Old Habits Die Hard: Learning Not To Dim My Light So Others Can Feel Like They’re Shining

July 3, 2012  |  

It’s amazing how often I’ll tell someone good news and get the response, “you’re happy, right?” It’s probably because I’ve told them in my classic, monotone, don’t show too much emotion, Visine commercial voice that I’ve become accustomed to when it comes to sharing something positive. It’s sort of a buffer I’ve developed since I realized that people will try to rain on your parade faster than an anti-LGBT group at a rainbow pride event if their lives aren’t going equally well. And so, for the most part, I celebrate in solitude, share the news with people around me when I get around to it, most times downplaying the achievement, and block out their reaction like they never said a word to begin with.

I could probably take this defense mechanism back to grade school and high school days with non-immediate family making me feel like certain accomplishments were never enough, but I don’t feel like going that deep today. Besides, ever since they realized it was possible for someone to survive New York for years without having a breakdown, going broke, being murdered, or getting knocked up, they’re pretty much in my corner on anything I do now. Unfortunately, I can’t always say the same for some members of the support system known as my so-called friends.

I remember a few years back when I was stuck in a job I hated with another girl who started at the same time and was equally miserable. We had grown very close and were both on a GTFOH mission to find new jobs pronto. We sent each other potential positions, looked over each other’s resumes, and shared whatever leads we had, but the race to the exit got a little more real when it seemed like I had a leg up in the competition. I remember I’d sent my resume for an open position directly to someone I’d had contact with before at the company and within a couple of hours I received a call for an interview. I raced over to her desk to tell her the news and was met with a “that’s good” that would be the equivalent of someone trying to convince their child getting sixth place in a race was still winning. I was shocked, angry, and hurt because I thought if anyone would understand why this was a huge deal it would be her. Instead I heard her slamming things at her desk, walking around with a red, puffy face, and if I’m not mistaken, crying by the end of the work day, as I ended up coming by and assuring her that she would find something soon. Ironically, I didn’t get that job and she ended up leaving the company before I did, which of course was all good because the shoe was on the other foot.

A similar thing happened to me not long ago when I was telling my best guy friend about my current position. As a little back story, I’d quit my job with a previous employer, moved back home to freelance full-time, and had no clue what was going to be next for me. Everyone knew how perplexed I was about the situation at first and they didn’t seem to mind hearing those stories of desperation, but when I had something good to tell, it appeared to fall on deaf ears. When I told him I’d be coming on with MN full-time, the phone went dead silent. I mean, check the phone to see if we were still connected silent. Then he followed that up with, “dang everybody is on a come-up,” followed by a quick anecdote of another friend of his who’d recently gotten a new position. Then it was, “I’m happy for you B.” I said thanks in my monotone voice, thinking you could’ve kept that, and unfortunately he kept going about how he thought it was a mistake for me to have left my other job so he’s glad it worked out for me. He ended up on my blocked call list for a few days, but not before I turned into my customary role of comforter trying to convince him good things come in pairs, threesomes, or however that cliché saying goes. I was sensitive to the fact that he’d fallen on hard times and was in desperate need of a new career path, but I really just wanted to scream, “can I get my 15 minutes?”

I don’t even have time to get into the “that’s cool” responses my ex would give me when I said I got a promotion or had a new opportunity before he started whining about his lot in life, and most of you are probably thinking why haven’t I just asked for my time to shine? It’s probably because of another issue I’ve always had with sharing good news which is feeling like I’m bragging. I’m not surprised that arrogance is the quality I despise most in people because somewhere along the line I learned that it’s not good to be boastful about your positive qualities or skills or accomplishments. Unfortunately I never learned the fine line between dimming your own light so others can feel good about themselves and not being full of yourself. I took the former route and felt as though when people didn’t meet my excitement with the same level that I anticipated, I must’ve been wrong for making them feel bad.

Even now, despite recognizing the way in which I share my random bouts of good news and needing to be excited to tell people anyhow, I’ve more so resolved to just keep things to myself, deciding that receiving no response at all is better than a lackluster one. Unfortunately that’s not fair to me. If I can throw parties, send cards, and relish in others accomplishments, I deserve to have the same from time to time. That’s why I’ve begun to realize it may not be the way in which I tell share my news that needs to change, but with whom I share it. And it has. So often people will ask why I didn’t tell them something and it’s because I don’t have time for pity parties when I’m ready to pop bottles. I don’t want to feel like I’m taking away from someone else when I’ve had something given to me. And I don’t want to have to reduce my excitement just so someone else can feel less disappointed about their own circumstances. One thing I can say for sure is that anything I’ve ever accomplished has been done through my own hard work and so if my achieving something makes someone else feel bad, I can’t take responsibility for the wrong choices they’ve made or the work they haven’t put in, or whatever season in life they’re going through. I haven’t quite put that lesson into full practice yet but I’m most certainly working on it as one other thing to add to my list of accomplishments. And then I’m gonna tell er’body. Just kidding.

Do you find that it’s hard for others to be happy for you at times? How do you handle it?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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