August 10, 2021

How to Handle People who can’t be Happy for You.


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Has it ever happened that you excitedly told a family member or a friend about your promotion or upcoming travel plans or new home or business growth or new shoes or purchase of a new car—well, you get the gist?

And either they didn’t react at all or they made a sarcastic or rude comment about you being successful?

We have all encountered people who don’t know how to be happy for someone else’s good news. We are all related to that one person who expects you to bring a cheerleading band when something good happens in their life but will go quiet when it’s your turn.

A few years ago, a friend of ours sold their company for a number that I can’t even count. The couple was excited and overwhelmed by what their bank account and accountant told them. My husband and I were so inspired by their commitment, belief, and outcome of all the hard work. We brought them a nice bottle of wine to celebrate.

These friends shared that several people stopped talking to them once the news of their success hit the airwaves. The folks who socialized with them over weekends or vacationed with them or had their children over for playdates…they started to ghost them. As if this couple’s accomplishment reflected their own insufficiencies.

There are people who get caught up in their need to compete with anything and everything. Most people are comfortable when you are doing okay-okay, not excelling in life, because they feel they have company. The minute you exceed any expectations or a level of success they see as “unfathomable,” the silent treatment or derisive remarks start. For some reason, your achievements remind them of their own shortcomings, even if you don’t intentionally make them feel that way.

Over the years, I have learned to not rent out prime real estate, which is my brain, to people who are self-absorbed and jealous. It’s easy to respond to negativity with negativity. But if you are a sensitive individual like me, after an untoward interaction, you might find yourself feeling guilty or wondering if you’ve done something wrong. It’s not worth it.

How to handle those who can’t be happy for you:

1. Be unapologetically you.

You can’t let comments from a jealous person question your self-worth. If their jealousy causes negative feelings for you, take care of yourself first. These people—rather than investing their time in making their own lives better—try to bring others down. Sure, it hurts the most when it’s a family member or a close friend who can’t be pleased for you. But over the years, I have realized that having haters is a sign that you are doing things right in life.

People want what you have but don’t want to put in the hard work, so they lash out. Their jealousy is rooted in their own underlying issues. In India, the streets are filled with stray dogs. They chase every car on the road and bark at every passerby. My mom would often say, “When the dog barks at you, do you bark back at them? When they threaten to bite you, do you do the same in return?” Disarm and move on. I have adapted this attitude toward jealous people.

2. Reset your expectations.

At the start of 2021, I was invited to be a part of a documentary featuring Dr. Deepak Chopra. Pretty big news, right? I shared it on social media because I know my clients and followers would appreciate the big news. But I didn’t mention it to anyone else (aside from a handful of people).

Sometimes, you have to love people from far away to protect yourself. Sometimes, you have to accept other people’s emotional limitations. In fact, when a few friends asked why I didn’t tell others about the documentary, I told them that I didn’t want to leave my happiness in the hands of others or their reaction to my news. Do not feel guilty that you are pulling away by not sharing your life’s story with those who don’t appreciate it. What’s the point if they make you second-guess your hard work and success?

3. Ignore and amuse yourself.

Once you start to see that jealousy is rooted in insecurities and inadequacies, ludicrous commentaries start to sound amusing. I have had people close to me say that my glaring ambition might be the end of my marriage. They have said how I should take a step back and let the focus be the “man.” When I was younger, these proclamations would both scare and anger me. Now, my husband and I laugh off these judgmental statements because we know where the sarcasm or rude comments are stemming from. I can see that their jealousy is fueled by their own insecurities about not being good enough. You cannot control the way people act, but you can control how you react to them.

4. Limit your interaction with toxic people.

In an ideal world, I wish we could hit the delete button and remove anyone from our life who sucks the joy out of it. But you can’t always cut ties with family or those you share any history with. It’s more draining. Trust me; you don’t always want head-on conversations with people who have a misinformed relationship with honesty. I have tried it, and they can minimize your feelings.

I suggest limiting your interaction and not reacting to their disapproval. Even when you do engage with them, don’t talk about your life. Try not to get caught up in their need to compete. For instance, when certain people ask about my upcoming book, A Piece of Peace, I divert the conversation, enquire about their updates, and give them the importance.

5. Take the higher road.

Jealousy is an ugly emotion. Don’t let it make you bitter. I know it’s hard to empathize with someone who makes everything about themselves. It’s so tempting to judge someone who is focused on what they lack instead of being grateful for what they have. But if you reacted to every nasty comment sent your way, where is your own emotional stability?

A jealous person is dealing with their inner demons. If they are going through a difficult time and battling an unhappy slump in life, I hold space for them; if they deliberately make hurtful comments, I don’t retaliate. Conserve your energy as not everyone deserves it. Don’t allow these people to bring you down or impact your emotional health. Not worth it.

6. Find your people.

I have a big network of people, but I talk intimately to only a handful of people. There are people in this world who are good, positive, and loving. Build your circle of trust with them instead of assuming a family member or a friend will always be happy for you. Adults are complicated, and we don’t always know their motivations. The more headspace you give the competitive types, the higher the chances of your self-esteem and confidence getting impacted. Their jealousy is sad but not your problem.

7. Meditate to cleanse your mind.

We can’t avoid some people in our lives. I think of such folks as my karmic debt. What I suggest is meditating before engaging with those who feel triggered by your happiness. Take a few moments to center yourself after the conversation. Keep talks short and general whenever possible.

I have learned that human beings are complex. People who are unconfident about themselves try to bring others down to make themselves feel better. They will find fault in almost anything. Try not to let them get to you.

“The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” ~ William Penn


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