Why Am I So Bitter and Resentful of Other People’s Successes?

I am becoming a very bitter, resentful person. Even with co-workers who I like, I can't help but envy them if they're in positions I feel like I would be better at, or if they get praise from the higher-ups and I don't. And I definitely resent people who seem to have better lives than me, people I went to high school with who are now married with two kids, a dog, a cat, and a white picket fence. I see them taking their grand vacations all over Facebook and I just want to throw my iPad against a wall. I don't know what to do. I can't be happy for people, it seems. I wish I had what they have. How do I undo this self-centered part of my being? —Bitter Bill
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Dear Bitter Bill,

First, let me say that I admire your candor, your self-awareness, and your desire to work on this issue. I believe that all of these things will ultimately make you successful in addressing this issue and coming to a place of greater satisfaction in your life.

Jealousy is often a protective strategy fueled by more vulnerable feelings, such as worthlessness or feelings of inadequacy. No therapist can tell you exactly what the particular vulnerability is, but a skilled therapist can help guide you toward identifying and transforming whatever it might be in your case. Establishing a context for the origin of these feelings within the safety of a therapeutic relationship can help you to challenge the feelings and begin healing.

Healing the wounds of the past will likely foster a sense of confidence in your ability to make changes in your present life. For example, you specifically mention feeling jealous of colleagues. Are you satisfied and fulfilled by your work? My hunch is that you are not. If my hunch is correct, it makes sense to start thinking about what you want out of your work. Are you in the field you want to be in? Do you want to move up into a higher-level position? Do you want to explore options at a different company? Answering these questions and others that might arise may point you in a different direction professionally. It sounds like there is also significant dissatisfaction with your personal life. A similar assessment of what it is that you are seeking can be applied here, too.

As for Facebook, you are not alone in the experience you describe. In fact, a recent study indicates that the more young adults use Facebook, the more dissatisfied they become (Kross, Verduyn, Demiralp, Park, Lee, Lin, Shablack, Jonides, and Ybarra, 2013). It seems to me that people very often post the good stuff of life on Facebook. They share promotions, successes, home purchases, marriages, the births of children, and vacations. So, you can walk away feeling like everyone’s life is better than your own. But the truth is, no one’s life is perfect. Everyone has challenges, pain, and frustration—they just might not choose to share those things in a Facebook status.

Looking inward, healing old wounds, determining what you want, and creating a plan to get it can be very difficult work—I certainly don’t wish to imply that it is simple. Because it can be difficult, even painful, work that takes time, I do hope you will consider partnering with a therapist who can support you throughout the process. Collaborating with a therapist can also help you to explore ways to make yourself more comfortable as you seek to make changes in your life. You don’t have to wait until you accomplish your goals and dreams to be happy.

Reference:

Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, et al. (2013) Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

All the best,
Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Kris

    Kris

    November 3rd, 2013 at 4:39 AM

    I know that it’s hard to watch other people getting great things when you feel like life could be passing you by , but just know that there are great things out there waiting for you too when the time is right. But the time won’t be right and you won’t be open to receiving that if you continue to hang onto the beitterness and resentment that you are feeling right now. I hope that you can find a way to be happy for your friends when they experience good things in life because I know that you would want them to share that same happiness with you when it is your turn. And believe me that will happen but it sounds like for right now you have to discover a way to be happy now and in the moment or you won’t be able to enjoy those blessings when they finally do come around to you.

  • nicholas

    nicholas

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:43 AM

    You never know, there could be some people watching you and feeling the same way about your successes. They always say that the grass is always greener on the other side, but maybe this is the perfect time to take a step back and look at all of the things that you have that you should be thankful for and not the things that you perceive that you want.

  • Lena

    Lena

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    I don’t know how common it is to actually be bitter or resentful but I do know that it is common to think that someone else is getting ahead and you are working far harder than they are and wondering why this isn’t happening for you too. But it will! You just have to let go of some of the negativity because that is never going to get you ahead. I know that it’s hard, I have been there and I don’t at all wish to sound all preachy but I am telling you that feeling that way is never going to allow you to feel free. Let it go and I think that you will be amazed at how quickly you can start to see success in your own life.

