Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Bitter Cookie (or: Random Fault Post)

From Not So Humble Pie
The trait I hate most about myself - a trait that has reared its head once again today - is that I have a hard time not being bitter about other people's success. Wait, let me say this honestly - I am bitter about other people's success.

Let's say a nice couple about my age on House Hunters is looking for a $450,000 house and has a $80,000 down payment. I immediately pick them apart - who are they to have so much money? What the fuck kinds of jobs do they have, anyway? They don't seem smart or interesting. Maybe their fucking parents gave it to them.

Or maybe I'm reading a list of bios of people in my career field. I pick out the person with the fellowships, accolades, publications, etc. Or the one with the Ivy League pedigree. "What an asshole," my bitter self mutters, without me being able to control it.

The worst: one of my dearest, oldest* friends gets some very good news about a project she has been working on. Instead of being happy I am filled with anger. All I can think is reasons why she doesn't deserve it, or how unfair it is, or how upset it will make people who have worked harder for similar things, or how easy her life is. How hard I work and how little it is appreciated. I mean - this is one of my best friends.

Let's not even talk about wedding blogs.

What is this? What, do I think that I deserve more than everyone else in the world? Do I, in my heart of hearts, really think that I am that much better than everyone around me? Am I just insecure?

It's like I turn the successes of others into my own personal failures - like everything someone else gets or does is something I feel like I should have been doing or getting. Either I beat myself up for not being better (not going to an Ivy League, not having a PhD, not being a paid blogger or mandolin aficionado) or I create a list of reasons why my super unfair life and that persons super fucking unfairly easy life are conspiring against me. And I don't even want to go to an Ivy League or get a PhD.

I'd like to say that this only harms me - that the worst it does is makes me bitter and unhappy - but it harms the people around me, too. How would my friend feel if she heard me say those things? Why should that poor fellowship-winning person get 'tude from me? I am putting unfair negative energy out into the world, and that isn't good for anyone. Luckily I don't really do this to D,  but if we're being honest that is probably because any success he has will directly benefit me. Jesus Christ, that sounds so bad.

I'm trying really hard to be better, but its been really difficult so far. Bitterness is a hard habit to break.

All suggestions welcome.

*oldest as in been my friend for the longest. Not as as in elderly. 


  1. omg - I feel like I could have written this post if I had the balls to say everything you just said. I can completely relate. So on the bright side? Maybe it's more common. Maybe it's our natural instinct to have a bit of jealousy or bitterness because we are secretly trying to rank ourselves against them. All I know, is that I'm with you girl. 100%

    Oh, and my blog turned one yesterday and I'm giving away a free Kohl's gift card. Stop on by!

  2. This sounds like the very definition of envy, from a psychoanalytical point of view.

    Unfortunately, beyond knowing that it's really common, I don't know what else to recommend. Although noticing it in yourself, and being able to own it so clearly is an amazing step.

    I'll let you know what I find out in my own quest to air out the darker parts of my soul.

  3. I think everyone struggles with this to some degree - and for me it's definitely dependent on how good I am feeling about myself at the time. If I am wishing something in my life would change (feeling frustrated at my job, or wishing I had money to take on a particular house project), then I am more likely to become bitter or jealous about others success.

    I don't have any real solution. For me I try not to say the bitter, jealous things (even to my wife) and to instead say something positive about what happened. Sometimes by talking about things in a positive light, I am able to turn around my feelings about them. If that alone doesn't work, I try to take a look at what about that situation in particular is making me unhappy. Sometimes if I can untangle the pieces, it helps the jealousy dissipate as well.

    All the time, I try to forgive myself. I would really like to be bigger than those feelings of bitterness or jealousy, but the fact is I'm not. I'm human, and I can't change that (nor do I want to). The only thing I can do is make sure not to spread my negative thoughts to others, and if at the end of the day, I've done that, I think I've succeeded.

  4. Hi. Are we the same person? This is the thing I struggle with the very, very most and want to admit the very, very least. Because when I am really honest I can admit that I am rarely happy for anyone else for having anything that I want. And my chosen method of expressing that is to mock people for getting the things that I'm not happy for them about. "Well, if they knew better, they wouldn't want that." or "If they just did the right (just/financially responsible/morally upstanding) thing, they wouldn't have that...they'd be doing what I'm doing." or "Just wait and see, they'll eventually get it." I've decided that all this is actually just an attempt to justify my own choices and avoid the sneaking suspicion I sometimes have that I have made all the wrong decisions in life. It is also a way that I confirm (for myself mostly) my okay-ness. But I can recognize how destructive it can be for me and my relationships, and I'd love to figure out a way to remedy it. I'm trying therapy and meditation. I'll let you know how it goes.

