How to be truly happy for others, even when you’re jealous inside

  • It can be difficult to celebrate your friends and their success when your own life seems less than perfect, but you can still be supportive
  • Social media can make people feel insecure, so taking time off can be good for your mental health
Doris Wai |

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It's totally normal to feel envious of your friends' success - but you shouldn't let it take over or treat them poorly.

Let’s face it, it can be difficult to be happy around friends’ success when our own life seems far from ideal. As much as we want to celebrate when they achieve something, it can make us feel like we’re shrivelling up inside.

Lora Lee, a child psychologist and member of the Hong Kong Psychologist Society, tells Young Post why it’s perfectly natural to be sore about your IG influencer friends and their stellar grades, but insists there are ways to be happy for others when you’re clearly not feeling it.

“We all have our insecurities, and it is made worse by social media and comparisons to those around you,” says Lee.

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“It is absolutely normal to be envious if you feel that you just can’t seem to have the grades and number of followers and ‘likes’ you want, and yet your friends do.”

Lee breaks that green-eyed monster within us into two main forms: benign envy and malicious envy.

“Benign envy often motivates us to do better to match our competitor’s accomplishments,” she explains. On the other hand, “Someone who has malicious envy might attempt to attack or pull down the person they are envious of.”

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A telltale sign of malicious envy is social isolation or relational aggression, such as forming a “hate group” to damage someone’s reputation. This can happen when the need to bring down someone else becomes almost an obsession.

“For example, when you hear a friend is doing well, you cannot stop reminding others about their weakness, in order to make them seem less successful,” says Lee.

While you are not a horrible person if you secretly wish for your has-it-all friend to fail sometimes, the inability to be happy for them can indicate a lack of self-esteem.

Sometimes it can be hard to be happy for other people - especially if your own life isn't going as you'd planned.

She explains: “When you are feeling comfortable about where you are, you are less likely to compare your status and achievements with others. You also are less likely to be affected by external factors, such as others’ opinions.

“This also means if you have healthy self-esteem, you are likely to display benign envy, or better still, are able to feel happy for your friends’ achievements.”

So, how can you be happy for others while feeling green? It starts with accepting your feelings. It can be helpful to speak to someone who is not a close friend, about whether what you feel is normal, or if you are being judgmental as a way of expressing envy.

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Lee says that more often than not, social media is the culprit for fuelling envy.

“If that’s the reason for your sleepless nights, remind yourself that what others post might not be their ‘real’ life. Rather, it’s simply a moment they are proud of. Taking time out from social media might help lessen the intensity of that feeling.”

How to deal with Insta jealousy

She adds we can always make choices that impact how we feel. Rather than letting emotions control you, focus on the positive parts of a situation and embrace them. Write down the reasons why you should be happy for your friend. Join in their celebration by sending a simple “Yay!” or “Congratulations!” message, and let the negative emotions fade into the background.

Cheering them on can also help you see their achievements as something to inspire you.

Most importantly, don’t forget to congratulate yourself for what you’re doing, and remind yourself you have other things you’re proud of and grateful for.

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