That’s such an ugly term, and yet I get so many messages about it I have to address it, so indulge me, please.
I’ve heard from several women who’ve lost weight, but also “friends” in the process. I’ve said that those people must not have been true friends, but a few have insisted they truly were, since childhood, law school, etc. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get how that’s possible.
I can imagine feelings of envy and jealousy, but not from someone I count as a friend. Maybe that’s because I can count the number of people I honestly consider a real friend – not just an acquaintance – on one hand. There are plenty of people I call friends and who say I’m their friend, but when it’s truth-tellin’ time, I’m emailing a person, maybe two, right here in Raleigh, out in Pasadena or back home in Dayton. Those people would never abandon me; will always listen without judgment; will always think carefully before offering opinion or advice.
The other “friends” tend to do all the above. Just in reverse.
One woman told me that she recently dropped three dress sizes, yet was criticized by coworkers because she didn’t “look right.” Another has been frozen out of the usual cliques and is experiencing social isolation in a place where they’d always celebrated birthdays, pregnancies and promotions. And if you assume the coworkers were all overweight or obese, you assume correctly.
You’ll recall that “Rachel” has a cousin so jealous of her weight loss that she’s yet to tell her she’s had gastric-bypass surgery. If I were Rachel, I’d gently ask my cousin, “What does my weight loss have to do with you?”
Folks, the difference between envy and jealousy is as small as it is distinct, which makes it easy to conflate the two. Envy is when someone else’s success or advantages makes you discontent, or makes you wish you had what they have. Jealousy is when you resent someone for their successes, or somehow feel threatened by someone else’s advantages.
Then there’s schadenfreude – which I like to toss into conversation because it makes me sound oh-so-much smarter than I am – which is when you get a kick out of someone else’s misfortune. That, to me, is the sickest of them all. Like, serial-killer sick.
People have lost husbands, wives and relationships with family members after losing weight. There are some things I cannot go into, but I can say this much: I see how that can happen.
And I will also say this: I don’t care if others aren’t as enthusiastic about my weight-loss as I am. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and even though I feel that lately I’ve only been making baby steps, each footfall in the right direction takes me a bit further away from heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. I refuse to downplay my accomplishments, and neither should anyone else.
It takes two to communicate. I say to Rachel and all the others who’ve had to deal with haters, if the relationship is neither healthy nor satisfying, it’s toxic. Let it go. Some relationships might not be worth saving.
Your life, is.
To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self. ~ Joan Didion
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.