I recently stumbled across another set of murder mysteries set in Louisiana. Within 15 words of reading the description of the first book, it became overwhelmingly clear that the author was not from Louisiana, nor had they spent any significant amount of time here beyond the odd episode of True Blood or, perhaps, a few chapters of Interview with the Vampire.
Before you cry “foul” and tell me how arrogant I’m being for making that assumption, the word “crayfish” was the 16th word in that book description. People in Louisiana do not raise, consume, say, or write about “crayfish.” We lovingly raise, copiously consume, say with relish, and write volumes of poetic love about “crawfish.” There’s a fucking Elvis Presley song that teaches the proper pronunciation of this delectable creature, for the love of shellfish.
As I stared at this novella’s 284 reviews with growing animosity and an endless cascade of “This motherfucker. This motherfucker, right here” falling from my lips, I realized that I was jealous.
I haven’t felt jealousy towards another artist’s success in over a decade, so it was little off-putting. And I know that success has very little to do with talent, or in this case a fucking five second Google search. But there I was, jealous.
While bemoaning this discovery to a friend, he said this, “Comparing yourself to others is a benchmark for failure… or at the very least, disappointment.”
(I know I’ve said this before, but I am surrounded by brilliant friends and thank Gd for that.)
And then it hit me. That’s what I was doing. I wasn’t jealous of this author’s success at attracting a readership. I was comparing myself to them, and all my fears - all those fears I tell myself aren’t real and all those fears I speak a mantra daily to overcome - were bubbling up to the surface in a single mind-killing scream: I am not good enough.
Isn’t that always the fear? That’s the one. The one that gets everybody.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not talented enough.
I’m not pretty enough.
I’m not thin enough.
I’m not young enough.
I’m not good enough.
But the question we never ask ourselves, at least I don’t, is good enough for whom?
Who is this mythical person we’re trying so hard to impress? And, more importantly, what makes them so fucking special that we’re trying to impress them?
Jealousy is an irrational emotion. It’s not easily contained, and it’s even harder to explain but at the root of it is just self-doubt. Whatever makes you insecure; whatever portion of yourself you still haven’t learned to accept; whatever deep, dark fear keeps you up at night; I will guarantee you that at some point in your life you have felt jealous because of it.
I’ve spent a good portion of the last five days being jealous. It was like once that book’s blurb and those 284 reviews tore a little hole in my confidence, all those fears came tumbling out like Pandora’s fucking box.
And it was deeply illuminating.
In the last five days, I’ve found myself being jealous of lineless faces, stretchmarkless tummies, job promotions, job offers, happy marriages, childless friends, stay-at-home parents, and authors who don’t know their crawfish from their crayfish, just to name a few of the things that spiraled me down into a pit of depression that I didn’t know if I was going to rise back out of, faster than a knife to the gut and just as startlingly painful.
You don’t get over your insecurities. You learn to live with them and silence them.
In Chasing Those Devil Bones, Q tells Derek:
“You have to shove that darkness back into whatever prison you let it live inside of you and lock that shit back up. Lock it up tight and don’t let it hurt you anymore. Listen to me now. Don’t let it get a foothold. That’s what it wants. But you’re stronger than that, aren’t you? You’re braver than it could ever hope to be because you’re still here. So, let that shit go and don’t let it take anything else from you. Ever.”
And she’s right. And that’s what my friend meant, too. When you are jealous of someone, you are comparing yourself to a single portion of who they are, and you’re not seeing the big picture. You’re also leaving yourself out of the equation. You’re stacking the deck against yourself: Here’s everything they do right and here’s everything I do wrong.
It’s a pointless, futile exercise and somehow you have to learn to let that shit go.