The challenges of envy

I am in the mood to write (for once), but I have no idea what to write about. A friend of mine sent me a link to a random topic generator to spark some ideas. The first one that came up was: Write about a challenge you face.

Here goes….

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the Enneagram. Its particulars are beyond the scope of this blog, but I can give a brief synopsis.

The Enneagram has roots dating back thousands of years. It has increased in popularity, especially in the Christian world, in recent years. It is a method for understanding someone’s personality and motivations. The Enneagram has nine personality types, and they are numbered one through nine.

I read a book about the Enneagram soon after hearing about it, and it was like a light bulb went off after I discovered my number.

Each number has a Passion and a Fixation. I am a Four. Fours’ passion is Envy, and our fixation is Melancholy.

Eeyore is a Four, and I’ve always felt drawn to him, especially the melancholy side of him. I am a pessimist through and through, but that isn’t the challenge I want to write about.

Instead, I’m going to write about envy.

Here’s a story to illustrate my strong tendency towards envy:

I bought some cereal at the store the other day, and my mom asked me if she could have some. I said yes, but my internal reaction was one of possessiveness and anger. “How dare you ask to eat my cereal?” Never mind that I live with my parents and rarely do my own grocery shopping; shamelessly mooching off of them. I recognized the irony, and the anger passed quickly enough, but it still reared its head.

This is a rather innocuous example of envy, but I have more serious bouts of it as well.

One app I’ve used to help me understand my number better describes a Four’s envy this way: “Yearning and longing. Looking at other’s lives and coveting what others have; feeling deprived; seeing flaws in the self and thinking others have it better.”

Add to this envy inordinate amounts of shame from my adolescence; I never feel like I am enough, and I’m jealous of others who I perceive as having it better.

Fours are also known for having strong emotions in general. As one author says it, “Four’s feelings have feelings.” This phrase hits home. I cry at everything. I’ve had a breakdown because my bed didn’t have sheets on it before. I mean, nothing is off limits.

But back to envy. I don’t typically covet people’s material possessions; my envy is mostly centered on people’s relationships.

So now we are at the crux of the challenge I face. The best way to explain this thread of envy is through an example. I’m taking a risk telling this story, but it’s the best one I have.

I graduated college in December of 2014, and I got a job in February 2015. A few months after I was hired, the company hired an accountant. Later in the year, we became friends. We had a lot of things in common, and I felt drawn to her for some reason.

I told her everything about me very quickly; in hindsight, probably too quickly. She opened up to me some, too, but not on the same level, which is understandable given we hadn’t known each other very long. And besides, we were coworkers.

Quick rabbit trail: One of the main reasons I know I’m a Four is because of a well-known characteristic in which Fours pull their friends close one minute and then push them away the next. I’ve had this tendency with close friends ever since I can remember. I cannot remember what the Enneagram book says about the motivations behind this behavior, but I remember it resonating with me.

So, I became very close to this coworker, but pretty soon, I did something to push her away (this was before learning about the Enneagram—not that it matters a whole lot because I still have this propensity).

I can be downright vicious when I’m in a mood to push people away. She didn’t do anything to deserve it, but for whatever reason, I was a colossal jerkface to her. I picked a fight for no reason, and she did not take it kindly. I cannot remember what was said, but I knew instantly I destroyed what little trust I had built with her.

I still feel like our friendship was headed on a certain trajectory, and through my stupidity and immaturity, I diverted it. We never got back on that particular path. We are still friends—close friends even—but my behavior altered the course of our friendship; for better or worse.

I’ve always felt safe confiding in her. Early in our friendship, I think I was approaching a point where she felt comfortable sharing deeper emotions with me, but once I breached her trust, the chances of her opening up went away.

I distinctly remember her texting me and saying it was weird that she trusted me more after so short a time than she trusted friends she’d known longer. Instead of protecting that trust, I threw it away heedlessly. Our friendship has grown in meaningful ways since, yet I still feel like I ruined something at the genesis of our friendship.

She had a bad experience being friends with a coworker on Facebook in her previous job, so we weren’t friends on Facebook for the longest time. I understood her concern completely.

Despite my immaturity, we became rather close, in large part due to our discontent with the company for which we worked. She was still reserved, though, on some levels (I now suspect this has more to do with her Enneagram number than it necessarily has to do with me, but another staple of Fours is being self-absorbed, so I have a gift for making everything about me).

We became Facebook friends eventually, mostly because she was starting a side gig and wanted me to be able to support her endeavor. I was happy to oblige.

Then, I got a new job, and our friendship really took off a few months after I left the company. Little did I know, some of her reservations stemmed from being coworkers. I miss seeing her every day, but I think not working at the same company has really helped our friendship flourish.

But, you may be thinking, none of that really has anything to do with envy….

I’m getting to that.

Shortly after I got a new job, my friend also left. Again, the best thing to happen to our friendship was both of us leaving that company, and we now talk on the phone once every couple of weeks. And we sometimes hang out on the weekends.

In one of our phone conversations, she told me about one of her new coworkers. She said something like, “I think I’m making a friend,” which she will admit she doesn’t do very easily.

I was happy for her until I realized they were Facebook friends. Just a few months after knowing each other.

Ah….there’s the envy. Dozens of thoughts and questions went through my head.

What’s wrong with me that it took her so long to be okay with being friends on Facebook? As if this is the ultimate mark of friendship. *Self-directed eyeroll*

I’m going to lose her to this other person, aren’t I? They are already close, I can tell. As if my friends are only allowed to have me as a close friend. *Self-directed eyeroll*

A few months later, I learned that they sometimes talk on the phone multiple times a week. Oh, look, another wave of jealousy.

My gut reaction is envy when she talks about her new coworker. I know how childish it is, and I’m usually able to get past it.

Even though I’m able to get over the big waves of envy, I still feel niggling currents flowing beneath the surface almost incessantly. As another friend pointed out to me, that’s a miserable place to live.

Don’t I know it.

I’m trying to work on it, and I probably need to bring it up with my therapist. I have feelings of jealousy with most of my close friends. It doesn’t help that I’m self-absorbed and think everything they do and say comes back to something I did or said, which is of course ludicrous.

I haven’t lashed out at any of my friends because of these spells of envy, which is a noteworthy enhancement over past versions of myself. I am better able to recognize the stuff they do hardly ever has anything to do with me, and that realization is very freeing on some level.

Now, it’s just a matter of being intentional about getting over myself and being genuinely happy for other people’s successful relationships.

I’m a late bloomer, and I am still incredibly immature in a lot of areas of my life; however, I am now in a place where I am willing and dedicated to grow and improve.

Even though it hurts, I think it is worth it.

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