Instagram! Are you in on the action? I just started (@sanaeishida) but I don’t know what I’m doing at all. I couldn’t load it on my iphone for some reason, so it’s on my ipad, which makes picture-taking a rather awkward ordeal. I took a profile pix of myself when I was trying to do something else, and “liked” one of my own photos by mistake. And what’s a private user? I’m basically a mess.
I tentatively selected a few folks to follow and then had to stop and ask myself why I wanted to plunge myself in what seems like another time-robber. I love Pinterest for the visual inspiration that floods me, but I often have to step away from all the prettiness to dial down the expectations of how my own life should look. I’m digging the idea of capturing photo-based moments easily in a communal way. But I think what could make Instagram dangerous — much like any social media — is the feelings of inadequacy it can generate, more so than blogs or Pinterest because IG posts are supposedly instantaneous, real-time depictions of one’s day-to-day. It’s easy to forget that it’s another way of curating our lives for an audience. For example, I started following Alice Gao, the it girl photographer with talent oozing out of her pores. And then immediately, my little sewing-drawing-blogging-writing existence paled in comparison to the beautifully composed shots of her jet-setting, glamorous life. And is it my imagination, or are some of the photos from DSLR cameras? They look too perfect.
On the flip side, I’m also fabulously inspired – the woman creates art with photography whether it’s with a mobile device or fancy camera, there’s no question. It totally makes me want to up my photography game. That initial feeling of “why is my life fuddy duddy and why do my ipad images suck!!??” made me ponder the whole notion of jealousy.
Have you ever wondered why jealousy and envy are associated with the color green? Some posit that Shakespeare coined the association through The Merchant of Venice and Othello, others cite Greek origins of the feelings inducing bile, hence the hue. To break up the text because I’m blathering on and on yet again, I went around the house taking photos of green and green-ish household objects…
Lately, K has started to remark, “I feel jealous!” about certain things. When we go buy a gift for her friend’s birthday, for instance, or if I pay more attention to someone else. It’s actually one of the reasons I wrote my “enough” post, but the green-eyed monster is a big subject. It all falls under the same general topic I’m aware, but there’s something particularly taboo about jealousy, don’t you think? In many ways, I find it so refreshing that K openly declares her feelings because we all feel it.
Okay, so technically, coveting a friend’s birthday present would fall more into the envy arena, where as jealousy is often defined as a fear of having something we value taken away (e.g. a romantic partner or a parent’s attention). It could also be the fear of being replaced, as in “she’s a much better version of me and people will like her more”. Be it envy or jealousy, it’s all coming from a place of lack.
I remember when I was about six-years-old, I used to draw princesses all the time. It was an obsession. Crowns, gowns, sparkles and more. It was the only thing I could draw well, which is why I did it over and over and over. And I had this friend (also age six), who one day decided she wanted to draw princesses too. Swiftly, she wielded her pencil and produced a princess remarkably similar to mine, and I was mortified. Princesses were my thing. How dare she draw one so well without any practice (at least I didn’t think she had practiced)? I worked so so hard on my princesses. My six-year-old self couldn’t have possibly articulated the feelings in any mature way, so I refused to speak to her for days. Jealousy. I was threatened by her natural talent, annoyed that I wasn’t special, worried that I could be easily replaced should there be a need for sparkly princess illustrations.
On the envy side, I distinctly recall a period from about 2007 to 2008 when it seemed like everyone I knew was buying a house. We, on the other hand, were bopping from one apartment to another, each one more dismal than the one before, and florescent green coursed through my blood. I pestered M about buying a house because we could have certainly scrounged up enough for a down payment, and thank goodness for his financial savvy because he had predicted the bubble and recession eons before (I call him “Muffy” – a play on my nickname for Warren Buffet: “Buffy”). I was thoroughly operating from that thing people call the “scarcity mentality”. I would troll real estate listings, drooling over turn-of-the-century Craftsman homes completely updated with charming details intact, and bemoan how awful our apartment was. M turned a deaf ear to me.
So a couple of interesting things happened in relation to those two tales. Once I got over princess-gate, I realized I needed to expand my artistic repertoire. I started to practice drawing animals (wearing princess gowns, but still). I practiced sketching anything and everything that caught my eye. I also thought about what else I could be good at despite my tender six years. I explored, and it was fun. It turned out that I was good at many things, like telling stories and mopping and creating pretend make-up from plants.
In 2010, we found our current house through a series of mishaps, which I might tell you about one day, but it was a pretty depressing time and it’s not very interesting. Our house is a rental, but it’s just right for us. Sure, it could be spiffied up a bit as I’ve mentioned, but we love living here. The envious feeling? Poof. Completely gone.
It’s not breaking news that the envy and jealousy we feel has everything to do with what we perceive to be missing in ourselves. There was plenty of room for multiple princess-drawers in our neighborhood when I was six; what I intrinsically felt was that without that particular skill — if anyone could do it — I wasn’t unique enough. Because deep down, I was and am afraid that I am unremarkable and forgettable. I know that’s not true and it’s not true for anyone, but believing in oneself has got to be the hardest human task out there.
As for the house-envy, it was never about owning a house or keeping up with friends (at least not much). It was about feeling settled and free and part of a community. In our prior residences there was an inherent sense of impermanence and restrictiveness, so I was untethered and stifled, if you will. K’s cries would bother neighbors and I tiptoed around, feelings of resentment building. We still rent, yes, but we’ve landed on a spectacularly unusual situation in a great area – here we feel settled and free and part of a community.
Essentially, I’d love to be like K — so open and accepting of her feelings. “I feel jealous,” she says, in the same breath as, “I feel hungry” and then she just moves on. Jealousy and envy frequently invade my emotions and my reactions to them are more complex. Over the years — through hits and misses — I’ve been working on trying to identify what’s missing in me when the feelings take over. What is it about the other person that I want? What’s the need in me that is coming up empty? It’s tough work because sometimes the answer isn’t straightforward, and it’s so very unpleasant to feel the emotions, but it can be a propeller of positive actions too. Perhaps with instagram the green-eyed monster will take up semi-permanent residence, but I’m already seeing the potential for magnificent inspiration. I’m excited by the prospect of using technology and connectivity to share my own unique perspective .
Jealousy and envy — they are teachers that ask the important questions: What do you really want to pursue? Who do you truly want to be? What do you need to do to make your life better? And perhaps the most important questions is, What can you be grateful for?
And it’s my job to answer them.