  • pz

    pz

    November 7th, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    you said that you resent people who SEEM to have better lives than what you have.
    How do you know that what they have is better?
    It could all be a front, and you could be getting all worked up over nothing

  • Farrah

    Farrah

    November 14th, 2013 at 4:49 AM

    Truthfully, and I think that you probably know this, this is about your own insecurities and what you perceive to be inadequacies more than it is about other people. You can’t feel good about other peoples success when you don’t feel good about your own. Just a little something to think about…

  • ann

    ann

    September 26th, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    I know how you feel. I am bitter too. It sucks! I want to change, but can’t.

  • HP

    HP

    March 19th, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    I know how it feels. In my teens & early 20s I was a happy, outgoing person with alot of friends and a great social life. I got married at age 22 and had a baby. My friends deserted me and I’m 29 now and very very lonely. I have my hubby & kid but I’m still lonely & I’m bitter when I see others out having fun & a good time. I used too have a good job which I gave up after the pregnancy and became a stay at home mum and its boring. I’m jealous of those with good jobs especially those younger than I am or those straight out of school. I want to be something like an estate agent but I’m so clueless as to how to even put myself back out there. I’m getting so bitter and I feel like a boring worthless old woman. I hate not making my own money as well. I try and put myself out there for work but I never hear anything back so I give up and mope. I hate hearing about others’ success in life it just eats away at me. This can’t be healthy & I wanna stop feeling like this.

  • Jose

    Jose

    April 8th, 2015 at 9:20 PM

    I was molested when i was little and now i have an attraction towards men. It makes me so bitter all the time cuz i know it’s wrong.

  • SweetBitter

    SweetBitter

    January 24th, 2016 at 2:13 PM

    There is nothing wrong with your sexual preference, that you’ve been molested is wrong, but it’s not your fault, you was just a child. Now you are an adult and capable to decide by yourself what you want and what you don’t. Cheers

  • Sophie1150

    Sophie1150

    April 25th, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    Appreciate everyone’s comments. I’ve had a run of bad luck the past couple years and I find myself becoming bitter and resentful of others good fortune. Especially someone who dropped out of high school, had years to get her GED and didn’t. Talked her boyfriend into making a will leaving her everything and he died suddenly in his mid fifties. I realize no ones life is perfect and everyone deals with problems. So I am going to count my blessings instead of the things I don’t have today. Wishing all of us positive thoughts.

  • Jake

    Jake

    April 27th, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    I have been feeling bitter about everyone else’s fortune as well. I am a musician and work hard at putting my bands together, getting contracts and tours together, essentially making it all happen, I’ve been a bandleader for over 10 years, and I’ve hired musicians of all levels…what kills me is that I get everybody work, even musicians and singer with less skill then myself and when the contracts are done, everyone forgets me…I don’t get calls for gigs,, on my Facebook page there a guitarists and singers I know that I wouldn’t even hire and they are booked full time while I sit at home…I hustle on my own but I get so angry that people who have marginal skillsets are having an easier time then an experienced professional like myself. Seeing all the gigs they are getting, corporate events, sold out clubs they’re playing makes me want to put my foot through my laptop! I’m having the hardest time reconciling between being happy for these people a hoping that they fail miserably. I’m thinking of deleting my FB page, social media is garbage at the best of times and Facebook is a disease.

  • Anne

    Anne

    June 9th, 2015 at 4:26 PM

    I am feeling very resebtful at the moment i cannot find a job my partner works parttime and we get some help from the govt money is a constant struggle and i get grumpy when i see people buying things like nice food in the supermarket or buying clothes it not that i want stuff it is just that i do not have a choice anymore i cant afford to buy decent groceries get a haircut or even buy clothes in an op shop we do not have any debts we just do not have enough money to live on each week it is getting to me i feel tired resentful of others aand just generally grumpy about things

  • A.madeleine

    A.madeleine

    July 13th, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    I’m a student who feels really upset when my friends get better grades than me and I do really badly.
    When I do well I don’t care about how much they get.

