Firstly, what’s at the root of it all?
I believe that many jealous people suffer from a misperception that fame, or money, or success, can only be had in finite quantities. Therefore if someone else is being successful — especially very successful — then that automatically means the successful person is taking away from or ‘stealing’ their success from other people. As if there is only so much fame, money or success to go around, and when one person succeeds or makes money or gets famous, that robs other people of the ability to succeed, make money, or get famous.
In the case of men being jealous of successful women, especially male partners in marriages or relationships, I think it boils down to penis ego. Many men — my wife would argue most men — are insecure to one degree or another. If ever their wife or girlfriend begins to succeed — money, fame, rising at the job, whatever — this threatens them if they don’t seem to be experiencing similar “upward” activity in their lives. And suddenly it’s on. Some men will passively sabotage, others will actively ridicule or combat their more-successful wife, GF, partner, etc.
Even in the professional fields, penis ego seems to be very much at play. Any woman who has ever managed anything or been the boss probably knows all about dealing with difficult male counterparts, employees, even superiors. Some men — unfortunately — just can’t stand it when a woman is in charge, has the best ideas, is the go-getter, or is otherwise doing well and succeeding, where the man/men is just sitting put or otherwise not doing so hot.
I’ve also seen this in the military — male soldiers who have a very antique sensibility about gender roles. It’s occasionally great theater watching such men get taken to task by a competent female superior NCO or officer, especially if she is clever or creative about it. And they usually are.
The worst of the penis egotists — be they co-workers or husbands/boyfriends/partners — are the ones who take it so far as to believe that anything the woman does which isn’t automatically furthering his own personal ambition or goals, is therefore automatically detracting from his efforts by default. And frankly I don’t know how any woman survives in a relationship like that, because either she’s got to let her ambition get crushed so the male can feel OK about himself, or she’s got to kick him to the curb and move on.
Anyway, not to turn it into a gender-bash, that’s just my quickie take, especially having read Kris’s stories.
Probing more deeply…
I was brought up in a religious doctrine where jealousy, gossip, backstabbing, etc, are viewed as literal tools of The Evil One. Now, while I don’t expect anyone to believe in my version of Biblical Voldemort, I do think it’s safe to say that this kind of malice is evil from a pragmatic standpoint. It wastes time and energy, hurts feelings, hinders or destroys careers, and contributes positively to NO ONE: not the one doing it, not the one receiving it, and certainly never anyone who happens to overhear it or be a third party to it.
As Kris notes, often, people who perpetually engage in this kind of thing almost always end up hurting themselves the most, because nobody trusts a person who demonstrates over and over again that they cannot be trusted. And people who are habitually jealous usually find ways to act out that jealousy against others, even loved ones and allies, and pretty soon it’s apparent who the “problem” is, even if the jealous person is successful — for a time — making it appear as if the target of their venom is the problem.
One of the more difficult things any human being can do, I believe, is to train themselves to operate on a presumption of abundance. That the world is overflowing with opportunity, love, money, chances to get famous or be successful, etc. It might not be apparent to the naked eye because the ‘surface world’ is very much a place of finite resources. But some of the happiest, most well-adjusted people I have ever known have always approached life as if the entire world and everything in it was like the loaves and the fishes: the more you pass the basket, the more there is for everyone, and everyone can share. Nobody has to go hungry.
Such people also seem to have really good karma. Again, not even a mystical thing, just the ramifications of all those little choices in the chain of causality. People who live abundantly tend to make choices that circle back around and create yet more abundance: for themselves, for their friends, for everyone in their lives.
I am striving very much in my life to remember to live abundantly, though I cannot say I am always successful.
Which brings me to the topic of e-squabbling. Net fighting. Wank, as it’s often said on the internet these days.
My biggest problem — by far — is that I too much enjoy electronic squabbles. Going all the way back to my Citadel dial-up BBS days in 1990-1991. My wife is at the point with this where she openly — and rightly — ridicules me if ever I start up an evening dinner conversation with, “So there was this argument on the internet today….”
About two and a half years ago — when I decided it was time to either really take a dump, or get off the can, with my writing — I started to take a long, hard look at my e-social life: where I spent my time, around whom, and in what fashion.
I was uncomfortable to discover that the bulk of it was on blogs and message boards, bickering with people — almost always over politics. Politics, politics, politics. Hour after hour. At work, at home, whenever I could get to a computer. Nothing but political dickering and back-and-forthing.
What alarmed me most was how I’d let this behavior potentially harm my writing aspirations. I was actively arguing with people and pros in the field, even editors — notice I name no names. I therefore looked in the mirror and asked, “What the hell is my problem??” Of all the things to sour a potential editor or professional ally’s opinion on me over, politics seemed about the worst, most stupid thing imaginable.
Even last year I couldn’t keep my e-yap shut, as many of you saw: I plunged into several of the so-called “Fail” debates and told myself I was doing it because someone had to do it. Someone had to speak up and represent a minority or otherwise unspoken side of a given debate. Especially if it seemed like common sense was being overlooked. But really, in hindsight, it was mostly just my bad electronic addiction getting the best of me. I do so love a good e-argument.
Thing is, nobody in an e-argument ever changes their mind. Ever. I can’t think of a single time in 20 years where my most brilliant, most electric points ever made a single person in an e-argument stop and go, wow, you are right. Usually everyone in an e-argument just says eff you and walks away. Myself included. So what is the point?
I am forced to conclude that there is no point. The ‘fun’ is in the ‘sport’ of the back-and-forth. But too often this kind of ‘sport’ gets nasty, people get hurt, angry, and why in the world do I want to partake in something like that? Especially with pros and editors and authors and people I want to be supporting me, collegial with, or buying from me? That’s just madness!
I hope I’ve not too badly damaged myself. But I wish I’d reached these realizations much sooner. Would have saved me a lot of time, and I’d not have ruffled a lot of feathers that I probably should not have ruffled. Which is not the same thing as apologizing for some of the things I’ve said, because I still think I’ve made some great points. But how much of me making great points in an e-argument is me failing to live abundantly? How much negative energy am I spreading around — which can come back and bite me — during these exercises?
Also important: how am I hurting myself when I e-hang with people who are also spreaders of negative energy? Too often I’ve let myself get wrapped up in a blog or something I’ve read on-line from someone who is speaking or being negative. And I don’t mean poofy magic crystals negative. I mean people who are cunningly or otherwise smartly negative, up to no good, deliberately trying to start trouble and foment discord. People who feed of this kind of stuff, agitate for it, use it for their amusement or worse?
Anyway, Kris’s comments on jealousy are flat-out excellent. This is one of those thorny topics that too seldom gets discussed among writers. Everyone in the aspirant community is obsessed with craft and defeating The Wall that few of us stop to consider the darker side of ‘making it’ in this business. Thanks, Kris, for the illumination and the provocation.