Help Me Choke Down Some Sour Grapes
April 19, 2016 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I am having trouble being not happy for my friend's once in a lifetime opportunity. Can you help?

She is eminently more qualified and objectively more deserving. It was a long-shot for me.

Even knowing this, I'm having a hard time with resentment towards the board (who are friends). And I'm avoiding conversations with her and can't really bring myself to be celebratory - or even gracious.

I thought I was better than this, but I guess not.
posted by j_curiouser to Human Relations (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It's perfectly okay to feel how you feel. I would take some time away (as far away as you can get without being awful about it) to lick your wounds and regroup, and then you can probably get back on-track and be happy for your friend.
posted by xingcat at 7:57 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do it writing. Send a card congratulating her.
posted by chapps at 7:59 PM on April 19, 2016 [15 favorites]

You don't have to feel celebratory and it's not about being "better" than this. We are wired to feel some jealousy -- it's part of the human animal.

But you don't want to express that. Send a card, a congratulatory text, or whatever is usual for you guys and give it some time.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:05 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the only way out is through, in most cases. It doesn't make you bad to have hard scary difficult feelings about things - it happens, and this won't be the last time. Think of it as practice for the toughest blow of your life, which you probably haven't faced yet.

If you can, it's best to not tell her, because this is about you and not her, but if you are cornered and need to come up with something gracious, just tell her you know she got a great opportunity that she deserved, but it has given you some existential angst that you just have to get through.

Feel your feelings. Don't grab on to any of them and stop them from passing, but feel them. Practice not blaming her, and find compassion and goodwill for her even in the face of your disappointment. Swallow the bitter pill, shit it out, move on.

Keep your eyes peeled for your next opportunity.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:06 PM on April 19, 2016 [30 favorites]

You can acknowledge your feelings but not let them influence your actions. Congratulate her.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:20 PM on April 19, 2016 [10 favorites]

I think sometimes it's helpful to remember that we can't control our feelings, but we can control how we respond to them. It's totally okay to be upset/angry/jealous. Acknowledge those feelings as valid. Then fake your way through being congratulatory, and go back to being upset in private.
posted by radioamy at 8:50 PM on April 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

Long term view: they had to choose the most qualified candidate. Luckily they chose someone you know and who (hopefully) thinks highly of you, and you never know how these connections can be useful to you in the future. It was a long shot, but now your friend is going to be placed to help you get a leg up somewhere; even if not at this same organization, she'll have a network that may be a useful resource someday.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:45 PM on April 19, 2016 [22 favorites]

There's a giant chance you are going to feel better about this real soon, don't beat yourself up about your legitimate disappointment here. We paint a picture of how things are going to be and then reality does something else. That's when we need a few days or weeks to paint a new picture. Let yourself have that time, but do send a congrats to her, and perhaps a thanks to the team for considering you, and then take a little starvation where you are out of touch for a few days and can unclench.
posted by Iteki at 10:39 PM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Good for you for acknowledging this feeling! Many people aren't self-aware enough to have the thought you just had, Jesus. Stuff that helped me:

Buddhist writings on attachment

Learning the difference between scarcity vs. abundance mentalities!

Life is packed with opportunities. Keep grinding and yours will come.
posted by jessca84 at 10:43 PM on April 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

In sales there's a technique called the "puppy close." If you want someone to really want your product (the puppy), let them hold it, play with it, imagine it is theirs. Then they will be less willing to let it go and more willing to buy / listen to your pitch. It plays on the buyer's emotions and can be really effective.

You knew you were a long shot for the job, but they took you seriously as a candidate. You probably took that as a sign that you really had a shot (especially as the board are friends, who might be willing to overlook your shortcomings where strangers wouldn't) - and held the job mentally, pictured yourself in it (or getting it), made it feel like yours. So losing it becomes more than an intellectual loss - your emotions were invested.

This is a hard disappointment to get over, but try to remember it has nothing to do with your friend. If someone else was a better fit for what they wanted, they would have gotten the job. The good news is that now you have yet another 'in' at the company, so being gracious and saying congratulations isn't just the right thing to do, it's also in your best interests. You can even tell your friends on the board, "I didn't realize how much I wanted that job till I didn't get it -- keep me in the loop if anything like it opens up again."

There are very few truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Lifetimes are long and opportunities are all over the place. And the best way to find opportunities these days tends to be through our connections with our friends. So if you can't feel the selflessness that you feel you need to give a hearty congratulations, settle for a selfishly-motivated one that now she's primed to help you down the road. Time will do the rest of the work for you.
posted by Mchelly at 3:38 AM on April 20, 2016 [24 favorites]

I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but when I'm feeling jealous of another woman's success, I try to frame it in my head as a win for women. It seems silly maybe, but that helps me feel more proud of them and less upset at myself.
posted by smirkyfodder at 4:16 AM on April 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd mix my congratulations with the truth, "Congratulations! I'm pea green with envy!"