    Yet people say I am caring and thoughtful. I can only emphathise with other people’s pain and not their success or happiness.

  • beenie

    beenie

    December 1st, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Yea.. I am starting to feel like this is how insanity starts.. with this bitterness and anger about everything. I know why I am feeling this way but cant do anything about it, one of the other commenters said how she used to be happy and outgoing. That was me too, but is was so long ago. I have basically no friends, and one of my children has not talked to me in over a year and wont let me see my grandchildren, and another one of my children is abusive to me so I have recently distanced my self from him. My career is in the toilet and I am broke with no cushion in my sixties. I try to be upbeat, but lately it is getting harder and harder. Of course I count my blessings. I have two other children who are my pride and joy and show me love and appreciation, and my health is pretty ok.. I think Ill be alright if I can just get a steady job. ……….

  • Gina

    Gina

    May 24th, 2016 at 11:07 AM

    Battled Bipolar, severe agoraphobia. Unable to get a job in my field after getting 3 degrees and experience. Survived cancer. Feel like others have all of the good things I have plus career, money and best of all, mental health. I try, but am very jealous of the friends and happiness of my in laws. My mental illness made my life tons harder, and I want to be rid of the resentment.

  • martin l

    martin l

    August 31st, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    I feel very resentful towards those with better degrees and qualifications than me. I am 52 and everytime I see 18 year old plus waving there O and A level results and qualifications around it really gets to me. I still live at home but dream of having my own place. Why should I be denied just because I don’t earn enough money but these others cab get there own place before they reach the age of 21. Also within work why are colleagues over 20 years younger than me able to go on management courses just because they are higher up the ladder? It all seems so unfair😢😢😢😢

  • Coffeehound

    Coffeehound

    September 15th, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    Hi Martin – Ignorant Yank here, so please forgive the staggering scope of my utter lack of knowledge about how they do things where you are (with your talk of A levels and O levels, which we don’t have over here, I assume it’s England but I realize that I could be wrong). Now then:
    Speaking as someone who has lots of qualifications on paper and virtually no professional success, let me assure you that the results and qualifications you speak of probably mean nothing at all in terms of career success. They exist to demonstrate that you know how to jump through hoops, and to indicate what class you belong to so that the managers of the companies that decide on promotions can tell whether or not you’re “one of us.” I don’t know how it works for you guys, but for us, promotions are entirely in the hands of the individuals who are higher up in the company, and it turns out that that’s how most promotions are decided. And you’re right, it’s absolutely not fair, and it’s not even that great for business. But a work environment is a social group that everyone has to live in comfortably, and well, that’s just the way it is. But the good news is that if you’ve been spending time and energy feeling inferior in any way to those kids with their O levels and A levels (whatever those may be!), you can stop doing that. Honestly, most jobs could be performed perfectly well by a trained monkey; most of the qualifications dance is about seeing how well you’ll get along with everyone else in your job-village.
    Speaking of that, you mention manager training. Are you sure you want to be a manager? Or are you just interested in the higher pay level that would get you into your own apartment? You don’t really sound like somebody who would enjoy a job that’s so heavily dependent on handling people and their freaky little foibles and petty squabbles. I’m completely unqualified to advise you on how to get more money into your pocket, but it sounds as though that and perhaps some elevated status and respect are what you really want, not a management job per se. Maybe see if you can find out if there are other ways to get those things. Around here, we tend to do it by opening our own small businesses (but that takes money, I know!), learning a craft or a trade that we can practice on our own, or lately all the kids are learning front – end web design or game development, both of which are MUCH easier than they sound. I know one lady who makes her living sewing costume pieces and selling them at faires. Again, I’m not sure how your economy works so these are just examples. The point is, maybe you don’t actually want to be a manager, so you might be better off finding another way to get the respect and money you do want.
    I also had a freaky typical-American Thoth about your living situation, see what you think about this: If you live I. That place and contribute anything at all to its upkeep, then that’s your home just as much as theirs. Which means that one day you might say “Mum, Dad, how about letting me paint the bathroom turquoise? I think it’d look good turquoise.” Or red or parchment or whatever. (You may live in a rental where the building is responsible for the paint, but I’m guessing that if you want to paint a room yourself there wouldn’t be any objection as long as you restore the color if you move out.) The idea is to have some kind of visible sign that the place you live in is yours too. I know it sounds weird, and you are free to dismiss me as another nut job American, but just think about it. You’d be amazed at how much a visual cue can accomplish.
    In any case, good luck, and seriously, think hard about whether you really want to be in management. It doesn’t really sound as though you want to handle people all day long. Some of those people are sure to have had lives and experiences that awaken your resentment, and you’ll have a very hard time working with them, even as their superior. I do not want to talk about how I know that, but believe me, I do know that…..

