Silver Linings. Everything seems to have them these days. I can’t say much about playbooks but I do know that success does bring with it six not-so-cool side effects.
They are embodied in the words: doubt, guilt, reality (our own doing), andnegativity, jealousy and isolation (the mirrors that other people reflect back on us).
The six are driven and tied to each other like this.
Doubt + Negativity Guilt + Jealousy Reality + Isolation
Go grab some tea and nestle in because before we can fix, we have to understand.
Doubt + Negativity
They hired me? Oh no, I definitely don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not sure I can even do what I say I’m going to do.
There’s an imposter in all of us. It’s that feeling that everyone else belongs but you most certainly do not. It’s actually called The Imposter Syndrome.”
Here’s the good news. Everyone feels it.
“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find [me] out now,'” said some no-name slacker, Maya Angelou. If Maya Angelou feels like an imposter, then we’re effed.
Irony’s chuckle tells us that the more you learn and the better you get at your job, the more doubt that might creep in. Increase what you know and you’ll always be exposed to what you don’t.
And unfortunately, it’s when we doubt ourselves that someone else’s negativity dances through our defenses like water through a chain-linked fence.
Why do people often respond with negativity to someone’s success in the first place? Negativity is what we spew when we want to believe that what someone got was out of blind luck, and if we had that same fortune dropped on us, we would do the same thing they’re doing. I should know. I used to do it all the time! Chances are, if you’re on the cover of a magazine I read, I have uttered some version of, “Eff this person!” at one time or another.
Sadly, the negativity of others only magnifies the internal doubt we already feel.
Guilt + Jealousy
I don’t deserve this. Who am I to succeed?
Guilt is there because your success might indirectly make someone else look bad. Oops. And since we like being liked, we will do anything to retain the respect of our friends and peers.
They’ll smile. They’ll tell you how happy they are for you, but deep down your success makes them feel inferior. How come they didn’t win that award? How come you got all the credit? How come you get to do ________?
Your friends want you to succeed…just as long as that success is at a level equal or below them.
Admit it. We hate it when our friends become successful. We compare ourselves socially to those who are closest around us. It’s a competition for resources and when we find ourselves at the back of the line, we question our own self-worth.
Of course, the jealousy of others only magnifies the internal guilt we already feel.
Reality + Isolation
This didn’t feel the way I wanted it to. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
Success is supposed to bring with it rockstar highs or happiness or supermodels, but what bubbles to the top with success is the slap in the face of the inadequacies of reality. The feeling you have of reaching a successful benchmark never feels like you thought it would, and it fades much faster than others think it would.
So there you are left with having accomplished something but not feeling all hunky dory about it. Worse, you’ll need support more than ever as newfound success is likely to bring with it new demands, new expectations and new commitments, but everyone else will think that you’ve “figured it out,” so you’re on your own to some extent.
We rally together on two things: what we have or what we don’t have. A championship, a raise, money, etc.
If what you just did (succeed) is in the minority for the current group, you’re no longer “one of us.”
Isolation only magnifies the shortcomings of reality.
So Let’s Recap…
The more we learn, the more we doubt ourselves. And the more socially-defined benchmarks of success we reach and our friends don’t, the more guilt we’ll feel for reaching them. And the more times we reach them, the more we’re sure that it’s never as good as we thought it would be. Sweeeeeeeeet!
Thanks for the doom and gloom Bassam! I think I’m gonna go change my tea for a sepuku.
Hold on there, Samurai Sam. There’s hope.
Beat Doubt And Negativity With Vulnerability
The only solution to beat doubt, many experts say, is for people who are “higher up” to continue talking about their insecurities. When we know that our heroes struggle, it is much easier for us to deal with our own doubts. Find people who are able to share their vulnerabilities. Share them back. Doubt never leaves us. Skin deep, we’re all freaking the hell out.
Beat Guilt And Jealousy With Mentorship
Give back somehow. You don’t think you deserve to be here? Other people are jealous? Give back. I’m not saying to go to a soup kitchen (but go for it if you want), but guide and teach those who reach out to you or become a mentor to someone who has less experience than you.
Do something for someone else and you’ll realize you do deserve the success you’re experiencing because of all the things you didn’t know you actually knew.
Beat Reality And Isolation By Diversifying
Make sure you foster relationships with friends and confidants who have nothing to do with your field of work/interest. If the only people I hung out with and associated with were coaches/facilitators, then I’d constantly be having a pissing contest. Sure, some of your friends must be in that world so you have a pulse of what’s going on, but also make sure that you have some outside influences in your life.
While the people at work might not love you for your accolades, other people will, and these people will be easier to be vulnerable with because you don’t have anything to lose by being honest.
How have you dealt with the demoralizing six members of suck-sess?