Can jealousy be good for you?

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Can jealousy be good for you?
Beware the green-eyed monster. Unless it’s Mike. Mike’s fine

AS SOMEONE WHO SPENT NEARLY 30 YEARS ensconced in impenetrable, 60-denier tights and ugly, waterproof outerwear – the inexplicably bumpy kind that makes you look like you’re smuggling the weekly shop out of Tesco – to be unceremoniously plonked in permanent sunshine was a bit of a shock to the system. One, because my skin was so pale that it actually reflected the sun  instead of soaking any of it up, and two, because the idea of routinely prancing around in little more than my smalls in front of fellow beach-goers elicited a modicum of stress. “These poor people don’t deserve this,” I told myself, doing The Dance of the Beached Whale and blinding them all as 50 shades of white seared into their unsuspecting eyeballs.

Around the same time, great swathes of the British public were up in arms about Protein World’s ‘Are you beach body ready?’ advert that was plastering London Tube station walls. Depicting a yellow-bikini-clad model alongside this particular slogan was deemed to be fat-shaming those of us who were suspiciously devoid of abs, or a discernible thigh gap, or who kind of liked cauliflower cheese a bit too much to be that fussed about either.

It had managed to rile the British people beyond their usual livid tradition of loud tutting, and moved them to tweet furiously instead. Meanwhile, I had just stepped into a world where I felt I had to be ‘beach body ready’ at all times – not just on a jolly, two-week all-inclusive to Playa del Carmen. No, I thought I had to live it – both on and off the beach.

As I adjusted to my glossy new home, I felt pressure to look better than ever, bookended by beautiful, Botoxed people who had all managed to totally nail their eyebrows. Both of them. My knees, a tad on the rugby side of things, knocked together with nerves. But regardless of it all, the ad – which was later banned – didn’t make me angry. I wasn’t shaking my fists at the objectification of women, or spitting feathers at the sexism of it all – blame my blinkered, decade-long career in fashion, perhaps. None of these things happened. I just felt jealous instead.

The same kind of jealousy hit me again this weekend at Nikki Beach’s first birthday party. I may have been in Dubai nearly three years, meaning my skin is now considerably less tinged with blue, but I’m still not immune to the pang of envy that comes from watching a bevy of cellulite-free Guava girls sashay past like they’re heading to a Victoria’s Secret casting.

You know the ones. The perfect, carefree specimens that look like they do squats for lolz. The ones that sell weightloss tea on Insta even though they’ve probably never touched the stuff. The genetic lottery winners sent to inject a frisson of annoyance-slash-desire into us mere mortals sitting on the side, still wiping the last smears of guacamole from our nacho plates with our bare hands.

Don’t get me wrong. I still plan on faceplanting Mexican appetisers by the pool for a good while yet. But I also want to start using my jealousy for good. How? I’m glad you asked. By transforming it into a motivational tool.

A few months ago, my Editor Alison read me a quote by the philosopher Alain de Botton, who said, “We should keep a careful diary of our moments of envy: they are our covert guides to what we should try to do next.” The sentiment stuck with me; a simple, honest strategy for striving towards something your gut has told you that you want. A compass.

That’s not to say that my rationale is always solid – or honourable, though. There are those that would argue that hankering after a ‘perfect’ body is about as superficial as you can get. And they’re probably right. But it’s not as if that’s the only thing I want. I’d like a flawless tan as well.

There are also those who will no doubt quote back at me: “Comparison is the thief of joy,” to whom I will flex my newfound muscles and shout, “COMPARE THIS!” until they’re forced to run away.

There’s one crucial caveat to this, obvs. By all means, go forth and envy. Use it as fuel. But never wish something away from someone else just because you don’t have it. Unless it’s nachos, of course. Then you have my full blessing.

Photo: Getty Images