Envy, Envy, and MORE Envy

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…

10 Replies to “Envy, Envy, and MORE Envy”

  1. I’d say envy either fits in with the chronic emptiness or the identity crisis issues. I find myself comparing myself to others all the time. I know I shouldn’t do it cuz it only makes me feel worse, but I can’t stop it. I think borderline makes me miss out on the rewarding experience too.

  2. I also feel the envy, especially about childhood experiences or nurturing environments that I feel cheated out of because of separations and abuse. But I know there are people who can be resilient in the face of their own childhood issues. I try to remind myself to think positive, to believe in myself. It’s a struggle, but it’s all I’ve got.

  3. When I was in college I had this friend who whined a lot. I remember thinking “what a sweet, normal family she has: nurturing mother, severe, but loving father… by the textbook.” It was my first envy, I believe.

    Today I saw children on the bus… I have none, but I wish I had. To be exact, I have the other parent’s specs and I sometimes start to “compose” the offspring’s image in my mind. I guess they call it being in love. I was trying to understand why I would want that in the first place: they’ll grow up, they’ll be adults… do I just want some dolls or, au contraire, are dolls simply “early training for children”? Idiotic questions, I know. Biological clock or else, I can only take a few minutes of children-around-me scenarios and today’s episode exceeded that duration. Although I didn’t think again about this particular thing until now, I knew it would set the bad mood. I almost cried several times throughout the day, “just cuz”.

  4. I feel you on the envy. I feel the same exact way. I don’t know where it comes from and how to stop it. I hate it I really do. I’m soo envious of people who have next to nothing but they’re completely content. I’m soo envious of others happiness cuz I’ve always had major depression, GAD and worst of all BPD. I just want to be happy like they are. I hate being so confused on what to do with life. I feel as though everyone is programmed to be happy with what life gives them and they find joy somehow. I can have all the greatest blessings in the world and I still feel empty and miserable. It’s so sad. The worst part is that I know some people who are envious of my life- little do they know the torture I put myself through daily. Maybe there are others like me…I try to remind myself that the grass isn’t always greener. But it sure as hell looks greener to me! It’s hard to convince that little deprived girl inside who is hurting so badly.

  5. Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You’re right that the envy most likely emanates from the emptiness inside all of us with BPD.

    The grass DOES seem greener on other people’s lawns. Sometimes I tell myself, “They have their own problems, too, they don’t live in la-la land”, but it’s really hard to quantify how difficult someone’s life is without experiencing it first hand.

    I could envy the rich guy with the big house and trophy wife, but maybe his financial responsibilities include paying for family members I can’t see who need medical help or other financial assistance.

    The attractive guy or girl that always gets attention from the same or opposite sex might have been abused as a youth and his or her interactions with others in public are, in reality, very shallow.

    I think it’s safe to say someone with BPD has their hands full and faces an uphill battle. That fact is indisputable.

    Envy might also be an emotional excuse for not taking control of our own lives. Maybe if I dedicated my “envy” time to actually improving myself, things would change.

    Another approach is to simply define yourself through concrete personal development. If you can get past the BPD haze and have a few “cornerstones” of your personality that make you happy, the envy might dissipate.

    Then feelings of wanting what the other person has won’t matter because you’ll feel satisfied with yourself regardless of any quantifiable measure of “life success” or happiness.

  6. hi there,

    i’m a fellow bpd having a really difficult time. it’s past 2am where i am, and although i haven’t slept properly in days, i’m awake scouring the web for an answer — i have a crippling envy of people with better academics and therefore better career attainment than me. i despise myself for it i just want it to go away but i don’t know how to make it happen. so what I wanted to ask was: did you manage to work through the feelings you’ve talked about above, over 8 years ago?

    sorry if that sounds stupid, i’m at the end of my tether and i can’t really talk to anyone irl

  7. to clarify — i don’t wish others were worse off. it’s what you say in your penultimate para instead — without that proof of being cleverer i have no place in society, no worth, and i don’t see the point of living just to make up the numbers. i’ve felt this way on and off since my teens (30 now), but it’s really stepped up in the last few years, as i’ve gone through being fired from a job and then retraining in a hideously competitive and difficult new profession — in which i am still struggling to get a job despite having basically worked myself to the bone and sacrificed relaxation and happiness for a long time. and i see others who are younger and less experienced than me on paper, but who get the job because they went to the right university. and i don’t hold it against them so much as i hold it against myself. so i’m just never really at peace.

    sorry for rambling, and thanks for writing and keeping this blog

    1. Hello Anon,

      Thanks for your comment. My feelings about this have changed in recent years. However I still struggle with envy quite a bit.

