You’re Jealous of Your Friend’s Success—What Do You Do?

Your friend just landed a big promotion and you’re happy for her... on the outside. The truth is, you’re overcome with jealousy and resentment. Does that mean you’re a terrible friend? Maria Luedeke, psychotherapist and Director of Aspire Counselling, breaks it down for us.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Of course you love your friend, but...

Despite your best efforts to be supportive, pesky thoughts like “why isn’t this me?” and “I kind of hope something doesn’t work out” might creep in when they achieve something awesome.

According to Maria, there could be a few factors at play—the first being that you may start to feel like you have less things to bond over.

“You may not have as many things in common to talk about if you’re in different stages of life—be it professional (i.e., your friend gets a big promotion at work and is suddenly travelling and hobnobbing with a different crowd) or personal (i.e., your friend gets engaged and is suddenly swept up in planning her wedding, having engagement parties and being introduced to new family/ friends of her future spouse).” Naturally, this results in her having less time to spend with you. 

“Another component is feeling like you’re just not measuring up to [the same] measure of ‘success’ either of your own construct or society’s construct. For example, you may have set a goal to be a manager by 30, or married by 28, and if your friend achieves it and you don’t, you may feel inferior and that can cause resentment,” Maria adds. 


Getting over it

Acceptance is usually the first step to getting rid of those negative emotions—not to mention the guilt that’s tied to feeling bitter about your friends’ achievements.

“Being human means experiencing the whole gamut of emotions, some of them not always pretty. But admitting you’re human, identifying the emotion and then admitting that it’s a logical reaction to the thoughts you’re having is helpful,” says Maria.

Once you identify the thoughts causing the negativity, you can begin to reframe them in a more positive light and take control of your emotions. Maria recommends “shifting jealousy and refocusing on your own goals and achievements” and being honest with your friend. Admitting how you feel to yourself—and to her—can help the both of you adjust to the new circumstances. It might not be an easy conversation, but sometimes, it’s necessary.

“If you’re worried that your friend’s promotion will mean that you’ll be excluded from her new social circle… make a plan to stay connected,” says Maria. 

Better yourself

Think about what you can do to help yourself feel happier at your own job. You may be taking your career and privilege for granted. If that isn’t the case, you’ll need to muster the courage to quit and look for something better.

“There is usually at least one driving force behind why we have chosen to do the jobs we do: the money, the connections we make, the pathway it leads to, the environment and co-workers, or a great boss,” says Maria. If you go to sleep dreading going to work in the morning, feel miserable throughout the day, and return home in a foul mood, then it’s time to reflect on what’s holding you back from getting a new job.

If fear is the culprit, Maria says your resentment could be attributed to the fact that you don’t feel “good enough” to take the risks your friends do. Her advice?

“Life is short and work should either be the means to us enjoying our best life, or a part of our life’s purpose. For a lucky few, it can be both, but [how we think about our jobs] lies within each of us… and as a result, how we feel about our jobs [is something we control].”