Schadenfreude is a German word for happiness at the misfortune of others.
And who hasn’t felt better being there for their friends in times of need? But this intention can also manifest in sneakier ways: displeasure at our friend’s success.
Perhaps you just experienced something good in your life; you got a great teaching slot at an amazing studio, lost weight, fell in love, or got something published in a magazine. You’re so happy that you want to share it with your closest friends, the people you hope will be happy for you, the ones you count on to share in your joy. You meet your friend for coffee to share your great news and their reaction is to downplay it, and they may even seem amused by your excitement. Their lack of shared excitement leaves you hurt and wondering what you did wrong.
Of course, we’re talking about jealousy, something which can have a corrosive effect on a friendship. And its not always out in the open but rather wrapped under layers of passive aggression and veiled hostility.
They say that tough times are when you find out who your real friends are but I contend that you actually find out just as much when you’re experiencing success.
Some friends like you the way you were; the one who was lonely, unfulfilled, and struggling right alongside them, and when your world starts to expand it makes them uncomfortable. In some cases, they want to keep you small so they’ll start trying to cut you down to size so their world feels “right” yet again.
7 Signs Your Friend May Be Jealous
The Slow Fade:
Your friend finds ways to spend less and less time with you as your practice, your hard work, and sacrifice starts to manifest into the life you’ve always wanted. To them, your happiness is a constant reminder of their unhappiness and, as a result, they’d rather stay away. Sometimes its disguised as being “really busy” or they’ll just slowly disappear. A friend who is not jealous will want to celebrate with you, a jealous one skips the party every time.
Backhanded Compliments (the Positive-Negative Routine):
No matter what you did, they find a way to give the credit to someone else. Just had a great photo shoot? “It’s because of the lighting and editing.” Just got a new job? “It’s because you know someone.” Just book a few workshops in another city? “It’s because you’re good at marketing.” A deeply jealous friend can never acknowledge that you may actually have earned or even deserve the good things that are happening to you.
The Saccharin Response:
This response is insincere and usually offered by someone who is aware of their jealously and trying to overcompensate. They put a big fake smile on their face (seeming to forget that you know what their real smile looks like) and act overly happy. It leaves you feeling hollow and unsupported and if they were truly happy for you, you’d know it.
You share your good news with a friend and they act unexcited or immediately seek to cut it (and you) down to size, veiling it with words like “perspective” or claiming they “just want help you keep your feet on the ground” or “be realistic.” They’ll often be sure to remind you of your past failures while they’re at it.
Its one thing to ask some reasonable questions to make sure you’ve thought of everything but something completely different when they’re putting a damper on every good thing that comes your way. A true friend is neither stingy with the adjectives nor trying to pull you back down to earth—they’re flying up there right alongside you.
The Constant Tear Down:
This friend’s jealousy manifests itself as a barrage of constant criticism, often disguised as “tough love” or “just being real.” The problem is that its too often not accompanied by an equal or greater measure of praise and support. This could even be your friend coming to your yoga class and being the one person in the room taking little jabs at you or saying things under their breath so others can hear it…things you’d expect from anyone but your closest friends. Sometimes it means going to a friend’s yoga class, telling them about an injury you’ve got, and they then proceed to lead the class through every asana which targets that injury…either consciously or unconsciously seeking to diminish you.
This can also manifest itself as this person talking about you behind your back, tearing you, your achievements, and your relationships down. A real friend knows your faults and failings, but loves you anyway, and tries to help you see both your best self and be your best self.
Lack of Support:
You’re looking into trying something new and exciting and a jealous friend always tells you that “you’re no smart enough” or “you’re not well suited” for a job, a romance, or just about anything you really want. Sometimes you’re not ready, but a true friend will not give you that input unless its truly warranted, and not just to keep you small. A true friend is able to say these three words “go for it.”
Or, you have something big coming up and really need your friend’s help but just when you need them most, they aren’t available. They’ll come up with some great excuses too. But a true friend who wants you to succeed and be happy will find a way to be there for you when you need them. They may not be perfect or able to be there every time, but they’ve always got your back.
The Dimmer Switch:
Sometimes a friend is just jealous of you or uncomfortable with how brightly your light is shining and they ask you to tone it down or dim your light…asking you to be less of you. You’ll hear this often expressed with terms like “you’re too much (insert personal quality trait here).” It doesn’t matter whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, someone who really loves you would never ask you to be less of who you are but rather, they want the real you—turned up to 11.
What Can You Do About It?
Basically, if every time you have success or good news, your friend acts distant, or dismissive, it could mean they are jealous. Or, if you start censoring yourself and find it awkward or difficult to talk to them about things that make you happy, it might mean you’re friend is Jealous Judy or Envious Ed. The important part here is that just because they are jealous, it may not mean the friendship is over.
Here are some aspects to consider.
Examine Your Actions and Intentions:
Here we look to the fourth niyama, svadhyaya. Sva means “self” and adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination.” Look deep and ask yourself, are you doing anything that could be intensifying their feelings of jealousy? Are they in a bad place in their life and have you not been attentive enough of their needs?
See if you can put yourself in their shoes and if you can identify why they may be feeling the way they do. Take responsibility for your actions and intentions and bring that forth into the next step.
Communicate with Your Friend:
Take the time to talk about it with your friend and see why they may be feeling the way they do. Don’t be surprised if their first reaction is one of denial or to say you are imagining things. Some people are not aware of how their jealousy manifests itself so let them know what you hear from them and how it makes you feel, using “I” statements like “when I hear you react this way, it makes me feel…”
Find out it they are going through a rough patch or if you managed to ignore or brush past their last success. Let them know how important your friendship is to you and see if you can both make a conscious effort to be more supportive and celebrate each others good news as if it was your own.
Bridge The Gap:
Once you’ve opened the channels of communication on this issue and cleared the air now the real work begins. See if you can find common ground on how to work through it together. In most cases, your friend will be open to this dialogue which means the friendship is on solid ground. If however they refuse to take responsibility for their actions and instead keep the finger pointed at you, its probably time to evaluate whether you need to stay in this soul-draining relationship. It might be time to let go and move on.
It has been said before and it remains true that as your practice transforms you and your life expands, some people around you will not be able to take the next steps with you—and sometimes they can actively resist your growth.
As much as you want to help your friend find happiness and release from jealousy, that is something only they can do themselves. It is their choice and no amount of cajoling on your part will get them there.
You probably don’t want to make any of your friends unhappy, so why let yourself be diminished and drained in the process as well? If you’ve followed the three steps above and the situation has not improved or gotten toxic, its best to understand that letting go is the only way. So, all you can do is forgive them for how they’ve hurt you and set them free.
The space you’ll create in your life will open you up to build the nourishing kinds of relationships you need. Your journey will become much easier and you’ll be happier by surrounding yourself with positively oriented people who are just as committed to growth and transformation as you are.