How to Be Happy (not Jealous) for Other People’s Success

A reader asks:

I tend to get jealous when someone I care about succeeds. I wish I wasn’t like this. How can I stop feeling jealous and start feeling happy for people when they succeed.

Your question makes me think of a quote from author James Clear

Be excited for people when they succeed. When a friend or family member reaches an important milestone like getting a promotion or making their first sale or scoring acceptance into their desired program, celebrate it. Buy them a drink. Send them a card. Tell them you’re proud to know them. Being thrilled on someone’s behalf is a lovely way to be. Winning is better when shared.

What’s important are the first two words… “Be excited.”

Technically excited is an emotion, which you can’t just turn on. So the idea isn’t that you should somehow force yourself to feel something you don’t.

Instead, I interpret the advice to be excited behaviorally. That is, regardless of how you happen to feel, act excited anyway…

  • Send a congratulations card even if you don’t feel happy for them.
  • Tell them you admire all their hard work, even if you feel jealous of them.

This isn’t inauthentic. There’s nothing inconsistent in telling someone you admire their hard work and feeling jealous of them at the same time. It’s like going to the gym even though you feel like watching TV… Yes, your actions are not congruent with your feelings. But so what? In many cases, this is a good thing!

What matters is that you align your actions with your values. If your feelings happen to align with your values too, great. But just because your feelings don’t align with your values doesn’t mean you can’t still act that way.

So, why did I begin my answer to your question with Jame’s advice about being excited for people?

Here’s why:

The road between feelings and action is a two-way street.

Feeling good often makes it easier to act…

  • It’s easier to exercise when you feel energized and motivated.
  • It’s easier to say I love you when you feel in-love with someone.

But our actions also affect how we feel…

  • Exercising—despite not “feeling it” initially—almost always leads to feeling better afterward.
  • Saying “I love you” to your spouse—if you’re not “feeling it” in the moment—can lead to feeling more loving toward them.

The mistake is thinking you need to feel right before you can act right.

You don’t. And in fact, one of the best ways to change how you feel is to act in a way that aligns with your values regardless of how you feel in the moment.

So, getting back to your question of how to not feel so jealous when someone you know succeeds…

First of all, remember that how you feel is not something you ever have direct control over. Sometimes you’re just gonna feel jealous. That’s a bummer, but it happens to all of us and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

But more importantly, it shouldn’t hold you back from acting in a way you believe is right.

So my advice is this:

Practice behaving as if you did genuinely feel happy for them. And, over time, you might just find that your feelings will follow.