Do you get filled with a horrible feeling of both anger and angst when you learn of someone else’s good fortune? Of course you do. It’s a natural thing. Especially in showbiz where, as the old saying often attributed to Woody Allen goes, “It’s not enough for me to succeed. All my friends have to fail.”
The ultimate product of such feelings can be success – because we work harder when we’re trying to outdo somebody else – or shame – because we know we shouldn’t be such resentful, um, pigs. This article examines the phenomenon and offers some sage advice for dealing with it:
Why Can’t We Just Be Happy For Each Other?
by Chinae Alexander
What’s that growing pit in your stomach when your friend announces she’s engaged, even though you knew this was the plan (hell you helped pick the ring!)? Shit, you even like the guy.
What’s that internal gnawing feeling when your coworker gets a promotion? Even though they completely deserve it, and it doesn’t affect you, not one bit.
What’s that slight sting when the guy/gal who you really weren’t even that “in” to, looks better than the last time you saw them? (Damn that life-altering haircut…who knew bangs could change everything?)
But most importantly, what is…
That unsettling, unexplainable peace that comes with someone else’s failure, turmoil, or misfortune?
Over the past few months, this subject has ripped me apart time and time again…how can I claim to love people fully, yet I can’t wholeheartedly experience unabashed joy during their triumphs in life? What are the barriers to entering shared celebration people we do life with and how do we leave these behind forever?
By no means is this a complete or finite list, but through some self-seeking and acute listening/absorbing in my outer social sphere, here are some reasons I think we’ve lost our ability to celebrate others:
Empathy is Easy, Half The Time: The definition of empathy is the ability to identify (cognitive empathy) and then relate (emotional empathy) to the emotional state of another person, but we cannot seem to get it through our peanut brains that empathy is not sympathy and it’s not just applicable when the proverbial shit is hitting the fan for someone. It’s for joy. It’s for celebration. It’s cumulative, not selective to emotional distress, in fact…distress is the easy part to relate to.
When We Can’t Fix or Help, Our Value is Diminished: I am a doer. This is the best and worst thing about me. As a chronic relational/emotional/physical pack mule, I think everything can be solved through perseverance, dedication, and lots of emotional perspiration. So naturally, I feel the need to inspire others to press through things, discipline their lives, and create opportunities of hope in their existence…but what happens when they don’t need me? What happens when they are more successful than I am? What happens when their relationship has worked out and mine disintegrated? What happens when I can’t offer wisdom or advice because they are excelling? This lack of “need ” from the other person greatly affects my (and probably your) ability to cheer others on when they are winning. When we aren’t being needed or depended on…all we have left to do is celebrate, and celebration doesn’t give us worth or validation because it’s not based on our own self-focused abilities.