Being happy for another’s good fortune

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Recently I’ve been thinking about something that brings up more questions than answers for me.  I’ve been thinking about the list of people who I would call to share good news.  It is, sadly, even shorter than the list of people I would call to share bad news.

I can think of three people who would be genuinely happy to hear something that was going extremely well for me and who would be happy to listen to me talk about it and share in my good feelings.

When it comes to ideas I have for things that I want to do in my life, I have one person who is always encouraging, positive and completely supportive.  There are two others who will listen and may be some-what supportive but I wonder if they are secretly thinking it’s a dumb idea.  They won’t discourage me, but the reactions are generally neutral.

That one person who is always supportive and encouraging isn’t a super close friend, but perhaps more than an acquaintance.  Yet that one encouraging influence makes a big difference for me.  And it just feels amazing to have somebody that thinks my ideas are cool, my ambitions are worthy, and that I’m not going to fall flat on my face.  Consequently, I really like this person.

And for the (perhaps a bit uncomfortable) questions . . .

How do I react to others that are successful?

Am I as supportive as I could be?

Do I encourage others to go for their dreams?

Do I make them feel good about themselves?

(If I examine myself, the awkward truth is that sometimes other people’s success or good fortune makes me feel a tad jealous.  I sometimes feel small and insecure.  I feel like I’m on ‘the other side’ or like they know something I don’t.)

If a friend were to win, say, $20,000 in the lottery, would I be happy for them?  Or would I be jealous while at the same time dissing on people who throw money away on lottery tickets?

If a friend were to start a successful blog while I still don’t get much traffic would I feel supportive or would I feel bad about myself?

If a friend came up with a new idea for something they wanted to try, would I be supportive or talk about how it seemed far-fetched?  (“Good luck with that.” )

How much better would we all feel if we were more supportive of each other?  What would we do if we had people who encouraged us to go for it?

How much of a positive force could I be just by encouraging others in their goals and sharing in their victories?

How do I become the sort of person that is genuinely happy for others?  How do I get rid of that slimy, degrading feeling of jealousy and fear?

Where does that idea that somebody else being successful says anything about me come from?  Does their success really make me any more or less likely to succeed myself?  Is it perhaps really the opposite of what I fear and ‘people succeed in groups’?  Could I actually benefit from being supportive of other people’s success (even just in my own mind and even with people I don’t actually know)?

What are your thoughts, feelings or experiences with this?  Leave a comment below.

2 Responses

  1. What an awesome set of questions and self-reflection! I’ve got a corollary in my life, which is how do I stop myself from minimizing or putting myself down when other people praise or comment on my success? I think I learned early in life that getting the A also meant disapproval from peers and I’m still fighting with that sense of stigma about succeeding. I do think I’m mostly authentically happy for other people’s success, though — and also that a little healthy jealousy can be very motivating. When I see someone else succeed and realize what they did for their success, it can inspire me to do more. (Or to decide that I’m not interested in success at that price, I guess!)

    1. Hi Sarah,

      You bring up a really good point. Getting good grades in school definitely did not make it easier for me to find friends. I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable with compliments in general. And if somebody does compliment me, rather than just accepting it, I’m likely to be thinking about how I think I still fall short in that area.

      “When I see someone else succeed and realize what they did for their success, it can inspire me to do more.”

      It seems that there is an important difference seeing someone’s success and thinking about what they did to get there verses just looking at the surface and seeing the success.

      -Kyla

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