A friend of yours shares a piece of really good news and you find yourself struggling between feeling happy for him and managing your self-judgement.
If you can identify with that, then you’d love to hang on.
Sometimes, our friends’ progress reminds us of our shortcomings, they paint us the images of what we could possibly have done better with ourselves and what should perhaps have been and these images stay in our head as long as the news lasts, and maybe longer. At that moment, everyone but you seem happy and between feeling sorry for yourself and finding a happy spot in your heart for your friend, there sits a great feeling of self-condemnation and you feel more bad about your apparent selfishness and maybe begin to see yourself as a bad friend.
But you’re not really a bad person.
You’re only being jealous and human. And jealousy can sometimes be a good drive in the aberrant sense that it has the capacity to push us to tackle something we may have been pushing back.
Feeling down about your friends’ good news may have some psychological benefits like bringing to your consciousness little or not-so-little perks you might be overlooking and acting as a strong motivator, but your friends are justified if they may not bother to comprehend your reasons for being so withdrawn, so cutting down on how often this strikes you (and getting to a point when it rarely ever does anymore) seem just the safest way to go.
But how can you effectively ward off the depressive feeling of longing and melancholy that accompanies your friends’ good news? Or could this be an imperative psychological demand the mind places on you to ensure optimum productivity?
Or are you just as insecure as you suspect you might be?
Well, truth is, it could be any of those. Or it couldn’t be. But first, you should know that…
1) Jealousy Is Human
You have to admit it and it’s not self-debasing: the top feeling you get when a friend’s good news saddens you is that claustrophobic moment of wishing you were actually the one who just got admission into the university, the one who just bought that sleek car, the one who just got that dream job, the one who haven’t yet backslidden in his faith.
But this feeling is just as normal as blinking when something comes in contact with your eyes.
How? Imagine if there was a class project and every other person but you seem to be getting it right, how’d you feel? Not good, I know. In fact feeling any other way might be crazy.
The feeling of being left behind can be a very dark cloud, misshapening your reasoning, sense of protocol and every other right thing you should probably do. And it’s jealousy, too. But this is where jealousy can be aggressive in the same sense where it can be pro-active.
But how do you know which side of the scale your jealousy is bordering more on?
2) Watch Your Reaction Closely
You hear the news and there’s this slow wash of cold emotions running wildly down your entire self and it’s so overwhelming that you crumble inwardly and are subdued by its gentle force. But you still have enough to feel bad about your reaction and part of you really wants to try and say congratulations, and even though you may never say it, you’re somewhat comforted that you at least conceived it.
A friend of mine was recently called to the Nigerian bar (yes, she’s now a lawyer!) and I’m really happy for her. But don’t be fooled. I wasn’t near as enthusiastic as I’m now when I first heard the news, and in fact, a few minutes after she let out the good news, I left the occasion without as much as a nod of acknowledgement or a thumb of commendation and that was because apart from the jealousy I felt, I was angry. Angry at myself because I thought that could be me and the anger spread and was evident outwardly. I went home and fell into a disturbed sleep and it was only when I’d awoken and part of the haze had lifted that I sent a text of apology, congratulation and commendation.
And now, I feel good with the news but I still have not lost that desire to double my effort that the news gave me fore-mostly.
Apparently, that news did something positively to me. But I hope you noticed how aggressive and uncivil that almost made me become, how unpleasant everything could have turned out.
We can’t say for everyone because there are those who may be tempted to completely indulge their jealousy. So what if your emotions give no signs of coming under control (even after walking home and catching some sleep)? What if your jealousy overshoots and becomes supplanted by raw, untamed anger?
3) Go Traditional. Face Your Problem
So many resources out there tells you to face your problem and that advice hasn’t outlived its usefulness.
When you notice you’re beginning to feel angry by your friend’s sharing of his success and know you might be helpless against your anger, you have to acknowledge first that at that moment there are two problems.
Second, your friend.
You probably can’t deal with yourself as you may have acknowledged your helplessness against your anger, so let’s call this one intractable.
Now, all the emotional chaos began from hearing the news in the first place, but that news had a source: your friend. So your friend now is a problem. Your problem.
How do you deal with your friend here? Approach him (you know I mean him/her, right?).
But slow down with the approach because there’s no cause for physical contact here, and it may be pretty hard, but just walk up to him and say your congrats. Even if it’s the last thing you want to do.
(Wait, you thought facing your problems would be easy?)
It may seem pointless at that point but you know one major perk about facing your problem is working under the odds that your problem may have something beneficial up for you.
For instance, you may walk up to your friend and say your congrats and your friend might say something particularly exciting or kind that might, in turn, flush away your anger in one clean sweep. Or your friend’s cheeriness might just make you question why you’re being angry at all.
In essence, there’s no better time to approach your friend than when you’re losing yourself.
4) Finally, Get Up To Work
You may have summed up enough gut to walk up to your friend and face your problem and you may now feel better and convinced that feeling bad at first about your friend’s success doesn’t make you a bad egg but you’d miss out a whole big part of the impression if you don’t realize that the whole episode had done something to you. In fact, it was meant to do something to you.
Because no matter how cool you might feel afterwards, what your friend’s success really shows is that you’re not doing enough. You may be trying hard, but hard may not be enough. What’s really scary about trying it the smart way?
I see this a lot in movies, when someone’s plan fails and he then goes up and say, “I tried my best, but my best wasn’t enough,” and I wonder who sets the limit for us, who decides how far we can go or what our best should look like.
Who decides your best? You or the society?
Get up to work. Give a new dimension to your efforts. Honour your impulsive nature but don’t make a decision that you’d have to pay up for later. And remember, if you really want something, you’ll find a way.
And if you don’t, an excuse.
I might not be able to tell you exactly how to rewire your efforts for visibilty and productivity, but I think you know within you that you’re enough, and indeed, more than enough.
Your friend’s success is just your wake-up or say-so call. There might be this big idea in your head that scares you like hell and maybe all you need to implement it is a little ruffling of your creative feathers.
A friend of mine once said, “The greatest illusion of time is that we have enough for our dreams.”
Which means every moment counts. And as you decide to chart each of your efforts towards your dreams, towards feeling okay about a friend’s good news because you’re already fulfilled yourself, I think I should leave you with Karen Lamb’s words.
“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”