We all want to be the kind of people who are happy for others when they experience success or a cause for celebration in their lives. But it isn’t always easy. Let’s face it, it can be hard to be happy around other people’s success when our own life seems far from ideal. As much as we want to celebrate their triumphs, it can make us feel like we’re shrivelling up inside.

Instead of reaching out and celebrating, we may feel the rising up of our own pain. This pain may arise because we feel envious of our friend for having something we don’t have. It may arise because our friend’s success will lead to us losing them in some way. And it may arise for reasons we don’t yet understand.

While we are not a horrible person for secretly wishing for your friend to fail sometimes, the inability to be happy for them points to a lack of self-esteem. When we feel comfortable about where we are, we are less likely to compare our status and achievements with others. We are less likely to be affected by external factors, such as others’ opinions. We are likely able to feel happy for our friends’ achievements.

So, how can we be happy for others while feeling green? It starts with accepting our feelings. The important thing is not to brush it under the rug. Take it seriously and look at it. Suppressing it will only make it worse. It is helpful to speak to someone who is not a close friend. Ask whether what we feel is normal, or if we are being judgmental or resentful as a way of expressing envy.

If thoughts like “How are they crushing it, and why aren’t I?” pop up, see that as a reason for us to get curious and find out why. Are we clear about the path to success? It can be hard to cheer for someone else going after their goals when our own goals feel unclear.
If we’re not clear about our own goals, write them down – yes, on real paper with a pen. For each goal, create a 3-step action plan so we know how to get started. If not, ask our successful friends about what it took for them to get to where they are. Or, spend time listening to the non-linear journeys other people took to reach their goals.

The way we talk to ourself might be our biggest obstacle. Speak to ourself kindly. The voice in our head should reflect motivation and inspiration, not doubt and fear. Try writing down “I am” statements, following it up with something positive. For example: “I am successful in my life” or “I am capable of making progress.”

And, define our terms. For example: If we want to be successful in our life, we must define what our idea of success is. Our idea of success may look different than someone else’s.

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

Find a way to congratulate our friends and celebrate their successes as if they were our own. Cheering them on can help us see their achievements as something to inspire us. It improves our relationship with other people, and can help us see their win as something to inspire us – not send us into a comparison spiral.

Extending ourselves to celebrate the happiness of others requires a generosity of spirit that we sometimes find only in the process of doing it. Don’t forget to congratulate ourself for what we’re doing, and remind ourself we have other things we’re proud of and grateful for.