I’m not sure where envy, or the desire to have what others have, fits into the BPD persona. I think it may come in where the feeling of emptiness resides. If you feel empty, you probably long for what others have, because you perceive their reality to be better than yours.
My feelings of envy have been present since early adolescence. As I grew older, the feelings became stronger and generally more complicated. As a teen, for example, I desired the girlfriend of the school’s most popular guy. In college, however, the feeling was based around global themes, like the desire for a childhood experience that someone else had, but I didn’t.
Feelings of envy usually arise when I get to know someone, either vaguely or more intimately. Once I find out about a person whom I’ve crossed paths with, I immediately begin comparing myself to them. Let me be clear, I’m not comparing in a positive manner, nor in a cocky way: I am comparing my life to theirs because I believe they have things that I don’t have. As a result, I feel that my life has lesser value, and hence the tie in with feelings of BPD emptiness.
My feelings of envy revolve around a few common themes. In general, I feel more acute envy around those who do similar things I do, but who do them better, or to a much higher level. Since we tend to make friends with people who share similar interests, this means that my envy of their seemingly more gifted life creates a subtle feeling of tension in the relationship, which eventually spills over into anger and disgust.
Here are the most common examples I can provide:
- Person X is smarter than I am – therefore, they will succeed more than I do and be happier. They will make more money, enjoy better friendships, and have a better life in general. I am envious because I wish I had their intelligence. This feeling is amplified in academics, where classmates are in competitive situations. If I fall short and get a B-, but the top student gets an A, I get angry and feel I have failed and have been unnecessarily deprived of the ability to do better. The Sesame Street, “Try your best, that’s what counts” adage doesn’t help me, because in the real world, you can try your best and still not be able to muster the results someone else enjoys. Hence, your Herculian effort, while certainly notable, doesn’t mean a thing if your competition’s sheer intelligence and talent outshines you.
- Person X had better parents than I did – This is a common envy I have of people I get to know as close friends. Most of the time, they appear to be more confident, happier, and more loved than I am. Their parents were wiser, more patient, more intelligent, or privvy to more opportunities that created positive energy for their children. I get upset because I feel I was short changed. Why wasn’t I deserving of the upbringing they had? What makes them so special? They seem to waltz through life without regret, without sadness, and WITH extreme confidence. I wish my parents had instilled these characteristics in me.
- Man X is more attractive than I am – This one bugs me because I feel as if I will never get the girl I want because she is simply “out of my league”. There are more physically attractive men, more succesful men, than me, and this will preclude me from ever getting the time of day from a pretty girl. Why is it that some guys are extremely attractive and desired by all women alike, while the rest of us get the scraps? I don’t want to settle for leftovers, but do I really have a choice if I can’t measure up?
- Person X went to a better school/had a better education than I – another common thread in my list of envies. I made a great effort in High School to shine and make myself look like a candidate for a top university or college. To be clear, when I mean top, I mean the Ivy league, or other extremely selective schools that only take the best and brightest. Unfortunately, I wasn’t good enough, nor special enough, to qualify for this experience. Instead, I went to a middle of the pack school. When I mention my school’s name to inquiring employers or peers, 99% of the time they think I am referring to my State university system, when in fact my school was actually a private liberal arts college. This annoys me to no end. Why was I not selected for Yale, Harvard, Princeton, or Brown? Having on these names on your diploma makes you a shoe-in for any job.
- Person X has better health than I do – This is one where I feel I have a right to be upset. On Christmas day my Senior year in High School, I was given Type 1 Diabetes (of all things one could want for Christmas). At the same time, unbenounced to me, I was already falling mentally ill to Borderline Personality Disorder, which manifested itself more prominently in my later college years. What did I do to deserve these maladies? Why does someone else get good health and a strong mind, while I struggle daily to get out of bed, and must inject myself with insulin for the rest of my life? Why must I take pills to make my mind work? Who deserves this? My Psychiatrist says, “You can howl at the moon, but these things may not change…”. Yes, I can bitch all I want, and they won’t change…But why is the story of my life dealing with health problems? Why couldn’t I have a story that changes the course of humanity, or one worthy of a novel or film? Our society does not have high regard for those with handicaps, plain and simple.
- Person X is more talented than I – this one came into play during my years as a musician and composer. I would spend hours practicing, rehearsing, and diligently studying music. As a runner, I made a great effort to work hard during practice, stay late, and do more weight work than my team mates. I thought this would mean I would do better; just as I thought my hard work in music would reap rewards. The result: not really. Some people I competed against got by on half the effort and half the heart, simply because they had a stronger body or more musical mind than I did. Why? Why is it that some people seemingly succeed at things with little or minimal effort? Why is it that one person can work, work, and work and still never get what another has, simply because that other person has had better luck, a stronger body, or a gifted mind? I feel this is unjust and it upsets me: why then, should I even waste my time, if my competitor is just going to ace me anyway?
And so it goes, every day I envy and ruminate. I feel like my life and my mind are 89% good enough, but not that 99% or 100% that some people have who truly succeed.
I guess it gets back to feeling completely void and empty of any value whatsoever. After reading this, one might say I attach to much value to external life issues, when I should instead try to fill myself with internal peace and joy.
So far, I haven’t been able to do this.
We live in a capitalist society, where the specialists, the greats, the high achievers, are rewarded. Furthermore, this isn’t Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood where everyone gets a prize at the end of day, even if their work sucks.
As a result, I find myself being cynical not of society, but of myself and my very existence. I feel like I am a waste of time because I cannot contribute at the level that others do.
What then, makes life a rewarding experience? BPD has kept me from finding the answer to this question…