The Green Monkey On My Back

green monster medusa snakes photoshop photography jealousy envy
green monster medusa snakes photoshop photography jealousy envy


Growing up there was always a monkey on my back. More like a hulk really. Big, green and monstrous. A monkey I’m sure you’re all familiar with, in one way or another – jealousy.

The problem was in my case jealousy didn’t just extend to the regular things like feeling bad about yourself or being a bit uncertain about your life. For me, jealousy consumed me. It controlled me. I found it hard to be happy for anyone else over anything at all because all I could think was “it should be me”.

Jealousy led me to do some pretty nasty things in my teen years. Rather than quietly seething inside my jealousy would come out in harsh words, in putting down others, in bullying and in ownership of concepts, ideas, things that couldn’t possibly be owned in any way. Things that it wouldn’t harm me to encourage others in.

I hurt others, a lot. I would make fun of people behind their back over things that simply didn’t matter. That weren’t my business.

The problem was never them. It was me, my problem. Mine and the green monkey on my back’s.

I was a bully.

The thing is, when you’re caught in this spiral of self loathing, and the misguided belief that if you can’t be happy or succeed others shouldn’t either, it becomes very easy to justify harsh behaviour to others, and to yourself. It becomes easy to say “they deserve to be torn down” just because they have it together, and you don’t.

I’ve been struggling over the last week with jealousy again. I helped someone get an engagement ring, and because I helped I know the price, and I know the price is similar to mine, even though the diamond is twice the size. And I struggled, I wanted to tell them I couldn’t help, I wanted them to have to pay what I paid. I wanted to lie. But I didn’t.

Many of my friends have now announced their pregnancies, all at different stages, and I’m jealous. In the words of the Viking my biological clock has finally ticked, and it’s ticked LOUDLY. Even though I know, logically, it’s not the right time for us, I am struggling. But I am still supporting them.

The monkey is there and I can feel it gnawing on my shoulders. I can feel the weight on my back as it whispers in my ear “it should have been you”. I can feel it breathing down my neck, willing me to hold it against them. To let it control me again.

But this time it’s different, and I don’t think it’s that my circumstances have changed, even though they have. I have changed. I am stronger. And the load, although no lighter, is a little easier to carry.

Have you ever experienced the green monster on your back? Are you finding it easier to carry as you get older?

  • John James

    Yeah, I can be jealous of other people’s success and happiness. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion, so I usually try and ignore those feelings. I hate feeling that way. It’s one of the things that can trigger the black-dog in me… It’s all about my insecurities anyway, not them…


  • Melissa Savage

    It’s so hard to stop comparing yourself to others. I was really bad at this when I was younger, and although I’m less concerned about it now, I definitely hear that little voice asking why I haven’t achieved this or got there yet and why I can’t learn to do as much as other people and be more organised.

    I think the funniest bit is that sometimes I’m comparing myself to you: ‘Tamsin doesn’t keep getting fat and Tamsin dresses well (probably because she doesnt keep getting too fat for her clothes) and Tamsin decorates her house nicely and Tamsin runs a website and unlike you she gets a lot of readers and doesn’t neglect it when she gets busy, why can’t you be more like her Melissa…’ But then I remember that I have my own stuff going on that I’m proud of, and that we’re not the same and life would be very boring if we were.

    Anyway, I’ve noticed that you seem sad and worried and I hope you are okay xx

    • Tamsin Howse

      It’s really interesting to hear this. I guess you never think of people comparing themselves to you.

      Just for the record, my size is purely due to genetics and a teeny tiny bone structure, you should come visit my house if you think my whole house is decorated nicely (particularly the spare room), I do actually do less on the website when I’m stressed or busy, but I’ll pay that I dress well (except for the onesie) 😉

  • Jess

    Such an interesting topic, I think everyone succumbs to this at one time or another. I “have it together” and I know others see me as someone who leads this amazing, glamorous life (I get told this regularly) but I still struggle with feeling jealous of my peers who I perceive as having achieved more. I studied medicine and was going to become a doctor but didn’t finish my studies as it got too much, and now I find myself jealous of doctors. How ridiculous is that? I constantly find myself thinking “you’re not as smart as everyone says, if you were you would have become a doctor by now like most of the people you studied with, you’re such a failure at life because you’re not a doctor” and so on.

    I hate feeling this way, jealousy is a hideous emotion, but it’s important to know that no one is immune to this no matter how great their life might seem on the outside.

  • Hayley Ashman

    I often get jealous of other people’s intelligence. I think it’s because I’ve always wished I was smarter. Not sure why, it’s just something that gets to me. The older I get the better I deal with these emotions, but realising you’re feeling jealous is never fun. It makes me feel immature.

    • Tamsin Howse

      It makes me feel immature too. I guess it’s a fairly childish feeling.

  • Maryann

    I am one of 5 children so I there was a lot of room for jealously at home but there was none. My mother witnessed intense jealouy between her mother & aunt as a child, she hated it & was on the look out for it in us. She didn’t have this issue with us but did make us aware of the problems it can cause.

    I prefer to admire people’s achvievements, I guess you could say it is a positive form of jealousy.

    • Tamsin Howse

      Interesting. I’m jealous you’ve never had a problem with jealousy!

      • Maryann

        We are not a particularly competitive bunch. I think this is one reason why jealousy can be such an issue.

  • Maryann

    I have been thinking about jealousy since I read the post. We all have a choice as to how we live our lives, either positive or negative. I think jealousy is a negative response to life & the choices we make. My vice doesn’t happen to be jealousy but rather it is fear. I sometimes need to work harder to overcome than I would like . Sometimes I win sometimes I lose. Then I have to forgive myself. I think T that is what you need to do when you slip. Maryann.

    • John James

      That is such great advice! You’re right – we all need to forgive ourselves more often… I know I don’t nearly as much as I should!

    • Tamsin Howse

      You’re spot on. 100% spot on.

  • maree Talidu

    I think instead of actual jealousy, I’ve held a lot of resentment for people who seem to have it easy. Living the good life, people who have had a fairly cruisy life handed to them on a platter. I have fallen into the trap of resenting them for not having to know how it is living pay to pay etc. People who have an attitude of entitlement or who are clearly spoilt. Again, as you said, this is MY problem, not theirs.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I can relate to that, and I think I’ve had a bit of that as well. Particularly as a teenager, people who didn’t struggle with their identity like I did.

  • Carly Findlay

    Someone told me they were a little jealous of me recently, and it hurt me a lot. It is hard when people project their insecurities on to you, but I am so glad you’re working on this trait. Much love to you x

    • Tamsin Howse

      That’s why I don’t usually tell people 😉

      Except when I realise I’ve treated them badly. Then I have told them it’s because I was jealous. Usually years later, but better late than never right? Better to know that it was never your fault.

      Reminds me of that Lily Allen song Back To The Start. Have you heard that? Go listen to it.