How to Be Truly Happy for Others
When was the last time you were truly happy for other’s success? Happy for someone who wasn’t family or a close friend.
To some extent, it’s normal to be envious, indifferent, or even dislike when others keep achieving milestones in their lives.
This behavior is evolutionary and inherent within us. We perceive someone else’s ascent as our downfall. Remember, not very long ago; we roamed around in hostile environments wherein the best survived and the rest perished. So if someone else were better than you back then, you’d probably have to worry about your survival.
That’s not the world that we live in now. However, our brain doesn’t know that. Our logical neocortex tries to fight these inclinations but gets overpowered by the primitive irrational limbic system, and we end up feeling envy or hostility towards the other ‘successful person.’
Social media has accelerated this trend. Earlier, you were exposed to the achievements of people close to you. Today, on the other hand, a person living 10,000 miles away can flash his ‘30 under 30’ achievement on social media and make you feel miserable.
This is normal, and the best of us feel this way. However, it isn’t healthy when this turns into an obsession that distracts you from your own goals. A severe form of this unhealthy obsession can also lead to depression.
I will leave the solution to this unhealthy obsession and depression to experts. I don’t think I am qualified to answer that. However, I’ve gone through phases of mild frustration and unhappiness with others’ success.
Over the years, I’ve gotten better at handling these feelings and emotions. I can attribute this to some steps I took and advice that I followed.
#1 Acknowledge your feelings and be okay with them
Don’t judge yourself. What you’re going through is normal. Jealous of your competitor’s growth? Unhappy with the fact that someone else got promoted ahead of you? Upset about your cousin buying a new home? I’m telling you that it’s okay to feel these feelings.
Don’t believe anyone who says that they are immune to it. You have, I have, and we all have inherited this to some extent, and without this feeling, we wouldn’t have reached here and wouldn’t continue to grow.
Be okay with these feelings and accept yourself the way you are.
#2 Confide in others
Talk to your family, best friend, close colleague, or anyone you trust and know well.
This is crucial. Not only will you realize that it is perfectly okay to feel the way you are feeling, but you will also see things objectively from a third person’s point of view.
The chances are that the person you share this with would have fought their own battles as well and that can play a massive role in alleviating your sense of guilt and improving your self-image.
If you’re the confidante who gets approached, do not be quick in dismissing this as normal. That comes across as abrupt and fake. Instead, listen to what the other person has to say and empathize with them. Yes, soothe their current wounds but also do it in a way that is genuine and helpful. Empathize with them (and not sympathize).
#3 Get to know the other person well
This was a game-changer for me.
More often than not, your unhappiness towards others’ success stems from your lack of knowledge and information about them.
You see the glittering success and the dramatic before after versions of the person but fail to see the journey they went through to get there. In the absence of that knowledge, their success seems ‘lucky’ and ‘not well deserved.’
Get to know the other person really well. Reach out to them and seek to understand that. Try to understand what got them where they are and their advice for others.
If you do this sincerely, the chances are that your envy may turn into respect for them. When you see their struggles and their fights with those struggles, you may end up getting inspired to pursue your own journey.
Overnight success doesn’t exist. It is created by media and amplified by social media because that’s what gets them eyeballs. Also, luck comes to those who are prepared for it.
#4 Revisit your journey and the milestones
In your own life, you’ve probably crossed many hurdles on your way here.
Take some time to reflect on your journey, your struggles, your growth, and the goals you’ve achieved so far. If you can’t find many, you probably need to dig deeper.
Many of us don’t do a good job of mapping our own journey. When we achieve a goal, we quickly move on to the next one. The previous one now becomes a given and less important. This hedonistic adaptation is an essential human feature.
This reflection will help you understand yourself better and, more importantly, help you realize the mistakes you may have made and get the focus back on your goals and the journey ahead.
#5 Remember this while doling out praises to others
This one is for people in the position to influence others by praising them or criticizing them. These could be parents, teachers, managers, and other leaders.
We’ve all heard of ‘Praise in Public, Criticize in Private.’ It is excellent advice and truly helpful. However, we can modify this a bit further.
Do not praise in public without giving the context.
Our goal with the praise is to appreciate the person and ‘inspire’ or ‘motivate’ others to perform well. I get that. However, your words may end up having the complete opposite effect. Rather than getting motivated, others might feel demotivated. Instead of focusing on improving themselves, they may end up spending more time obsessing about that other person.
It is easy to blame them for this behavior, but it is not really their fault. As we've seen above, we’re hardwired to behave that way.
Does that mean we stop praising people for their achievements? Absolutely not. All we need to do is to provide the context and the reason for those words. It is not as simple as “She is amazing because she achieved her numbers.” Explain how she got there, the obstacles she faced while getting there, how she overcame those, and the efforts she put in.
“She was struggling to meet her numbers but was determined to get there. She spent weeks understanding our customer’s pain points and modulating her pitch accordingly. She also became disciplined and meticulous. Rejections did not demotivate her. In fact, she kept pursuing her goal in the face of all those rejections. Thanks to all those efforts that she put in over the last eight months, she has now managed to achieve her numbers. That is amazing!”
Not every success will have a dramatic turnaround story, but it will have a story for sure. Share that with the audience, and it will have the desired results.