A week of envy
A hard one to grasp and to decode.
We decided that, among our 52 weeks, we should also address something juicy: what are we envious about? And who do we envy and why?
So we tracked envy: I recognized and reported every time I felt a sensation of jealousness and added some notes about what the situation was.
Since i wanted this week to teach myself something about me, I tried to be very detailed:
- whom did I envy?
- why exactly?
- how painful / intense the sensation was?
- how often this sensation would happen on a regular basis? (i.e. can I recall many moments like this one from my past and from my average days?)
- Is the thing I am pining for within reach or completely unattainable?
- and, lastly, what does it teach about my personality?
I admit It has been a quite arduous week, both to accept my enviousnesses and to keep up with the strenuous thoughts that each log brought me to.
But it did open some new perspective on myself!
Of course we all know what are the aspects of our friends’ and acquaintances' lives we like and we probably are a bit jealous of; but this week’s exercise helped me also reflect thoroughly about the aspects I don’t like about MY daily life, and about the things I would like to change.
So often we’re said that envy is something to be avoided, or at the very least to be hidden away.
But I tried to turn the topic upside down, and every time I decoded a sentiment of envy I also asked myself:
“What is it about me that I’m dissatisfied with, since I envy xxx? And what I can do to change it?” .
This new angle of observation made me focus on tiny facets of my daily life that I could hardly catch on before.
By looking at my data, I found three macro-categories of feelings:
- the dissatisfaction about work-related aspects; in form of sparks of envy for my friends and coworkers who have less responsibility than I have, more free time, and probably clearer tasks and activities to perform daily;
- the unhappiness about my personal-self; in form of jealousness of those people (especially my boyfriend!) who are more moderate, stable and balanced; and of those friends who are healthier, and work out and eat well; and finally about all of my friends and coworkers who are less control-freak than I am (because I am very very much so…!)
- and finally, dissatisfaction about collateral aspects of my self: for example not being an English native speaker; in fact lots of my logs are enviousnesses for American friends accent, for how they master the language and for their charm while they speak.
I also found several feelings of moderate envy about people (even strangers) that dress and look very elegant, (which taught me once more that I shouldn’t “save” the dresses I like for who-knows-what kind of occasion, but just wear them on regular days!)
I organized my envies visually according to two main parameters, and composed a scatter-plot contrasting:
- “how often this feeling would happen on a regular week” which determines the positioning of my logs on the x-axys,
- and “is this thing within reach? and how much?” which locates my data on the y-axys.
I then drew my jealousness as spirals, the dimension of which is the “level” of that feeling (big spirals indicate I was reeeeeaaaallllly envious), and the color of which represents the classification of the type of envy.
And then other visual attributes helps decoding the other aspects of my tracking.
I don’t like my drawing very much actually! But the week was definitely a good one.
I spent a lot of time flipping Stefanie’s postcard back and forth, and trying to picture the exact situations and nuances of her logs, apparently she has experienced and lot of feeling of envies about work/professional kind (but as she writes on the postcard, it might be because she spent her week at an art festival - which I am jealous of :D )!
I think this week tells a lot about our two personalities, I find it one of the most insightful week so far!
This week I was speaking at an arts festival and went along with friends, and I knew that this would be a perfect week to gather data on envy, as I had a feeling that I would be encountering it often when surrounded by so many talented, amazing people.
Anyone who knows me well knows I am often lacking in confidence, particularly when it comes to my design work. I have a massive case of impostor syndrome, and at art events filled with such talented, inspiring people, it’s very easy to get that sinking feeling of worry in my chest, feeling as though I somehow snuck into this other world and didn’t really belong.
I've always been a bit of a perfectionist, so perhaps this is the reason I am often envious of other people's 'perfection', but having these feelings is a hard habit to break. Although I wasn’t looking forward to this week, I was still interested in confronting these feelings head-on.
Unfortunately, I noticed that tracking such negative data affected my mood, often reinforcing the feelings in my mind as I spent additional time noting these negative feelings down. And I also noticed that while I was attending the arts festival, I felt more envious of the excellent artists and designers and friends around me before I gave my talk, but once the talk was over (and I was sure it was a success), my envious feelings faded. I see how clearly my envy is related to feeling confident in my abilities and feeling secure in myself. So long as I do a good job, I feel safe from these bad feelings (so maybe this is why I’m a perfectionist, then, as a preventative measure?)
I liked the drawing this week, because I wanted to show how reasonable situations this week (the circles drawn from pen) were destroyed by moments of envy (the scribbled, messy colours). With this drawing I felt happy, as I felt like I was progressing with my drawing skills to some degree.
However, these good feelings faded as I read the main types of envy I had out loud to my husband. Verbalising these feelings starkly highlighted how awful and irrational many of these feelings are, and also, how embarrassing. This was the first time in a long time that I’ve had to take notice of such awful thoughts, and while I still think it will be difficult to shake them, I like how having a permanent record of this envy in the form of a postcard means that I won’t be able to ignore these thoughts so easily in the future.
When I received Giorgia’s card it was interesting see how our feelings of envy point in completely different directions, though perhaps my envy was skewed due to being at the aforementioned arts festival for part of the week. I knew that Giorgia is always working to refine her English skills, but I never thought that she would actually have feelings of envy, and I wish she didn’t have them: speaking as an American with poor language skills (ok, I know some French but I couldn’t tell a rude joke in it) I am always amazed that she can run a business, give talks, write Dear Data postcards, and explain the finer technical details of data visualisation in a second language! If anyone has a reason to be envious, it’s me: surely having to learn a language alongside living your life at the same time is a pretty spectacular feat to pull off...