From Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement
I like to watch people’s reactions when they hear about someone else’s good news. Whether it’s a promotion, a big sale, or some other big win, good news can bring out the worst in people.
In my experience, it’s all about one’s personal security (or insecurity). The more insecure a person is, the worse he or she responds to another person’s good news. This might seem obvious but it’s actually quite ironic.
It’s ironic because you’d think someone less “successful” (by whatever standard) would respond the worst when hearing someone else’s good news.
But, if the less “successful” person is a secure individual, he or she won’t be threatened by another’s success. In fact, he or she will probably be motivated by it.
On the contrary, an insecure person who is equally “successful” will almost always respond negatively. It’s so sad because that insecurity totally undoes any benefit that should come with being objectively as successful as the person with good news.
There are few things uglier than seeing an insecure person react to someone else’s success, and it usually happens in one or more of these ways:
They make excuses
They tell themselves that the successful person had an unfair or remarkable advantage. He or she surely got help, or they were born into money, or they just got lucky. If only the insecure person had that same magical advantage, they would have been just as successful. But the insecure person feels they had some special and insurmountable handicap that held them back from greatness. If only they were as “lucky” as the successful person…
They feel threatened
When confronted with another person’s success, the insecure perceive a direct affront to their own situation. Because they compare themselves to the successful, they assume everyone else compares them too. And they dread the loss of face. The insecure see an imaginary, twisted zero-sum world where your success comes at my expense, and every one of your victories is my loss.
They tear down
Because they feel threatened, the insecure respond with a very basic human reaction: eliminate the threat. And the best way to eliminate the threat of another’s success is to destroy that success. To trivialize and bash that success until they feel it has been brought down to their level and is no longer scary. It’s nauseating to see someone tear down something good or successful to satisfy their own petty insecurities.
They are slaves
Because insecure people measure themselves and their own worth by what others do, they will never be free. They will always feel threatened, they will always be anxious, and they will always be unhappy. By surrendering control of their own emotions and self-worth, they are slaves to the actions and opinions of others.
Witnessing an insecure person react negatively to another’s success is actually quite disturbing. Where there should be happiness, there is this festering resentment.
It’s a response that’s childish, unstable, and destructive. It seeks to tear down success and innovation and replace it with excuses and self-pity. It’s truly ugly.