A colleague of mine lost a lot of weight. She changed how she eats, how she exercises and many other aspects of her daily life to accomplish this goal. Two things happened when I saw her for the first time in a couple of years. First, I was blown away by the dramatic change and so happy for her because she looked healthy and was proud of herself. Second, I felt bad about my own weight issues which I mentioned briefly in this post. How is it that she lost over a hundred pounds and I struggle with thirty!?
I immediately began to make excuses for myself – you know I had two babies right? And the youngest isn’t even two yet. Did I mention I work full time, and my family needs me, and it’s hard to find time to work out, and pasta is a quick and easy home cooked meal, and…you get the drift. You have probably had the same reaction although for a different reason.
It’s human nature to observe, measure and compare. We do this with all things and most frequently with ourselves. When I sat and considered my reaction, I knew exactly what was going on. I’ve lived this experience many times and from both perspectives.
During my early career, I was excited by new opportunities. I regularly talked about them with people I care about. At first the updates were well received, but over time people didn’t react well to my good news. I wanted them to be proud of me, but instead my updates were treated indifferently and sometimes coldly. I got to thinking that maybe I was being a bragger and showoff, so I toned it down and eventually stopped talking about my new jobs and responsibilities with anybody but my parents and husband.
In my late twenties when I found out about meditation, I was able to lift myself out of depression and stop anxiety attacks. I was amazed and so proud of what I had done. I wanted to tell the world because I knew that if I could do it, everybody could do it. I felt strongly that people needed to know, so with eagerness I shared my experiences only to see that same indifference returned to me. This is when I understood a valuable lesson.
It’s hard for most people to be genuinely happy about your success. Not because they don’t care about you, but because your success reminds them of their own unfinished goals and shortcomings. Rather than being inspired by you, they compare themselves and feel mediocre. Once this feeling sets in, it is difficult for anybody to show enthusiasm and pay compliments. Some people will even dismiss your accomplishments or paint them in a bad light. This behavior is meant to keep you from shining, and sadly it often works.
So my advice is threefold:
1. If it makes you feel good, keep going no matter how others react – When you feel better, you do better and you get better. Don’t let the poor reactions of others dissuade you from improving your life.
2. Know the value of humility – When you are humble and keep your accomplishments to yourself, you conserve your energy. This is because you don’t have to cope with disheartening reactions or expend energy trying to convince others that what you are doing is beneficial.
3. Keep your biggest dreams private – Big dreams require big imagination and burning desire. People who have stagnated in life usually have this kind of imagination and desire in short supply. Don’t let them rein you in – keep your most important goals to yourself.
As I continue to acheive, I use my own success as motivation and inspiration and no longer seek approval from friends and acquaintances. This keeps me humble and enourages me to dig deep for the wellspring of creativity that exists within me, just as it does in all of you.