When Your Friends Succeed, Are You Happy for Them?

Probably, but you might also experience the “funny feeling” as Gretchen Rubin calls it:

The “funny feeling” is the term the Big Man and I use to describe the uncomfortable feeling you get when a friend or peer has a major accomplishment. You feel happy for that person, but also envious, and also insecure and anxious about your own success….

Now, you might argue about whether it’s true that people succeed in groups. I happen to think it is true, but it’s debatable. But whether or not it’s objectively true, it’s an attitude that will make a person much happier. After all, your friend doesn’t get the promotion, or not, depending on whether it makes you happy or unhappy, but your attitude about that promotion will affect your happiness.

I remind myself of this. I’m so competitive and ambitious, with an unattractive grudging streak, that I often suffer from the funny feeling. It help to remind myself that the fact that something good happened to someone else doesn’t mean that it’s less likely that something good will happen to me–in fact, it might make it more likely.

Of course, it would be more admirable for me to be happy for other people’s successes, purely for their own sakes, rather than having to remind myself that there’s some possible benefit for me, but this catchphrase helps when I’m feeling small-minded.

A great perspective, and something a lot of people (including me) struggle with.

When I shared some good personal news with a friend the other week, his first words in the email reply were: “You fucking motherfucker.” He then went on express his happiness and excitement for me. I think it captured the emotion of the moment and what I loved about it was its humorous acknowledgment that we’re all competitive and human and genuine friends…instead of the attitude that I see a lot in college which is a kind of unacknowledged envy, where one makes up some negativity about a person to hide fundamental jealously.

My friend Andy McKenzie, a sophomore in college, recently blogged about feeling jealous at friends’ success. It’s, as usual, an honest and mature take. He concludes that ideally we could channel jealously into inspiration. Yes. The reason I continue to try to expose myself to as many impressive people as possible is to continue to push me to turn up more stones and never rest on my laurels….even though this means, at times, I must deal with that “funny feeling.”

The first step to combatting counterproductive emotions is being self-aware enough to understand that they exist.

5 comments on “When Your Friends Succeed, Are You Happy for Them?
  • I’m so glad I read this because I am always thrilled for others’ success, but I also always get that “funny feeling”. Good to know I’m not evil or abnormal deep down. 🙂

  • I get jealous if I’ve got the same `fill’ as the lucky one. I played the same jackpot and somebody else wins. But then that’s momentary. One spiteful curse and a shrug later, I move on. But if I haven’t played it, I just get motivated to play the next draw.

    I am in awe of people achieving in fields I understand little about, but I use a lot of. Medicine, Agriculture, Telecom and literally any tech that helps cut costs or reduces complexities. In fact, I expect a lot more disruptions, faster. [Example : I want life saving drugs to get a lot cheaper/ innovations in organic farming/ WiFi, WiMax, broadband to go ubiquitous and FREE – as in radio frequencies with no configuration requirements, just turn on and system configures itself to the hotspot by itself :-)].

    No funny feelings, in either instances.

  • I don’t get jealous. I am very happy for people when they are succesful, as long as that success did not turn them into pricks, as is very often the case. The fact is, making any money is hard, and making a lot of money is exponentially harder, though it probably gets easier after a while. People I know who have gotten wealthy very often forget their friends, as they are so caught up in their money quest other concerns become irrelevant and trivial. To quote a (formerly penniless) wealthy young businessman of my aquaintance: “All my life I’ve wanted to be rich. Now that I am rich, what is left for me to do?”. I might add that this guy is very philanthropic.

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