Stylist’s columnist Billie Bhatia answers your questions.
Q: “I’m worried I’m a terrible person. Everything seems to be going well in my friends’ lives – interesting jobs, great partners, endless weekends away in cool places… I feel so envious of what they have and find myself envy-scrolling their feeds most nights. When one of them recently got bawled out by her boss, I was jubilant that for once, something hadn’t gone perfectly for her. I know this is unhealthy, but I’m struggling to break out of it. Advice?”
A: What I have come to learn from my own episodes of envy is that if you are worried about being a terrible person, it’s likely you aren’t being the best version of yourself. But let’s make something clear: you aren’t terrible. You, like every one of us at some point, have slipped into the vortex of crippling comparison, and I get it. Once you’ve fallen down that dark hole it can be hard to pull yourself out.
During the recent international fashion weeks, I found myself thinking about envy a lot. After a two-year hiatus, I rejoined the fashion circus and everyone just looked so damn good. It was as if they had somehow skipped the collective pandemic trauma – their skin was bright and buoyant in comparison to my sallow, spotty complexion; their bodies toned enough to carry off that Miu Miu micro mini (while I was parading around in two-seasons-old high-street pieces). More than just appearances, I felt as though everyone I was reconnecting with had achieved so much in the past two years. They had got married, started a new job with a hefty salary, bought a house and renovated it to Architectural Digest house tour level; they’d had babies and begun new, exciting chapters of their lives. In my head (the most dangerous place to be), my achievements, if any, paled in comparison, and my eagerness to see fashion friends quickly turned sour.
When I had to suppress a smug smirk that I got a ticket to a show that a peer didn’t (and a hotel upgrade on the same day), I knew the green-eyed monster was well and truly bedding in. The way envy snakes around us, coiling between our weak spots until we’re entirely constricted, is all-consuming. Envy is the most threatening of emotions – it dims the good us, and plays into the villainous, often most vulnerable, parts of our being.
‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ is a mantra we see splashed across social media, yet the same medium makes it too easy to compare ourselves to others. We are seduced by curated showreels into thinking our friends are soaring ahead of us in every aspect of life. But envy is a double-edged sword, it’s not only our friends’ highlights that are feeding into this feeling, but also the narrative that we’re envious of a life we think we deserve – one with an amazing partner, a great job and cool weekends away. That’s not to say we aren’t deserving of all of those things, but envy isn’t going to get us there.
To those people whose initial reaction to this conundrum was, “OMG WTF, I would never…” I don’t believe you. We (millennials mainly, but I think this applies to most generations) are trained to believe that the grass is always greener. Sometimes it is – I truly believe Rihanna lives a much better life than I do, but more often than not it just appears that way from afar, or through the lens of social media. Use your ‘comparisonitis’ to steer clear of (and unfollow) what triggers those peaks of envy. But most importantly, rejoice in your own highlights. Giving yourself a moment to celebrate your personal wins, no matter how small (today, I went on an hour-long fastish-paced walk), allows you to see the success stories of your own life.
Ask Billie anything on Instagram, @stylistmagazine
Photography: Sarah Brick
Hair and makeup: Patrizia Lio at S Management using Kevin Murphy and Nars