Success Envy

*Image courtesy of

A recent conversation in the comments thread got me thinking about an old post I wrote on the topic of jealousy and bitterness over other people’s success.

I do still struggle with this. Absolutely. But I’d like to think that I’m getting better at dealing with it, namely with a bit of a self-coaching that goes something like this:

“The only reason this rubs you up the wrong way is because it makes you doubt yourself, whether YOU will ever get to do that. This isn’t about them, this is about YOU.”

“Jumping on the bitter train is WAAAAAY too easy. You’ve seen plenty of evidence of that! If you can’t be in this industry without turning bitter then you can’t be in this industry.”

“What do you mean that person doesn’t ‘deserve’ that? WHAT? WHAT? According to who? You? What the heck ever. Seriously, we ALL get stuff we don’t deserve, whatever that means, for better and for worse.”

And when none of the above work:

“How bout you stop your moanin’ and start your workin’!”

Of course, it’s easier said than done sometimes, but usually I am happy and dare I say, proud of myself that I am pretty good at warding off the negative envy talk. But before I go embracing the halo, let me stress that this is only cos I’ve had a lot of practice! 🙂

Oh, and back to that old post, I loved this comment from self-confessed comedy nerd, the highly affable (or so he strikes me from this corner of cyber-space!) Dom Romeo:

I remember reading an interview with Alexei Sayle after he turned his back on stand-up for writing, and he admitted how he used to resent Ben Elton’s success, until he realised there was enough fame for everyone, and that he really ought to be using that energy to make his own work better.

I can’t help but agree, having learnt from experience that it’s much better for health, sanity and people’s opinion of you to find a way to be truly happy with other people’s success, to not waste energy being jealous or resentful when it can be better spent making your own work better, and realising that opportunities come all the time; people who get ahead recognised the opportunities and had their sh*t together enough to make the most of those opportunites when they came.

Hells to the yes.

What about you? Is this something you struggle with and if so, how do you deal with it, successfully or otherwise?

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jennywynter Written by:


  1. August 11, 2010

    OMG. I just had a bout of this yesterday. Rob posted some new pics of himself and they were amazing!!! My first gut reaction was “WTF? Why can’t *I* do that?” which left me feeling like somewhat of a failure. So I analyzed.

    “Well, it’s because I haven’t learned how yet – and this Tyler fellow likely doesn’t have two kids, a spouse, and a household to run. He has a studio, with fancy equipment, and all the time in the world to dedicate to getting good. I’d like to see what he can do in my situation – give him a point-and-shoot in one hand and a squalling baby in the other and let’s see what Rob looks like then!”

    I made a decision then and there to learn Photoshop and start asking around for possible studio borrowing. Get sad, get mad, get even.
    😉 K

    • August 11, 2010

      The thing I LOVE about this Kate is that you really turned the envy into inspiration. i.e. it made you want to get better at what you do.

      I think there’s something really powerful to that. Like I heard once the idea that you can’t just tell somebody to stop something, you have to replace it with something else. Like, instead of stopping being jealous, starting to get inspired. That’s pretty cool. To not be jealous of other people’s achievements, only to be grateful that it’s shown you what’s possible and made you raise the bar for yourself.

  2. August 11, 2010


    I could literally write a 2000 word essay on envy/jealousy and its effect on the modern psyche.

    After reading this, I hopped in the shower, and pondering at length about jealousy, what it means, why we get it, and how to deal with it, I know this:

    Jealousy/envy over a friend’s success can be hard, but you sit back and examine, you’ll see a lot of things:

    1) Opportunity isn’t a zero sum game. That is to say that just because someone gets an chance at something, it doesn’t mean that YOU lost that chance. Likely, you wouldn’t have been offered that chance anyway.

    2) When you envy a friend, you’re really just wishing you had that chance or thing, and NOT wishing they didn’t.

    3) If they’re truly a friend, of course you want them to succeed. Why would you want your friends to fail/lose/be unhappy?

    But it is a beast, isn’t it. I’ve been performing for over 20 years, and I STILL get the envy twinge often. It’s maybe harder for performers, as many of our friends and equals tend to make it “big”.

    I wonder if part of the problem is that Jealousy is an “impulse emotion”. By that I mean that it’s something that simply happens without conscious input. But, in the same way that impulse shopping ends in regret quite often, envy does the same. When we sit down and dissect the impulse, it rarely stands up to reality.

    “I wish I got that TV show instead of X”. Of course, X has been working on getting that show for a long time, or is single and mobile, while we’re family folks and have commitments.

    Also, I have a theory about “emotional wealth”. Things like how much money someone makes, or how famous they are, those things can be quantified, can be judged and measured. I suspect that’s why money is SO important in the eyes of the world. I make 60K while Jeff makes 70K, Jeff is more successful than I am. He’s better.

    Things that don’t get measured in that fashion are things like “How happy am I”, “Am I a good father/mother”,”Do I take care of those around me”.

    I pondered this for a while, then decided that this past July, I was going to break out of my normal mindset, and actively try to appreciate (in the financial sense) these things. My day job is consulting to energy companies, and I’m paid by whatever hours I bill. Often, this leads to a mindset of “not working = losing money”. But, in the same way that opportunity is not a zero sum game, the above is not true. Not working often means spending a morning wrestling with my boys on the bed, or heading out to the splash park for an adventure, or gardening. All of those things increase my happiness, and make my family stronger. Surely that’s “worth” something.

    Okay, i’ve gone on long enough, and am going to go and write all of this up on my own blog, which is normally just about LEGO, but clearly I have things to say.

    Also, I envy your country and it’s wonderful weather.


    • August 11, 2010

      Dave, I love, love, love this. Especially your theory on emotional wealth. I totally agree, finances are just one aspect of our life, yet are so incredibly heavily weighted in our culture. I remember as a kid saying to my Mum, when she would sigh about not having enough money, “But we’re rich in love!” I need to remind myself of that!

      Great stuff – for some reason I can’t read your blog on my computer, I have the same problem with Kate’s! You Wares, you! I’ll have to start getting into the habit of playing catch-up when I’m at my sister’s house!

  3. August 11, 2010

    Yes I’ve felt those hurtful pangs of ‘why isn’t that happening to me?’ What I’ve discovered is that if I can catch those thoughts/feelings in the moment I can ask myself ‘Is that something on MY wish list?’ and usually its not. So then I can be ok, wish them the best and move on in my own direction.

    • August 11, 2010

      Nic, that’s a good point. I think I struggle most when the person is doing something that IS on my wish list, or is something I’d like to add onto it! 😉

      I love your wording though of ‘why isn’t that happening to me?’ As Dave kinda alluded to, it’s usually not ‘happening to us’ because the other person ‘has made it happen!’ i.e. been more proactive, whatever it is…sure, there’s luck involved sometimes, but you know, it’s unlikely that somebody with absolutely nothing going for them just stumbles across success in the street!

      Love it. And looking forward to your interview coming soon! 🙂

  4. […] quote resonated with me big-time, not just because of my recent ramblings and thoughts on the topic of jealousy, but because of my tendency as a performer (and I am sure I’m not alone here!) to put undue […]

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