Here’s some news that’s bound to be a bit disconcerting…people close to you secretly want you to fail.
They wish they didn’t feel this way and they feel terrible about it, but still, they can’t help covertly leaning into the desire to witness your downfall. And, if you’ve been on the “wishing for failure” side of the relationship, you’re not alone.
You’re a freshman in college, very much single, a bit on the dorky-side, but in a loveable way and, even so, oddly gifted at dancing. One Friday night, you go to a big quad-party with your friend, Maurice. No, he’s not imaginary. Through a barbeque-hazed crowd, both of your eyes land on an incredibly attractive “out of your league” sorority girl.
You knees melt, you know if she could see past your social status, it’d be kismet.
You want desperately to go say hello, you just sense there’s something really different, very special, life-changing about this person. But, everyone around you has always said, you’re not the best looking or smartest one around, so don’t bother with those who are.
They’re beyond your reach.
Suddenly, Maurice, your equal in dorkdom until that moment, jumps up, walks casually over to the dream girl and ends up having the conversation of a lifetime. That evening, during the barbeque-debriefing, you are regaled with how extraordinary Susie was and learn that the now super-cool Maurice has been invited to a sorority-party at the house next week as Susie’s date.
Of course, you’re thrilled for big Mo! Right? At least…
You want to be thrilled for him.
But, for reasons you don’t really get, you secretly want to smack him in the head if he doesn’t just shut up already and hope he gets crushed on the date. You don’t want to feel that way, but you do. This secret yearning for a friend’s failure is actually a relatively common reaction. The reason is rooted deeply in human nature.
Powerful forces underlie this disquieting urge.
Every word out of your friend’s mouth has now become a constant reminder of the fact that he went ahead and did exactly what you wanted desperately to do, but didn’t. And, until his quest falls apart, and you’re convinced it inevitably will, your buddy’s success increasingly becomes the very embodiment of your own unwillingness to reach out and take what you want in life.
Let’s skip ahead to Maurice’s date at the sorority house to really understand.
It’s the following Friday and Mo walks out, giddy at his good fortune. He’s going to accompany Susie to a party at the coolest sorority on campus. He arrives, knocks on the door, strolls in and is about to ask for the big-S, when there, before him lies…the sign. The dreaded sign. The one that reads, in hot pink letters, “Welcome to the Bring A Dork Sorority Bash.” Mo’s world comes tumbling down.
As he returns to the dorm, crushed, you’re there to comfort him, college-style, with a big-fat Genny-cream beer-ball. And, as much as you genuinely care about him and want him to feel better, you’re also smiling inside just a little bit. You wish you weren’t, but you are.
For in Mo’s tragedy, your inability or unwillingness to act has just been validated. It lets you say or at least think, “see, it’s really not possible, I wasn’t missing out on anything by not trying…I told you so.”
Understanding this phenomenon helps a lot when YOU become Mo…
Let’s turn the tables. When you become Mo and Susie becomes your personal quest to succeed at something most people desperately want, but never try, there are going to be a lot of people, folks who genuinely care about you and others who couldn’t give a damn about you, looking for you to fail, because it’ll make them feel better for not trying.
The quest for a career defined by both passion and prosperity is a perfect example…
In a world where we are all raised to pursue success defined largely by standard of living, rather than quality of life, if you leave a mainstream job to pursue meaning, purpose and passion, many around you who, deep down want the same thing will feel increasingly uncomfortable. For a select few, right away you’ll become a source of belief and inspiration, but…
For many others, you’ll become a constant reminder of a professional life they dream of, but won’t do anything to get.
That’ll sting. And, it’ll likely lead to a combination of public ridicule from some and, from others, a not-so-public desire to see you fail that may even rise to the level of backdoor condemnation, gossip or pseudo-sabotage.
Expect it. Know that, for most people, it’s being fueled less by genuine venom or a true disbelief in your abilities, and more by their own fear and need to buy into and validate the limiting beliefs that have taken them to this point in life.
In essence, while it’s not your intent, your striving for success causes them pain and they simply want that pain to end.
Understanding this will help you deal with it…and rise above it.
It’s likely that these mixed-emotion friends will hold fast to their opinions and emotions until you begin to actually succeed. Once your success rises to the level of irrefutable proof that you BOTH can accomplish something grand, there’s a good chance your friends’ secret desire to see you fail will evolve into to a desire to learn from your experience and maybe even follow in your footsteps.
So, what do yo think about this phenomenon?
Is it real? Have YOU ever been on either side?
If so, how’d you handle it? How’d it unfold?
What am I missing? Help me out here.
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