Sometimes voicing your feelings makes you feel better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:26 AM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

In addition to all the great points above, I'd note that from your description it doesn't sound like the reason you didn't get this opportunity was because they chose your friend instead - if you were a long-shot, odds are good that if it hadn't gone to your friend it would have gone to someone else anyway. Maybe it would help to think of it in those terms - better that it go to someone you know and care about (and who can possibly help you in the future) than some rando.
posted by DingoMutt at 4:52 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I once told a colleague who was promoted over me (as in your case, deservedly, though we were friendly acquaintances rather than friends) something to the effect of, "It'll be fine, but it might take me a few weeks to get used to this." I think that it helped her understand and accept my unhappiness -- and, importantly, know that it wasn't going to be permanent. And indeed I did get over it, and we went on to work quite well together.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 5:02 AM on April 20, 2016

There is a phrase that I use on myself sometimes, when I am spiraling down into negative/critical/cranky thoughts (because my personality means I love DWELLING on them and making myself feel worse and worse and more and more resentful). I don’t remember who originally said it, but it goes like this: “a bird might land on your head, but you don’t have to let it make a nest in your hair.”

A thought might occur to me, but I don’t have to give it a tender loving home. So when a jealous thought occurs to me, I try to “shoo” it, by thinking opposite thoughts.

-My friend deserves this.
-My friend’s success does not preclude my own.
-If my friend was in a different industry than mine, I would be ecstatic for her success.
-My friend’s success does not diminish me. That is a jerkbrain lie that I can ignore, because it is untrue.
-I contain multitudes: I am able to feel sad for my own loss while feeling joy for my friend’s success.
-I have made the best choices for myself that I could, given my circumstances, and they made me not the best candidate. But they also made me the best candidate for another job I don’t know about yet.

I know the feeling, by the way— there is a unique pain to watching your friends get your dream job. But the good news is, if you stay supportive, you might eventually get to hear them complain about all the petty annoyances that come with any job, and that makes it easier to bear in the long term!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:17 AM on April 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

Thank you for asking this great question. I do this thing, too, over and over, all of the time. I have nothing to add to the great stuff above, but I'll just repeat a couple of a fiendish thingy's nifty mottoes here first (and then the next time this happens. and the next and the next):

“a bird might land on your head, but you don’t have to let it make a nest in your hair.”
-I have made the best choices for myself that I could, given my circumstances, and they made me not the best candidate. But they also made me the best candidate for another job I don’t know about yet.

(Hm... I note that these are the two most me-centered of the possible fiendish mottoes. The two with NO mention of my successful friend... I note this... and then I pass gently on... Perhaps there is some self-improving lesson I could learn from noticing that I always choose me-centeredness whenever it is an option... ...but if there is, it is a lesson for a different day. Or how about a lesson for never: If we are tempted to throw an embarrassing temper tantrum because somebody else did better but we resist? Huge win. Yooooge!)
posted by Don Pepino at 7:21 AM on April 20, 2016

My advice is to fake it til you make it. Jealousy is just a feeling, and while feelings are uncontrollable, you can still control your actions. She might have an inkling of how you feel, but she can't read your mind, and she's happy so she's probably not nitpicking for your feelings. Behave correctly and you'll be fine.

Buy her decent flowers or some kind of treat like cupcakes, and write a nice short card- "Huge congratulations- this is so well-deserved and you're gonna be amazing! I am so proud of you!"

If you feel like you'll act weird around her, then drop the gift off at a time you suspect she won't be around or when you have a plausible excuse for not staying long. (If needed, practice smiling and sounding happy in the car, maybe talk to a funny friend on the phone about cheerful subjects, and play happy music on the way there- get your energy up, so you're in a peppy mood when you see her).

Maybe also write a public congratulatory message to her on social media (Tweet or FB at her) if that's appropriate for your relationship and friend group culture.

Jealousy is human, it's natural, and eventually, your jealousy will subside. Just do something nice to tide over the awkward time when it's still really present.

If you want to tell her you're jealous, wait 6 months or so til her glow has gone back to normal- don't taint her happiness with your bad feelings. Personally I'd avoid even saying "Congrats, I'm envious"- sure, it's true, but it won't make her feel good. Tell another friend you're envious instead, let that one friend just enjoy her happiness.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:02 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Take some time alone and allow yourself to go deeply into the feeling. Experience the bitterness, the jealousy, the unfairness of it all. Allow yourself to feel rejected. Take it personally. Feel sorry for yourself and generously heap on self-pity. Weep about it if that comes up. Imagine telling off everyone, including your friends on the board and the person who got the job. Burn all those bridges in your imagination. Write a letter to god, protesting this raw deal. Reminisce about all the other times in your life that you got treated less well than you deserved.

Keep on going in this direction - in a while the resentment will start to dry up. Be sure to ask, "Is there anything more?" And stay with it until you really can't do anything other than repeat things you've already said.

Emerge out of this time, and do something deeply kind to yourself - buy an ice cream cone, walk on the beach, go to a spa, whatever you feel is appropriate for someone who got treated unjustly through no fault of their own.

After that - find some way to congratulate your friend that doesn't hurt too much. If she's a really good friend you could let them know how you must admit to feeling some envy, but that you are wishing her the best.
posted by jasper411 at 12:16 PM on April 20, 2016

I was once doing the misery loves company thing with a friend for a while, and at some point my situation markedly improved while her situation was such that she was going to have to accept it as the new normal.

I respected her a lot for telling me, to my face, "look, I am truly happy for you, but I am not going to be able to be around you for a while". I understood instantly and there were no hard feelings between us. Eventually we were able to be together again.
posted by vignettist at 12:27 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's not all directed at her. You are sad because you didn't get something you wanted, disappointed. Be kind to yourself, try to set some realistic goals for your own progress. Be understanding with yourself. I think that will help you find your way towards happiness for your friend. Posting this was surely not easy, and you want to be happy for Friend. I think you are a nicer person than you realize.
posted by theora55 at 12:42 PM on April 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

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