  • Oh, wow.

    Oh, wow.

    April 11th, 2017 at 7:18 PM

    I always felt the same way. Perhaps when I would see my friends come to school excitedly holding a manga I really wanted. Or maybe I saw on YouTube, a video of a child giving a tour of the room I would kill to have. It doesn’t matter about the situation, generally I can relate. I know this is easier said than done, although you should try to ignore people that you feel are rubbing their “amazing” lives into yours. I’m not saying “be rude to them” but think of aspects of you that make you superior to them and maybe you won’t feel inadequate, incomplete or jealous. Maybe you have better social skills and you are able to sing very well. Because you’re focusing on all of the positive happening to them, you are definitely not aware of the negative. Did you see a post on Facebook about an acquaintance that recently had a baby? It’s a shame for them that them and their partner won’t be getting much sleep with the constant screams and cries in the middle of the night, right? It’d be unrealistic for that baby to shut up while mum and dad are sleeping, it’s not that smart. Anyways, I’m sure the good will come around to you when it decides to. Just look forward to something!

  • em

    em

    March 22nd, 2018 at 12:18 PM

    I think it’s a widespread thing in human experience. I spent ten yrs getting a couple degrees and people pleasing bc my family wanted me to have a conventional job. In life I’ve been abused emotionally and physically and lost a parent at a young age. I wanted to be acceptable for my family who went thru such a hard time, and I didn’t know where to start if I didn’t go to college, even though I hated to leave. Sometimes it takes a while but maybe you’ll come into yourself and find what you want to do bc we’re all on different paths. I try to embrace and work with my anger and regret now, and quit my soul sucking jobs. Also, you can look at it like —when I come into my own, everyone I know may be past their prime! It’s kind of rude but it might make you feel better :)

  • JW

    JW

    July 25th, 2018 at 9:36 AM

    I could give a crap about what bad happens to rich people, whatever pain they get in life they deserve it. I thrive off of watching the rich and powerful fall from grace, when people I know who have all the money in the world have something bad happen, it truly makes me feel better, its like “Good! now you know what its like to suffer”. People who are born with everything and are good looking and want for nothing deserve whatever bad happens to them.

  • Lulu

    Lulu

    August 2nd, 2018 at 4:42 PM

    I agree ! They must fell the pain ! People who show off are also the worst !

  • The Truth Really Is

    The Truth Really Is

    October 3rd, 2018 at 4:04 AM

    All i ever wanted for a good man like me was to meet a good woman to settle down with since so many Billions of other people on this planet have that gift of life that i certainly would’ve wanted myself. And the ones that have it really brag about it as well, and rub it in our faces too. Then again with so many very horrible stuck up loser low life women nowadays really doesn’t help the situation either since they have no manners at all , and a very rotten personality when many of us men will try to start a conversation with them.

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