Happy talk

When a fellow student or sibling does well, it can bring mixed emotions. Yet being big enough to congratulate others on their successes – and maybe even asking for any tips – is one way to help build self-esteem and good relationships.

A close friend has just achieved the highest mark in a maths test or won first prize in a short-story competition. You’re happy for them, right? Well, yes. But is there also a hint of jealousy, resentment, bitterness, or even hurt pride? After all, you revised hard for that maths paper and your English teacher is always complimenting your creative writing. If you find that the triumphs of others leave you with mixed feelings, you’re not alone. But being happy for people when they do well, and congratulating them on their successes in a genuine way, can help you feel better about yourself and give you an opportunity to be generous. There are several ways to overcome any resentment about others’ achievements and learn to celebrate them.

AVOID OVERREACTING

Think about how young children behave when they don’t get the toy they want or when another child takes their things – they might unashamedly cry or shout. As they get older, however, reactions become more balanced and they gain a more rounded understanding of what’s happened and the ways they can choose to respond. They might still feel annoyed that a friend has outperformed them but also recognise the benefits of being happy for them. It still won’t be easy though, so to give yourself time to be prepared, go for a walk, run or cycle, do something creative, or read a favourite book. This will give you time to think things through.

AND DODGE COMPARISONS

While you might be upset at first, remember that there’s every chance you’ll enjoy similar successes in the future. More importantly, their achievement doesn’t invalidate your own grades or personal triumphs.

Everyone has different strengths and it’s important to recognise and value all the things you enjoy, that you find rewarding or that you do well.

For now, be as happy for others as you’d hope they would be for you. Try not to compare your life and abilities to those of your friends. Everyone has their own strengths and it’s more helpful to focus on your own.

HOW TO OFFER CONGRATULATIONS

Social media makes it easy and quick – you can like a friend’s post or send a GIF or a message under their news with a variety of emojis. Saying ‘well done’ to a friend or sibling to their face, however, can sometimes feel trickier. It might be hard to find the right words or gestures. The key thing is for it to be as genuine, heartfelt and enthusiastic as possible. If you find it hard to recognise someone’s achievements in person – even when you’re really chuffed for them – here are a few ideas that might help:

CONGRATULATE THEM ASAP

Don’t avoid the subject. Praise the person right away, as soon as you see them. Imagine you were in their position – how would you want people to treat you?

You could include phrases such as: ‘I heard about your role in the musical – congratulations!’ or ‘I was told about your news – that’s amazing, well done!’

FOLLOW UP WITH FEELING

Tell them how happy you are for them with phrases such as: ‘I’m really happy for you,’ or ‘I’m so proud of you.’

You might also want to ask them questions about their success. For example, if they’ve got a place in the football team, you could say: ‘When is your first game?’ or ‘Can I help you out in any way?’

SAY IT WITH A SMILE

People’s faces can give away their feelings. Congratulations that come with a smile indicate you’re genuinely happy for someone. If you’ve been feeling a little jealous and you’re worried your face will reflect this, practise in the mirror.

Remember your tone of voice will also reflect your feelings so try to sound excited and not too flat. If you really feel as though you can’t face them straight away, stick to a note or text.

MAKE YOUR MESSAGE EXTRA SPECIAL

You could give the person a card with a personal message that lets them know you’re really happy for them. Depending on the reason, you might also want to get them a small gift, whether it’s a little photo album full of pictures of the two of you together, chocolates, or an item that’s linked to their success.

You could also share their news on social media or organise a mini celebration with other friends or family. Whatever you do, your words and gestures are sure to be appreciated and make a positive difference.

BE IMAGINATIVE

If you’ve bought or made a card that says ‘congratulations’ on the front, try to mix it up a little on the inside. If your friend speaks two or three languages, you could use different coloured pens to express the same word in different ways (use an online translation service if you’re stuck). Or you might use another expression, such as: ‘You’re a star!’ or ‘You are brilliant!’

If you find your jealousy lingers and you feel resentful of others who are doing well, it might help to talk to someone who’s unconnected to the situation, as there might be a deeper reason for why you feel this way. You could talk to an aunty, the school counsellor, or even an older cousin. It’s so important to talk about your feelings with someone you trust in order to navigate your way back to happiness.


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