We Do Not See things As They Are
We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are~ Anais Nin
I think life would be a whole lot easier if we all realized this simple quote. I know my life this past week could have been calmer, less sad, and I may have been able to let “it” roll off my back had I heeded these 14 words. But that isn’t usually the case is it? Sometimes we’re stifled by words that cut us to the bone. It’s unfortunate, and it’s life changing.
As I was thinking about what I was going to write about this week, I thought, “Jealousy! Now there’s a topic that every woman is sure to relate to.” In my experience, and hearing my friends’ experiences, almost all of us have been jealous at one time or another. (I’m talking about jealousy between two women, not the jealousy you might feel when you see some floozy barfly hitting on your man when you get up to use the restroom.)
The “green-eyed monster”, as it is often referred to, has disrupted lives since the beginning of time.
Something to Ponder
We do not express jealousy through a single emotion or a single behavior. Instead, we express it through diverse emotions and behaviors. Anger. Resentment. Envy. Inadequacy. Helplessness. Disgust. Mix any of those together and you’ve got yourself a toxic cocktail called “jealousy”. Yuck! That’s a bitter concoction.
I wonder why people, specifically women, feel the need to bring others down when they are struggling. Is it because misery loves company? Do they just want to share their pain? Is it a matter of pride? Is it a competition? Does it really make them feel better?
When you have supportive girlfriends, you have a goldmine. You know the type. They’re always excited for you. They offer genuine compliments. They delight in your success. In short, they lift you up, no matter what. If each of us had more of these types of solid friendships with our girlfriends, chances are women would feel more supported, loved, and stable. I’m no psychiatrist, but I believe they would not lash out at each other, but rather cherish, trust, love, and care for each other more.
Let’s Take a Trip Back to 2011
Like I said, I started writing about jealousy from one angle, but then I hit a roadblock, swerved, and found myself looking at it differently. I then found myself needing to give jealousy a new name: perception.
Here’s Why I Changed my Direction
I started doing my homework for the jealousy blog earlier in the week. I remembered that, someone who I thought was my friend, had written me a very hurtful email. Let’s call her Barb.
Oh boy! Where do I start? Barb was a lot of things. In the beginning, she was fun. Very outspoken and I loved that because I am the same way. Confident? Yes, Barb was confident, and I liked that too. I thought we were better friends than—as it turns out, we actually were.
When I originally received Barb’s email, I was completely baffled. If I read it to you now, I’m certain you would be too. She started with, “You’re amazing, you have to stop telling everyone that.” She condemned me for thinking my children were perfect, for thinking my marriage was perfect. She made it clear that she was amazing too. She was adamant that her children were also perfect, but pointed out that I didn’t notice them. And she insisted that her broken marriage was wild and crazy and was going to survive (which it did not).
After reading Barb’s email I then read it to Pete, and we both laughed. That was the first time I realized that someone was jealous. It shined right through her words like the sun breaking through the clouds. Pete saw it, pointed it out, and told me to “let it go” and “consider the source”.
Barb’s words were cutting, not constructive. She chose to write an email rather than speak to me face to face. She acknowledged that by saying, “I apologize. I should be doing this in person. I apologize, I have no time for anyone but my family right now.” I was thinking in my head at the time, “Wow, if your family is that important to you, then why take up the mental energy to think about me or to take the time to write this email?!”
Even though this was from 10 years ago I thought it would be a great example and backbone to the case I was trying to make about jealousy. It backfired.
Back to the Story
So last week, as I was reading it out loud to a couple of people, one of them laughed and the other agreed with what Barb wrote. I was shocked. This may have been one of the biggest blows I have endured.
To me, that email couldn’t have been more inaccurate. Me—amazing? I’m about the most self-critical person I have ever met. My children—perfect? OK. I won’t go too far here, but they are far from perfect. If you find someone with perfect children, I challenge you to send photos of those kids to the Guiness Book of World Records because I don’t believe there is such a thing. And lastly, a perfect marriage? Excuse me while I go change my thong because I just peed my pants laughing so hard. Yep, Pete and I have a great marriage. Perfect? No, never. Everyone has issues, and we’re no exception.
So why is this person, whose opinion I value so deeply, agreeing with Barb’s words in this incredibly unkind letter?
I don’t know. In my head I immediately tried to explain away why someone would perceive me as what was written in that disgusting email. Most of all though, I was crushed.
Rewind to the 1970s / Here’s My Best Justification
I grew up being raised as an only child. My half-brother and sister were out of the house by the time I was five. (If you’re an avid reader of this blog or listener of the podcast, then you’ve heard me say that often.) That meant my mom and dad only had to focus on me; I got a lot of quality attention. I didn’t know any differently at the time, but now in retrospect, I clearly understand that birth order makes a lifelong difference. I was not only the youngest child, after five years old, I was also the only child.
Being an only child, I learned many things that those who have siblings don’t, such as living skills. I believe I grasped them on a different level. As the only and the youngest child, I learned as an individual. I had no one older who set an example, and no one younger I had to watch over. I was never stuck in the middle either. I was the extreme example of being on both ends of the birth order spectrum.
I learned how to be self-sufficient. Independence became very natural. I didn’t get to see how others lived their lives first hand because much of the time I was alone. I learned to make my way of life the right way—because it worked well for me!
I also grew up with little means so, today, I consider myself very blessed. I will never forget where I came from and I am grateful for everything in my life. I get to experience things now that I never imagined in my wildest dreams.
Fast Forward to the 2000s
As proven by the email from 10 years ago and the opinion of the person who heard me read it back, how I share my life with others and the way I am perceived can be much different than what I intend. I have had a lot of success in my life and even more in my adult years. I want others to have that same success so I share— physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually. Remember, I didn’t get to share much as a kid because, again, I kinda grew up alone.
So what do we call this sharing that I do? I don’t mean that to be rhetorical. I am really asking you here, what exactly do you call it? Am I selfish? Rude? Arrogant? Confident? Misunderstood? Are other women jealous? I am struggling to figure out how to reconcile who I think I am with how others perceive me.
I know it's impossible to understand another’s perspective. And really, do I even want to know? I thought I did, but when Barb gave me her perspective through an email, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted anyone else’s perspective again.
I’m still working through the emotions of hurt and surprise when I learned the other person agreed with Barb. I have asked myself if I need to stop justifying who I am. Should I trust others' opinions of me to the point of potentially letting it ruin my day? I keep answering “no”. I will not let others' perceptions define who I am.
I am realizing, after all these years, that people only understand from their level of perception. Is their perception skewed when they are happy? How about when they’re sad? What happens when someone like Barb sees and listens to someone like me? I am happy, with a happy marriage. I guess that could give someone (like Barb) who is broken and unhappy the perception that I think I am perfect. I think her email came from a place of jealousy. And that’s what happens with jealousy. The green-eyed monster comes out and ruins everything.
Here’s What I Know
There’s a silver lining. I forgive Barb and all the others before, after, and in the future. I respect each perspective and how we all see things differently. No one can see through my eyes, my vantage point. Because of that, everyone gets to experience life differently. As women, we have to be the best we can be, and be the best friend we can be to one another because we don’t see things as they are.
We see them as we are.
I love that you were with me today. See you next week!
P.S. I finally deleted Barb’s email! 24,999 to go!
Lisa A.K.A. Loopie