“I got promoted!”
It is not questionable that you are immensely happy for your dear friend. You love her to the moon and back. And you get a front row seat to watch her incredible life unfold. She deserves every ounce of happiness in the world! She is living a dream life!
….Which, coincidentally, also happens to be your dream life. And you feel terrible about it.
Yep. You feel like a shit person for feeling sad for yourself while your friend deserves all the warm and fuzzies the world has to offer – especially from you.
You don’t want to be this person.
You don’t want your friend to notice any hesitancy or melancholy in your voice. You want to be their biggest cheerleader – but you can’t shake off your own personal disappointments. You have always wanted exactly what they are experiencing right now, and you can’t help but wonder if it will ever happen for you, too.
So what do you do? How do you handle negative emotions when your friend shares good news?
Well, for starters, you follow these steps.
Understand that your positive emotions and negative emotions are not mutually exclusive
You can feel sad and happy at the same time. This does not make you a bad person.
You are allowed to acknowledge your sad feelings and express your positive feelings. You are allowed to recognize that her amazing news shines a little too bright on your shortcomings. And you can feel safe knowing that none of your sad feelings are chipping away at your positive ones.
Think of it this way: your two best friends, Katie and Karen, are both up for the same promotion. Both are qualified. Both are nice people. Both are deserving.
Katie gets the promotion.
You are very happy for Katie. You are very sad for Karen.
Now, does your sadness for Karen take away from your happiness for Katie? No. Of course not. You want to shout from the rooftops that Katie totally deserved this promotion, and you also want to cry in a corner for Karen because she didn’t get an amazing opportunity she also deserved.
They are two separate emotions that are co-existing.
Ok, I know, this might not be the most sophisticated or interesting metaphor you’ve ever read, but it still makes sense (fingers crossed).
Once you can accept this notion, your guilt is going to dissipate. Once you allow yourself to feel all of the emotions at once, you will understand that they do not have to blend together. So you need not feel guilty about your sadness when you are genuinely happy for a friend. Your happiness can shine through regardless of whatever rainstorm is brewing within.
Remember that milestones happen in different orders
There is no “right” order for how your life is going to unfold. And although you absolutely adore your friend and would love to be synced up with her pace, life doesn’t work like that.
There is a very low chance you and your best friend are going to get engaged, married, promoted, pregnant, homeownership status, or anything of the liking at the same time. In fact they probably won’t even happen in the same year.
This doesn’t mean that one of you is “ahead” and one of you is “behind.”
Because while she is out there getting herself married, you might be working like a dog on your career. And a few years down the road, it might be your turn to get married while she is hustling her career. You both are going to get there. You’re just not going to get there at the same time.
You didn’t miss the boat just because someone else got on the early ride.
You have plenty of time, and you don’t have to keep pace with your friend, even if you love them. So remember that your life might be “out of order” compared to what you thought it would look like, but that doesn’t make it wrong or slow or “off.” It just means you have to adjust and have faith that your big moments are still on their way.
Get it out in the open
It’s ok to talk about yucky feelings to your friend when she’s celebrating. Maybe not simultaneously, that could be awkward. But you can be honest about your disappointments in your own life. That’s what friends are for.
However, it’s not ok to blame her for any of your sad feelings. It’s not ok to shame her for sharing her news. And it’s definitely not ok to end a friendship over it.
But it is ok to be honest. Your friend loves you. She’s sharing fun news with you because she wants you to be a part of it. And she doesn’t want to hurt you in the process. You, on the other hand, don’t want your friend to restrain herself in her moment of pure bliss because of your ego. So what do you do?
The only way to prevent walking on egg shells around her is to get out in front of it.
Tell her “I’m so happy for you, but I can’t help but think about where I am in my life.”
Remember that you LOVE her, and ideally you should give her permission to beam in her happiness even though it might give you pain. Just don’t lie to her. Your friendship was not built on inauthenticity. It was built on trust. So just come out with it! She is going to understand. As long as you make sure to point out that it isn’t HER you are upset with – it’s your life circumstances – she is going to try her hardest to understand that perspective and console you when needed.
Always remember, this friendship is about BOTH of you.
It’s not ALL about one person and then ALL about another due to circumstances. You have a role in this friendship, and your friend can be there for you just as much as you are there for her. So be honest. Let her help. And together, you two can celebrate your accomplishments and mourn your setbacks together.
Be sure to process it outside of your relationship
Your friend is more than likely your go-to person for talking things out. You might not tell her everything, but she is definitely your venting buddy (aren’t all friends?). So once you have come out with the hurt and been honest about your pain, what’s next?
It might be overkill to continue to talk about your lack of a boyfriend or crummy job when your friend is just trying to enjoy her moment. You want to be there for each other, but sometimes it’s appropriate to find other outlets so things don’t get tense.
So, when her happiness highlights your disappointment, it’s a good idea to have to find other sources to vent to – but it can’t get back to her.
Your friend will feel crushed if she knows how much her milestones are truly affecting you, and she may feel hurt that you are going to somebody else to discuss it. So try to keep the venting out of the same social circle. She obviously already knows you are struggling (see above), but she doesn’t have to be reminded of it every time she talks to you or a mutual friend. So instead, talk to someone else.
Who, you might ask?
Well. I’m a little biased. But I must say, Blush coaches are experts in this field.
Ok, ok – all joking aside – I think it is better for you to talk to a professional because they know how to help you process feelings like jealousy, guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Venting only gets you so far. Use this situation to motivate you to seek out some help. It seriously cannot hurt!
Having trouble being happy for your friend?
Don’t feel like a bad person! I PROMISE you – you are a good friend, and you are going to push through this! You just might need a little help along the way. The good news is, that’s what we are here for. If you are ready to keep your friendship strong and your confidence stronger, you need to join us today.