      Undoubtedly, top grades and attending the best school are one way of doing well. It’s an obvious route to professional success. The exposure to others who are successful, powerful and wealthy is immeasurable. A weekend spent golfing could lead to a big job offer on Monday. Such things don’t happen if you attend a mediocre college and get respectable but not exceptional grades. If high achievement isn’t possible, it seems NO achievement is possible.

      I’ve realized this problem is psychological. Much of it resides in my head. My envy of others’ achievements masks my own low self esteem and unhealthy narcissism.

      When I see someone with a great job, beautiful wife and success in a leisure activity, I naturally desire those things. The bank vice president who runs a fast marathon. The university professor who studied at Yale from age 12, now finishing his 10th book and soon to be getting a TV show. What do I desire? Only the parts of them I like: their talents and frequent recognition.

      Thus I desire their idealized self, not their entire self. And any idealized picture of self or others is an unhealthy narcissism. It discounts their weaknesses and only focuses on their strengths.

      It’s what you see on social media. Constant photos of people hoisting trophies over their head, getting married, buying new homes, shaking hands with the boss at work. We easily forget – beyond these moments – these people also struggle. Posting great photos on Facebook might be all they have. They thrive on it . They are, in reality, quite hollow.

      Having this narcissism doesn’t mean I’ll become an unempathetic asshole. It does mean I’ll never be kind to myself. I’ll rarely feel good about myself. I will constantly feel empty. And others will sense this in me, and I will rarely connect with anyone on a personal level. Who wants to be around someone who doesn’t like themselves?

      Perfectionism makes this dynamic worse, although being perfectionist is understandable. How else can one succeed without the best work, grades and achievements possible? 80% on a math test won’t get you into Harvard or Cambridge. They prefer students with 95% or better. To compete at that level, one must be near perfect all the time. But is this ultimately healthy?

      The envy eats you up because you’re not recognizing whats good about you. That sounds really fluffy and feel good. And it doesn’t pay the bills. But what does pay the bills? A healthy passion for whatever you do, which allows you to meet basic needs, have free time and feel good about yourself.

      You said you’re “worked to the bone”, depressed and feeling envious of others. May I ask what you really want out of life? If you are chasing other’s achievements, you will remain this way for a long time. If you are working on your entire self – not just your job – you will find clarity, joy and peace in the long run.

  8. thank you.

    i’ve tried often to think about that — what do i really want — but i can’t come up with an answer other than the obvious thing about academic and career success. i don’t seem to have a deeper self, or maybe i just can’t access it.

    i’ll try and do the things you’ve mentioned. thanks again.

  9. Hi, sorry I’m a bit late to comment ha but I’ve just been working on my own blog post about Jealousy and envy with BPD and I can relate, especially related to my blog, I wonder why people have more followers or comments and likes, why I can’t write as well as they do or my site doesn’t look as good as theirs’ and stuff like that, It’s made me miserable and I’ve avoided paying attention to other bloggers’ followers and like count. My writing is better than it was and I try to appreciate that we are all unique and have different writing styles. That’s how I try to see it, everyone and their lives are different, bad in some ways and good in others making them incomparable to each-other. Some days are harder than others but I’m getting there.

    I hope you’re doing well and that envy doesn’t affect you so much today, really good post as well, when I look up BPD jealousy and envy a lot about romantic relationships comes up which I can’t personally relate to as I’ve never been in one. So it was nice to come across something on the topic I could actually relate to. So thanks for writing this and I’ll leave a link to this post in my upcoming one if that’s okay. Take care <3

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