Back when I lived in New York City over 20 years ago, I found myself the unwitting target of someone hell bent on trying to ruin things in my life. The worst part: I had no idea who was doing this to me for months.
This person left multiple messages for work colleagues at my advertising agency telling them I hated them. They left messages on my boyfriend’s answering machine (back when we still had those lol) telling him I was a slut and I was cheating on him. And I was totally in the dark about why they were doing it.
I felt like I had been thrown into a battle for my life suddenly without warning. My colleagues shrugged it off but I could tell it left a mark. My boyfriend asked me more than a couple times if I cheated on him. This person sowed so much doubt into the people surrounding me in my life that it felt like everything I cared about was on thin ice. It was terrifying.
I had to involve security at my office. I had to file a police report to begin tracing the calls. This process took months. In the meantime, I felt like I was looking over my shoulder all the time.
Finally the police told me they handled it and I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. But to my chagrin they would not tell me who was responsible. Though I had found out that the calls had originated from a Merrill Lynch building. This was my one clue.
Eventually the clue led to the girlfriend of an old male friend from college that I had hooked up with a couple of times but it had been years since anything had happened between us. I saw him and his girlfriend here and there at a drinks night or party. I had probably seen the girlfriend less than a handful of times.
A friend of the old male friend confirmed that it had indeed been the girlfriend who had waged this campaign against me. And that my friend had known about it. I was flabbergasted.
I came to find out that she had been deeply jealous of me. Perhaps my friend had said some things about me to her. Perhaps he interacted with me in a way she didn’t like. I don’t know exactly why this happened.
I felt confident it hadn’t been my behavior because I was happily in another relationship and I had never wanted a deeper relationship with my friend. But something set her off. And it was a ‘fall off the deep end’ kind of reaction.
I remain to this day shocked at what people can do when they are so enmeshed in their jealousy and comparison that they would try to take down the life and happiness of another person they barely know in such an insidious way.
This story reminds me how poisonous jealousy can be. And I also see how people can get there. If we are not firmly rooted in our value, our beauty, our gifts, we can make someone else the target of our feelings.
There are people like the girlfriend who will take those feelings to an extreme to try to hurt the other person. There are other people who internalize those feelings as they draw comparison after comparison and wind up feeling awful about themselves.
Comparison and jealousy affects everything in our lives. It affects our capacity to love ourselves, our ability to show up fully in the world for our work and our dreams, our capacity to create what we want. And we can feel like we are living a shell of a life.
I have caught myself feeling jealous of certain women that have things I want and I have learned to train this jealousy to fuel my actions and efforts in the direction of what I want. Now I look at them and say, “Thank you for showing me I can have that”.
Many of us don’t believe we can have the things we see in others which is when the feeling becomes destructive. So I think the key is to do everything in our power to say, “Thank you for modeling this for me — now that I see you have done it, I know I can too.”
And then set out to fully express the miraculous gift we are and rock on in our own lives.