Thursday, July 19, 2018

Can You Really Be Happy for Somebody else?

Can you really be happy for another person, particularly when their achievement strikes a blow at your own sense of self worth?

You’re fighting for a promotion and your colleague gets it, you long to buy a house and your friend invites you to her housewarming, you’re not getting younger and yearn to get married and your best friend announces her engagement, you are having problems conceiving but your sister is more fertile than a rain forest.

So what do you do? You say, “congratulations, I’m so happy for you”.

But are you really happy for them? Are you not hurting inside and seething that it’s not you announcing the news? If you had the power to prevent it would you not use that power?

From our first days in school when we compared our progress against our friends, to every milestone in life, we have no choice but to judge our successes based on our piers. And if our piers are faster runners, then we may experience feelings of inferiority. If you get 98% in a test and everyone else gets 99%, then did you do well in that test or did you come last?

If it’s a goal that you too are striving for, then a friend’s success may make you feel inadequate. And is it possible to be happy for someone, whose actions have just made you feel like a failure? In fact is not a tiny (or perhaps not so tiny if you're really honest) part of you angry at that person for inflicting this added pressure on you? For example, when all your friends are single, there is no pressure to get married. But when, one by one, they start to pair off, well guess what, suddenly you've gone from carefree and popular to stressed, alone on a Saturday night and feeling horribly inadequate. All this because of actions taken by other people.

Of course, when someone hits their milestones and succeeds in life, they aren't doing it to spite you. But it hurts nonetheless and it hurts because they did it.

So next time you say "I'm happy for you," ask yourself, am I really? And if someone claims to be “happy for you”, be sensitive, don't boast about your successes and don't blame them if they would rather find new friends who don't make them feel so bad about themselves. Chances are, when they've hit the milestone too, they'll be back.

I had fertility problems, and suddenly it seemed like everyone around me was multiplying. My circle of barren friends was narrowing and pretty soon I would be the only one left. I felt horribly inadequate and began to get heart palpitations whenever a friend called or emailed. I began to avoid all friends older than thirty (which was all my friends) just in case more baby news came my way, and considered moving to a deserted island. I didn't even feel ready for my own baby, but I was beginning to feel like a failure. And all because of actions taken by my friends.

Of course we shouldn’t hold ourselves back just to please others, and we should always seek out our own happiness, I'm just saying that in so doing we will invariably create casualties.

It’s a sad fact of life but to quote Dale Carnegie, 'if you want enemies, excel your friends, but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.'

About the Writer

Annabelle Charbit is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on Can You Really Be Happy for Somebody else?

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By Theresa H Hall on September 10, 2010 at 06:20 pm

Annabelle, I can easily see your point of view.

I was raised to compete, be gracious the times I didn't come in first, refrain from showing my disappointment (I'd just need to try harder next time), but to be glad when someone else won or achieved something. I was to see that participating is what is vital, and why winning isn't always so important. Trying and doing your best is the most we can ask of you is what my parents said to me when they encouraged me to give it a go.

Being glad that someone has done well is a way to show support, share in the event, and to think about how much they must have wanted a particular thing, in order to win. I like to imagine how they feel and share in their triumph. Sharing was a the best gift my sister taught me, It balances out life and makes our journeys as kindred spirits all the more favorable.

I continue to strive for wholeness and winning, but when it happens for others, I cannot help but share in their joy.


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By Theresa H Hall on September 10, 2010 at 06:22 pm

** I need an edit button. sorry for the obvious typos. :)

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