Have you ever had a friend who constantly gloated? Have you ever been that friend? People often get annoyed when people celebrate their own successes, and it’s a fine line between celebrating our triumphs and being the “gloating” friend who stops being invited to things because she’s too self-involved. I’m of the belief that women should support women. We should champion our friends and encourage their dreams. We should be happy for them when things work out and celebrate when they take a major step in their careers. However, there does seem to be an unspoken rule about the line that separates celebrating and gloating. When does a friend relishing her own success turn into gloating? I’m here to share my thoughts on the topic and offer a little advice on how to celebrate yourself without coming off as self-involved or narcissistic.
To begin this discussion, I think it’s important for me to acknowledge the first time I thought, “ugh, how many more times do I have to tell her congratulations before I can stop hearing about this?” I will say this didn’t happen in high school. Sure, I had friends who were a little conceited, but I was usually happy for them and I never felt annoyed by their comments about their own successes. However, in college, I did have a friend who was constantly making comments about how smart she was how she did this well or that, etc. Again, most of the time it rolled off my back and I just nodded, internally rolling my eyes but thinking that eventually, the self-centered comments would subside. In law school, I’ve noticed that being happy for other people is limited. Law school, for better or worse, is a competition ring. Sure, higher education doesn’t have the same formalities as the Roman Gladiators, but there is a constant undercurrent of competition. Suddenly, someone has a great first semester, and there’s a quiet, steady rumbling of dislike directed their way. Or, the guy that sits next to you is constantly asking you and those around him to stroke his ego (that’s not a euphemism, some people really just need positive reinforcement).
However, there are other people who do well and succeed and we applaud them without hesitation. This double standard, where we eye roll and ask “when will it stop?” about one person’s success but congratulate and admire another’s – I’m not sure what the root of the inconsistency is, but I have a strong feeling it has to do with the person’s actions. How someone handles their individual success is informative for how those around them will respond. As soon as someone begins saying, “I mean, I got all A’s. It’s not that hard,” you can cue the collective eye roll of their peers. If someone doesn’t say a word, but suddenly graduates Order of the Coif, we’re all thinking, “she’s humble. Hell yeah! Congratulations.” When we hear, “I got another interview, ugh,” those students who haven’t gotten one are going to feel resentment. The actual person the resentment is aimed at doesn’t matter much. The fact of the matter is this: people feel annoyed with people they feel are purposely bringing up their successes purely so they can talk about them. Therefore, whether you get the eye roll or the praise boils down to how others perceive your intentions.
If people perceive you as arrogant, you get the eye roll. If people perceive you as humble, you get the praise. If people perceive you as a know-it-all, you get the eye roll. If people perceive you as genuine, you get the praise.
However, how you’re perceived probably had a lot to do with the insecurities of the other person. In all honesty, I believe that people perceive someone as more arrogant when they are insecure about something. For example, if someone is upset that they’re not doing as well, they may take someone’s comments about their own successes far more personally than if both people were confident in what they’re doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some people who are just flat out arrogant a**holes. The type is easily recognizable. Look for the person who doesn’t have many friends, who people who hardly know they person refer to in a distasteful manner, and who pursues other people’s dream just to prove they can do it even if it means nothing to the person. That is the person who will, no matter what, get the eye roll. However, sometimes well intentioned people get placed in an arrogant box. This is rare, but it does happen. When this happens, I attribute the placement to the fact that whoever perceived them as arrogant, gloat-y, etc., may have just taken their actions a little more personally than necessary.
So, if you want to celebrate your successes, tell your support group the exciting news, get dinner or drinks, relish the moment, then keep it to yourself. Write in your diary. Go for a drive where you blast your favorite song and sing your praises. Then let it go. While it may suck that people may not be super happy for you for an extended amount of time, the chances of being classified as arrogant will likely decrease. Also, those who truly matter will continue to be happy for you. Those who believe you shouldn’t be allowed to express your excitement about your successes are probably temporary.