring others up.
The underlying feeling still might stem from jealousy; for example looking at what someone else has and feeling envious of their success. But the reaction to this jealousy is different.
My high school grades improved because I chose to engage with someone who was smart and successful and better than me at most things academic. Friedman is more successful because of, not in spite of, her best friend Amina who is “effortlessly stylish, frighteningly intelligent, and beautiful, too”.