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Whether we like to admit it or not, the success of those closest to us brings a mass of conflicting, shameful emotions.
Why do we hate it when our friends succeed? A question to which I’m not sure I want the answer.
There’s been a time when you’ve found yourself congratulating someone you know on their success. And while you’re smiling and handshaking and congratulating and well-wishing, you’re secretly hating.
And if you won’t admit it, I will. It happens to me all the time.
Twice just today, in fact.
“Every time a friend succeeds, something inside me dies.”
— Gore Vidal
It’s not simple envy. I honestly couldn’t give a rat’s ass if someone I don’t know does well. Good for them. If they’re famous, I care less still – even if their success is stupendous. But if I know them… Grrr. Secretly, of course.
The feeling is a noxious little emotional cocktail that is two parts envy, one part FOMO and a dash of irritation. And I’ve realised that it can only be served up by the success of someone in relatively close orbit of my world.
Like a workmate. Friend of a friend. Or my wife’s ex-boyfriend.
It’s not about not wanting others to be happy. I do feel good when someone I know or care about is smiling, peaceful and fulfilled. I just don’t like it when they succeed at something I could have (or worse, should have) achieved myself.
Social media doesn’t help. For one thing, it’s the weapon of choice for those who feel the urge to pummel us with a barrage of merciless humble-bragging. I know people who update their status with things like: “Everest, done and dusted. On to the next challenge!” These people should be kicked in the shins. Unless it’s a word in a spelling bee, “Everest” is a big deal. You deserve praise. Pretending otherwise gives me the shits.
But worse than that, and more to the point, Facebook and Instagram somehow tap into the part of the psyche that measures, compares and finds our own achievements coming up short.
Worse, they give us access to way more data for comparison than our busy little monkey brains are evolved to cope with.
In the end, we don’t find ourselves lacking compared to others. No, the comparison is purely with ourselves.
While the occasional spurt of envy is probably good…I think we’re being exposed to the feeling way too often. Why our brains evolved this nasty little habit is beyond me.
I think that when we see people we know succeeding, we see our own unfulfilled potential. It’s a very stark reminder of what we could be achieving. But aren’t. And that’s what really irks us. In the end, we don’t find ourselves lacking compared to others.
For me, there’s no comfort in knowing there are people envious of my own position or achievements. And it doesn’t help to think they’re secretly hating me. The experience sucks, all round. Why our brains evolved this nasty little habit is beyond me.
While I suppose the occasional spurt of envy is probably good – hell, it got me to write this post while in the middle of a full-blown procrastination marathon – I think we’re being exposed to the feeling way too often.
But like most sensations, good and bad, too much of it can be addictive. And possibly self-destructive.
So, guess what? I’m out. My immediate next mission is a massive cull. Followed by a comprehensive unfollow. And some personal goal-setting.
While I may not be able to avoid hating the success of others, I think my time will better spent on loving my own successes.