You win, I lose

But I like not these great success of yours; for I know how jealous are the gods.
484 BC – 409 BC

I’ve noticed a worrying trend lately among different people and groups: the habit of viewing another person’s victory as a personal defeat.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s perfectly understandable to be disappointed if you and another person are directly competing for an award, promotion, or other accolade and you don’t win. In that case, the natural reaction when learning the news is to consider how the outcome affects you. The problem arises when someone’s victory has no direct bearing on you, but you internalize it as a personal defeat anyway.

Imagine that an acquaintance has just gotten a promotion at work. What’s your gut reaction to that news? Are you happy for them that they’ve achieved recognition and improved benefits? Or do you feel resentful and dissatisfied with your own work situation, title or salary?

Another great example is the wedding announcement. If you’re single or in an unsatisfying relationship, how do you respond when you hear that a friend or relative has gotten engaged? Are you happy for him or her? Or do you feel sad or angry that it isn’t happening to you?

More often than not, another person’s job promotion or engagement has no real impact on our lives. A promotion awarded to someone with a different employer is no reflection on you or your worth as an employee. Likewise, if you’ve never dated a particular person, their decision to marry someone else isn’t a personal rejection of you. The other person’s victory is not your defeat.

You might wonder why this attitude is a problem. The truth is, resenting the victories of others is bad for your relationship with those people and damaging to your own happiness.

Research has shown that close relationships are one of the most important factors in determining a person’s level of happiness. When you can’t be happy for other people in your life, your reaction to their good news can damage those relationships, sometimes permanently—and that eroding of relationships ends up undermining your life and happiness. Even if you don’t express your disappointment over another person’s victory, people can generally sense that you aren’t excited for them. If you value your relationships, you need to make peace with your own issues so you can feel joy for the people around you.

So what should you do if you recognize yourself in the examples above? What should you do if you see the victories of others as defeats for you?

First, when you find yourself having that reaction, remind yourself that the event has no direct bearing on your life. The other person’s victory doesn’t take anything away from you; the basic circumstances of your life won’t be changed or damaged by the other person’s good fortune.

Second, take a good, hard look at yourself and identify why you have these feelings. What aspect of your own life is dissatisfying and frustrating to you? Being upset about your friend’s victory won’t solve anything; identifying the source of your dissatisfaction and working to change it is the only way you’ll truly feel better.

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.
Richard Bach
1936 –

Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor and Cheryl Chancellor

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