It doesn’t take a lot for the green-eyed monster of jealousy to be unleashed in me. I am so utterly dissatisfied with who I am that I instinctively fixate on the traits I see in others that I wish I possessed.
Today I found myself in the presence of someone who is the type of person that brings out this jealousy in me. She is successful in her career, an amazingly talented woman of God who serves in her church in a variety of ways, has a life rich in relationships . . . one of those people I can look at and see everything that I am not.
I immediately kicked off the self-pity party, measuring my own lack of success against her many accomplishments, and as always, finding myself guilty of not being someone other than myself. With her example staring me in the face, all I could think was “and I can barely get my laundry done”. I am Just. So. Tired. And I don’t understand where she finds the strength to persevere, and even to thrive.
Today, though, I realized something significant about this longing. It isn’t just the tangible outward signs of success that I envy, but something even greater than those surface indicators. It’s not merely that I wish my life in some way looked more like hers, although that is part of it, because no matter how others define “success”, my own definition is simple: Success is anything that I am not. And no matter how many people tell me that I should consider myself successful in things that I might label as trivial (being a good friend, loving the children in my life, etc.), it doesn’t matter to me. I am not answering to anybody else’s standard, but to my own internal critic. Plain and simple: I am not okay with being who I am. And so I grasp onto this longing to be like the people I see (or think I see) who seem to have these traits that have eluded me.
And yes, blah blah blah, I know that God doesn’t require “success” of me, but it goes back to the concept that God is like your grandmother–He HAS to like you. So although I would not disagree with the notion that I am valued by God no matter what I do or don’t do, I am still hopelessly bound to my own (seemingly unattainable) definition of “success”.
But I realized something else today . . . aside from the impossibility of achieving even a fraction of what this woman has achieved, and even beyond my own faulty reasoning and twisted self-image, there is a deeper jealousy, one that feels more valid, healthier, maybe even God-given.
She is beautiful. And I want to be beautiful as well.
I’m not speaking of physical beauty, although that often seems to come with the territory. No, this is a beauty which goes so much deeper than that. This woman, and others like her whose “success” I have envied, is beautiful down to the depths of her being. She radiates God’s light, and *that* is where her beauty comes from, not from the outward achievements, but from a place that seems far more unreachable.
I want to know how she got to be this beautiful . . . I want to know how I can be beautiful too. But, even more than I despair of reaching an acceptable level of success in my career or in my personal life, I am certain that I do not know how to get there . . . I do not know how to become beautiful in this way. I am too tired; I am too selfish; I am too prone to inner ugliness. And yet, something within me holds on to some irrational hope that perhaps, if I sit at the feet of these women long enough, I just might find a way to glean from their wisdom, to figure out a way that I might be able to take on even some small piece of who they are and what they have, and to create some of that beauty within myself.
I think I am afraid of the truth that I am certain lies behind this–that the greater the beauty, the deeper the pain that has been weathered . . . and yet, I am hardly a stranger to pain myself . . . so why do some turn that pain into something lovely and glowing and inviting, when people like me exude ugliness instead?
I don’t know the answers to this. But I find myself drawing nearer to these beautiful women, to do everything I can to put myself in their path, to try to glean some of their energy in place of my own constant exhaustion, to try to become what they are.
And maybe, just maybe, if I put myself in their presence often enough, I will be able to put aside my desire to be “successful” in the limited ways that I have defined success, to find new ways of defining it. If I can only learn how to do this, maybe someday I will find a way to be beautiful.