Why the success of others can be so difficult for us.
Show me a successful one and I’ll show you one who’s hated. And this, although success is the highest value of our time. We struggle, want to become heroes, and when we have made it, we don’t get a crown on our head, but a rope around our neck.
The Ferrari driver is an asshole and only compensates his little pill man. The well-trained one has hard muscles, but is certainly soft in the head. The bestselling artist has sold himself to the mainstream.
I know that from myself. This … Grrrmmaaaahhh! … if someone else has what I also wish. After all, I have the feeling that things are getting better for me. I can treat myself more often, my heart shrinks less often at the sight of other people’s success. Understanding also helps me – and that is understanding myself.
So why are successful people (for us) so unsympathetic?
Or: Why can the sight of foreign success be so difficult to bear?
Here are five reasons.
Being stuck in envy
In the early history of man and other animal species, the selection of the best partners for reproduction was not about who had a lot (who did, and what does “a lot” mean?), but about who had more than the others. This could cause unrest, but it also spurred people on to do their best in a positive way.
That’s not too bad. It only becomes problematic when we get stuck in envy instead of becoming active or paying attention to the feeling. Then envy can turn into anger and anger into hate.
Sadness is not permitted
Envy is a complex feeling with two main components: firstly, sadness that we don’t have what we want. And second, anger about someone else having it.
If our own situation seems hopeless to us and we don’t want to give any room to sadness about it, we flee to the second part and experience all the more violent rage.
Talking bad is easier than acting good
Disfavor may cost inner peace, but overcoming it does not cost it.
Quite different from when we have to concentrate on our own lives and tackle and grow. Criticism is comfort – as long as it doesn’t hit us ourselves.
The more we devalue the other – that idiot who only had luck or rich parents – the easier it is for us to bear that something is missing (felt). At least that seems so, in the short term.
Repressed own dreams
Foreign success can remind us of our own dreams. Didn’t we want to become a veterinarian a long, long time ago rather than a butcher? Didn’t we dream of a life that would be very different from that of our parents, but still live in the same village, in the same room as when we were children? Have we chosen security instead of adventure?
It hurts when we have to face our dissatisfaction and see that things could have been different … and could still be different from now on, we would dare.
Repressed own shares
If we reject the successful out there, we may also reject the successful in ourselves.
Maybe because we used to have to hear so often “Don’t take yourself so seriously” or “Who do you think you are?” and believed that at some point and have done everything since then to keep this supposedly evil part of us in the cage. A means to achieve this, to reject it again and again in the outside. The harder we react, the more a topic usually has to do with ourselves.
The antidote: looking at us
No matter whether we are rejected for our success or are ourselves those who reject: The antidote is always the same. To direct the focus away from the other and back to ourselves with the questions:
What do I have?
What do I need?
What can I do?
Until someone realizes you’ve only been lucky
You do it left-handed, colleagues say. They would have achieved quite different things already. Does such praise make you panic? Are you secretly weighing up the fact that the last project was indeed a success, but that you were also damn lucky? “Scientists estimate that 70 percent of the population know such feelings,” says Sabine Magnet. They are afraid of being exposed as failure and suddenly appearing as impostors.
The author knows such worries about herself, originally researched them out of her own interest and then wrote a book about the so-called Impostor phenomenon. Magnet has the impression that many more people are affected: “Almost everyone feels the same way at some point in their lives”.
Miriam Junge’s clients, for example, don’t really lack proof of their performance. Many of them come with thick purses to the coaching of the psychotherapist in Berlin-Mitte. They are managers, series founders and young entrepreneurs who have collected a lot of money to sell their start-ups.
“From the outside, they have completely unrealistic self-doubts and fears of failure,” says Junge. But to refer them to their successes doesn’t help: “Somebody founds several companies, makes a big exit, but says: ‘I don’t know how I did it.'” In technical jargon, this means not being able to internalize success.
The causes often lie in childhood
But where does that come from? “There’s a lot of criticism, a lot of pressure and a lot of envy in companies,” says psychotherapist Junge: “They don’t say ‘insanity, what you’ve achieved’, but rather ‘what’s next’. This never creates the feeling of having achieved enough. The reasons for the insecurity, however, are usually far back in the past with their clients: “Any young boy who had to do a great deal to be seen by his dad often still runs for recognition 30 years later in the hamster wheel,” says Junge.
Instead of repeated successes calming self-doubt, they can even reinforce feelings of Impostor. The people concerned do not develop any self-confidence from this, but at the same time confirm and increase their expectations in their professional environment. People with Impostor feelings therefore think that they must be even more successful in the next project than before, says the psychotherapist.
For entrepreneurs, this would mean selling more, generating more turnover and making even more profit. In many cases, this is hardly possible: “In the worst case, they think: I’d rather do nothing than fail.” Because they are often afraid of being exposed and castigated as impostors in the event of failure, the Impostor phenomenon is also called impostor syndrome.