If you sparkle I sparkle: the benefits of celebrating others’ success
I’ve always struggled with comparing myself to the people around me. In school, I was constantly concerned I wasn’t smart enough, sporty enough, a good enough friend – in large part due to the fact I saw my classmates absolutely killing it in each of those categories. I didn’t feel like I lived up to their level.
Fast forward to uni and the same thing happened. I was always aware of my fellow students taking part in this or that club, attending events where they seemed effortlessly social, all while apparently getting straight HDs. I felt like I was always falling behind or trying to catch up, while everyone else had it all figured out.
The same goes in careers, relationships, hobbies, even social media profiles. It’s proven that when we compare ourselves to others we choose to compare upward instead of downward. We feel like we’re not living up to everyone else because we’re comparing ourselves to those with qualities we see as better than our own.
This kind of comparison, while arguably natural, can cause a lot of pain. And with the advent of social media, if you’re already susceptible to self-comparison, you’re even more likely to experience feelings of self-doubt and depression when seeing the apparent perfection of others.
But how do we go about shifting these mindsets when often they can feel automatic?
I first heard about Shine Theory in Call Your Girlfriend, an incredible podcast co-hosted by writers and best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow. According to them, Shine Theory is:
“…a conscious decision to bring your full self to your friendships, and to not let insecurity or envy ravage them. Shine Theory is a commitment to asking, “Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?” The answer is almost always yes.
Shine Theory is recognizing that true confidence is infectious, and if someone is tearing you down or targeting you as competition, it’s often because they are lacking in confidence or support themselves. It’s a practice of cultivating a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement when your friends are doing well, and being there for them when they aren’t.” [x]
I remember the full-body jolt of revelation I had when listening to Aminatou and Ann talk about the theory. The line that stood out to me was, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” It completely changed my mindset from why aren’t I as good as that person to look at them go! I want to be their friend.
And how freeing is that! I realised that by internally comparing myself and my actions to others, I wasn’t doing myself or others any favours. By shifting my thoughts from negative to positive, I removed the self-doubt and fear aspect of comparison in favour of hyping my peers up.
Shine Theory is particularly focused on women, as we are often most affected by this toxic mindset of comparison. We are told that our fellow women are our competition: for jobs, dates, and even body-image. As PsychCentral has reported:
“Women seem to have a reputation for being “catty” and competitive with other women, unlike how men behave with other men. This is a curious notion, especially since women are actually less competitive than men out in the world and less comfortable being competitive.” [x]
In an essay for The Cut, Ann Friedman goes into more detail about how Shine Theory can help not just the people around us, but ourselves too.
“I like knowing that my friends are so professionally supportive that when they get a promotion, it’s like a boost for my résumé, too, because we share a network and don’t compete for contacts… I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking.”
This kind of confidence is infectious. If you shine, I shine. If I shine, you shine. It’s a much nicer way of being in the world than feeling down on yourself for others’ successes, or actively tearing them down.
Next time you feel the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head when someone else achieves success, think instead about how you could go about sharing in their light, or giving some of yours to them. I promise it will feel much better than toxic comparison.
Remember: I don’t shine if you don’t shine. So go out there and sparkle!
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.