The social narrative we often hear goes something like this: your friends, family, and colleagues are always thrilled to witness your triumphs. The painful reality, however, is far from this idealised version. Many times, our victories are met with ambivalence, envy, or even outright resentment.
The moment you secure that coveted promotion, find your soulmate, or buy your dream house, a peculiar atmosphere can set in. Instead of expected exhilaration, there’s an awkward silence, a veiled hint of jealousy, or even open resentment. This scenario is familiar to those who aspire to outperform and overachieve.
Critics of success tend to dismiss this phenomenon as the inevitable consequence of an overachiever’s penchant for showing off. But the reality is, ascending the corporate ladder naturally brings increased visibility and responsibilities. You’re in the spotlight, expected to lead and represent your industry. Detractors might label this as boastful, but it’s just the reality of achieving significant career progress.
In my personal experience, I’ve noticed a pattern. Many individuals I started with in my career are now somewhat “stuck”. They’re comfortably ensconced in their roles, uninterested in shaking up the status quo. Their work-life balance is just fine, and they’re content. And that’s perfectly fine; I respect that choice. But with a child-free lifestyle and both my partner and myself holding C-suite positions, our perception of work-life balance looks different. We willingly embrace longer workweeks and tight schedules because that’s what works for us.
Intriguingly, it’s often not your closest allies who show genuine joy at your achievements. In my experience, my small, intimate circle of family and friends are incredible pillars of support and inspiration. But it’s the successful individuals outside my immediate circle who exude genuine happiness at my accomplishments. Many of these are other C-suite executives who don’t feel threatened by my success and offer enthusiastic encouragement.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but some friendships sour because of success. Contrary to the perceived notion, being successful does not equate to bragging, and successful individuals should not need to apologise for their achievements. The world isn’t a battleground with limited spots for success. Like love, success is infinite. There’s room for everyone to excel without stepping on each other’s toes, especially among family and friends.
I now aspire to live a Zen lifestyle, centred around mindfulness, meditation, and spreading positive energy. I’ve foregone alcohol, focusing instead on the clarity and centredness that mindfulness brings. The energy we pour into the world has a profound influence on what we receive. Even if I find some people distasteful, I’ve learned to relinquish hatred. Hatred is a self-destructive force, akin to clutching a live grenade.
Never let the bitterness of others deter you from your path or dampen your spirit. It’s a bitter pill when these detractors turn out to be long-time friends or colleagues. But resolve to rise above, not descend to their level. Use your leadership to uplift those deserving of opportunities.
Remember, the world owes you nothing. Success is an ongoing commitment, a rent payable every single day. Don’t let yourself be drained by the resentment of those who begrudge your success. Forge your path, head held high, bolstered by the knowledge that your success is well-earned and well-deserved.
Emily Sanderson is a seasoned executive, mindfulness advocate, and passionate believer in celebrating personal success.