Columns, Opinion

That’s Right, Sir: I practiced my I-didn’t-win-the-award smile

When something exciting happens in life, we want to tell people about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting into the college you always wanted to go to, winning an award or getting concert tickets for your favorite band. And yet, sometimes we keep this information to ourselves. Not because we don’t want others to know, but because we’re worried about how they might respond. Rather than risking the jealousy or judgement of others, sometimes it’s just easier to say nothing at all.

There’s a problem with that mindset. It assumes others won’t be happy for our successes when it doesn’t directly affect them. It can be really difficult to put your own thoughts and desires in favor of being happy for others. And it cannot always be attributed to selfishness. Sometimes, we really want to feel good on behalf of those we care about. We know it’s wonderful news for them, so we want to be able to take part in the joy. However, when we are not content in the area of life someone else is flourishing in, it’s hard not to bring ourselves into the equation. We compare ourselves to those around us, and when it’s a close friend or family member, it can be even more painful, because even though we genuinely want to be happy for them, we just aren’t.

A significant reason why it can be so hard to be happy for others is because we are constantly comparing ourselves to one another. Hearing that your best friend just got their dream job is great news when you have your dream job, but it can be stressful when our own career is hanging by a thread. It takes incredible self-understanding and confidence to be able to separate our own achievements from others’ achievements.

Recognizing that there is no link between others’ accomplishments and our failures is crucial. It does not make you inferior if someone else received an award you wanted. It is simply a recognition of the other person’s accomplishments. Being able to mentally unclasp yourself from the situation is the first step in building genuine happiness for others, especially in stressful or uneventful times in your life. Being happy for another person can be empowering and will certainly make it easier for others to be happy for you when something notable happens in your life.

Sometimes, however, no matter how hard we try, we cannot be truly happy for someone we care about. This is a disheartening, unsettling feeling, especially when we’re really trying to appreciate their success. We know they deserve it, and we love seeing them happy, but some part of us still can’t stop wondering when we will experience a similar joy. That is a completely normal feeling to have and no reason to beat yourself up. On vulnerable days, we can’t help but compare ourselves to others and feel comparatively lesser.

Successes come and go, so we have to do everything we can to feel happy for others. And they have to do what they can to feel happy for us, too. It’s not perfect, and some days it’s harder to accomplish, but it’s the best we can do. The people who care about you really do want to hear about the things that make you happy, just as you want to hear about their happiness. It’s truly great to hear that someone else is doing well, even if it makes you a little jealous or stressed. So allow yourself to be happy for your friends without putting so much pressure on yourself to achieve.

It’s just way more fun that way.

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