  5. I'm wondering if it's because we've all been raised to expect so much of ourselves. Here in bootstraps, postracial, postfeminist America we can be it all, have it all ... and if we don't, it's a moral failing. This is the only way that I can explain to myself my own constant desire to be better, more than, really-show-them-this-time. And it sucks, you know? It totally sucks. It's exhausting, and I miss out on a lot of the JOY of celebrating other people. But rather than just say "it's all a conspiracy" and go hide on a small farm in Northern Washington (thinking about it) I would like to find some steps towards - well, letting myself off the hook every now and then. Because as you say so beautifully, MWK, I don't even *want* a lot of these things. So is it OK to just say "fine, that is not my path," and let someone else have their moment? I mean, I know it's OK< but how can I do it? It almost feels revolutionary.

  6. omg. this is my jamz.

    husband almost turned to house hunters and i was like "NO! it's just going to make me feel bad about myself."

    this was my life this week. i try to avoid all t he things that make me feel bitter and jealous and less than. sometimes it causes me to avoid blogs all together, which makes me sad. i'm trying to figure it out myself.

    i agree with agirl - being aware is half the battle. at least we know what makes us tick, yo know?

  7. I agree with A. on all points, and continue with a lot of the people who have achieved these wonderful accomplishments may feel guilt when around those who haven't. And it happens to all of us, I think, to a degree - or, at least in my circle. Unfortunately, because we DO live in this post-X society where we feel like we have to, there is also pressure when we do. If we do accomplish something, then we're scrutinized. And then we'll defend ourselves like, "I've worked really hard for this." Or, "I'm just really blessed."

    Which passively suggests that the bitter party clearly didn't work as hard as the accomplished party, or God doesn't love the bitter party as much as the accomplished party. That, perhaps without our knowing, really builds a negative privilege, doesn't it?

    I'm so incredibly guilty of being in both parties - the embittered and envious AND the accomplished and privileged. I deal with it through running, yoga, reading and focusing on my own accomplishments and goals. When I start comparing salaries and careers and jobs and ... whatever. Wow. Just, not good. So I avoid that, too.

  8. Oh sure. Everyone is envious of others - when you see someone getting praise or rewarded with the very thing you hoped for yourself, it is hard to be genuinely happy for them. Like the look on the beauty contestant's face when she has to happily hug the winner while she herself is the runner up. You know inside she's thinking - "Bitch! I'm sure those are fake and here I worked my ass off."

    Sometimes you just have to realize that it isn't always fair. Stupid people become rich. People who didn't even want kids can't stop getting pregnant. Undeserving folks hit the lottery. There isn't much you can do about it. All you can do is to work for what you want. Being bitter will only make you less able to achieve the good things you deserve.

    And sometimes the people that we think are undeserving really did work their ass off to get what they have or suffered through lots of things to finally find joy. You just never know until you walk in their shoes.

  9. Yes, THIS! Thank you. I feel horrible about it. Even while I'm all bitter and pissy, inside I am also thinking "you are so fucking unreasonable right now, you know that right?" And I have to agree with myself.

    You are right, though, that you have no way of truly knowing another person's struggles. I have to remember that when I get all bitter.

  10. LADIES: Seriously, this is the best string of comments ever. I was wonderful to come home last night and wake up this morning and read the. You are all right, of course. I do think that being aware is half the battle, but I worry about the potential for saying I'm "being aware" when really I am just allowing myself to continue to be bitter and hateful rather than moving on from it. I'm trying to work out the balance, as you all are.
    In short: thanks for such thoughtful responses. Apparently we are not alone in our unwanted bitchiness, and we don't have to be alone in getting over it.

  11. I'll just say "amen" to the above responses. What a brave and raw post MWK. It's so hard not to compare ourselves to others, particularly when there is so much effing information out there. I mean, you used to only worry about keeping up with the Joneses next door and now we have blogs and reality TV to shove our insecurities in our faces. Lord.

    Whenever I throw myself a bitter pity party about how much cooler (and undeserving) others are of their success, I try to invoke the Stuart Smalley school of positive self-talk: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." It also helps to realize that for all of those people I'm insanely envious of, there are probably many who are insanely envious of me.

    So ramble, ramble, I have no actual suggestions but I do relate.