Why Other People’s Accomplishments Sometimes Make You Feel Terrible

Sad woman


Ashley Laderer via TalkSpace
Ashley Laderer via TalkSpace
Have you ever become spiteful after hearing about someone else’s accomplishments, and felt like a complete jerk? Maybe you’ve felt your heart sink a little bit when someone shares their own good news in the form of an “I’m so excited to announce…” Facebook or Instagram post. Chances are, yes, you’ve felt a little terrible at least once when you’ve watched someone’s success from the sidelines. You find yourself looking at your phone, feeling like a failure, even though you’re not!
This doesn’t make you a hateful monster — it just makes you human. In fact, the phenomenon is is pretty common. It’s human nature for us to compare ourselves to others, and it’s no surprise that sometimes, that results in jealousy and feeling lousy.

Understanding Jealousy Around Others’ Success

It’s possible that people around you are doing amazing things, and even if you are too, you might still feel that jealousy running through your veins.
“At times, we can experience this tendency to compare ourselves to others, which can result in a sense of ‘I’m not enough’,” explains Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D. “To some extent, that tendency to both self-compare, as well as to feel inadequate, is natural. It becomes complicated when individuals start to feel bad about feeling inadequate or jealous.”
You should be happy for your friend who just got that promotion at work, not feel crappy about it, right? Well, not always, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you love them or care about them any less. It’s simply an emotional reaction! Our brains are programmed into the pattern of comparing ourselves to others, and it’s a hard cycle to break. You see someone around you accomplishing big things, and you automatically check in with how you measure up.
25 year old artist, Kara,* has a tendency to compare herself to her longtime group of friends. “I feel behind in a lot of ways, so it literally feels like a race. I need to catch up to my friends. I can’t move out like everyone else because I don’t have a job because I was in school for so long,” Kara* confides. “It’s hard when you and your friends are all the same age, all had the same start in high school, and since then, their lives look like how you want yours to look.”

Comparing Yourself to a Significant Other or Potential Partner

Aside from comparing yourself to your friends, you might find yourself checking how you stack up to your other half. Hannah,* 29, who works in fashion, says, “It can be difficult dating someone who’s recently had a lot of success. My boyfriend is only one year older than me, and seems wildly more successful, or at least he’s pursuing his passion, when most days I have no idea what my passion is.”
Rachel,* 28, who works at a non-profit, shares the sentiment of feeling inadequate compared to a significant other. “He’s about a year older than me but it just felt like we should be on par with each other, especially since we were living together, sharing costs, and everything,” she says of her boyfriend. “I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t succeeding like he was, why I wasn’t in a job that felt like it offered a path forward, and why I wasn’t making more money. I felt totally insufficient.”

How to Calm Your Jealousy and Improve Self-Esteem

All three of these people are taking blows to their self esteem and self worth as they compare themselves to their friends, coworkers, and significant others. People with low self esteem are more likely to take offense to others’ accomplishments. However, with practice, you can get better at comparing yourself to others less often and build higher confidence. Additionally, you can learn to better understand and recognize your emotions. Plus, you have to remember that it’s totally okay to feel!
“Instead of focusing on stopping the emotion, focus instead on identifying what you’re feeling and giving yourself some space to simply feel it. It’s okay to experience feelings of jealousy or inadequacy in the face of other’s success,” O’Neil assures. But if your comparisons are really taking a toll on you, there are some actions you can take.
“Take some time to evaluate what it is that you want to achieve in your life. This can be a great opportunity to journal or write down your intentions. Further, instead of focusing on others’ achievements, focus on what you’re grateful for in your life,” Rachel O’Neil suggests. “Lastly, to the extent possible, try to limit your social media use, especially during times when you find yourself especially vulnerable to self-comparison.”
So, next time you hear someone’s big news, remember it’s okay to feel some negative emotions — you’re definitely not the only one feeling them! With practice and confidence, you’ll be able to enjoy others’ successes more, and celebrate your own as well! And hey, being more self confident is a success, in my book.
This story originally appeared in TalkSpace