3 Psychological Reasons People Seem To Resent You For Your Success

There's more than just jealousy at the root of resentment, something much deeper.

person resenting woman's success Ivanko_Brnjakovic / Getty Images and Hemera Technologies / Photo Images via Canva

Success is great, but not everyone is happy for you. Ever wondered why? Well, it turns out there are some psychological reasons why people might not be thrilled about your success.

In an emotional appearance on the podcast "Open Relationships: Transforming Together", therapist and author Eli Harwood shared that her father seems incapable of celebrating her successes, from her huge social media following to her recently published book, Securely Attached


She says, "I have millions of followers across my social media. I have a published book that I'm hoping will be a NY Times best-seller. I'm doing this work that I believe in so deeply and my dad doesn't say anything to me."

RELATED: Forget Everything You've Been Told About Success, And Have This Mindset Instead


So, why might not everyone be excited about your success?

The answer lies in the mix of emotions, insecurities, and societal expectations that vary from person to person.

Harwood revealed that she asked her brother how weird her situation was, "He put his arm around me and said, 'Listen, I'm sorry. That's so weird,' and it was so nice to be validated by him like that. Like yeah, it's strange that my parent is not celebrating me."

For some, your success might remind them of their own perceived shortcomings. It's not that they dislike you, but your accomplishments may trigger their insecurities, creating a discomfort that turns into resentment. 

Also, success often leads to comparisons.


Some folks might feel threatened by your achievements, making them defensive. Success can be tough for those dealing with unmet goals and unrealized dreams. 

Three Psychological Reasons People May Be Incapable Of Celebrating Your Success

1. Shame

Shame is a powerful and often hidden emotion linked to a person's sense of self-worth and identity. When someone experiences shame in response to another person's success, it is often rooted in their own feelings of inadequacy.

Your achievements can act as a mirror reflecting their perceived shortcomings, intensifying their belief that they are not measuring up in comparison.

The psychology behind this is driven by a deep-seated fear of not being good enough. Instead of celebrating your success, they internalize it as evidence of their own failures or shortcomings.


It becomes a personal struggle, where the success of others becomes a source of discomfort and self-criticism. Understanding this dynamic helps in approaching the situation with empathy, realizing that their resentment is more about their internal battles than any judgment on your part.

2. Contempt

Contempt arises from a sense of superiority, often fueled by insecurity. When someone compares themselves to you and feels threatened, they might adopt a defensive mechanism — acting snobby and belittling your achievements.

This behavior is an attempt to shield their own ego from the perceived threat your success poses to their self-worth.

The psychology here involves a fragile self-esteem that relies on putting others down to maintain a sense of superiority. Recognizing this dynamic allows you to respond with empathy rather than defensiveness.


By understanding that their contempt is a coping mechanism, you can navigate the situation more effectively and possibly even contribute to breaking down their defensive walls.

RELATED: The Common Phrase People With Unresolved Childhood Trauma Say Without Even Realizing It

3. Grief

Grief, typically tied with loss, plays a surprising role in resentment. When individuals experience unmet goals or unfulfilled aspirations, witnessing someone else's success can evoke a sense of mourning for what they believe they lack in their own lives.

Your achievements become a poignant reminder of their perceived failures, triggering resentment as a way to cope with the pain of unfulfilled dreams.


The psychology behind this is rooted in the emotional response to unmet expectations. Your success becomes a symbol of what they haven't attained, amplifying the sense of loss.

Acknowledging this aspect of resentment allows for a more empathetic approach, understanding that their feelings are not solely about you but also about their own struggles and unfulfilled desires. This awareness can lead to more empathetic interactions and potentially help them work through their grief.



What can we do to combat it?

To deal with resentment, you need a mix of self-awareness and understanding of others. Here are some down-to-earth strategies:


Cultivate Empathy: Get that everyone's got their struggles. Being understanding can help you handle resentment more calmly.

Share Your Journey: Talk about the tough times, not just the good ones. It makes your success more relatable.

Encourage Others: Be a cheerleader for your friends. Support them in their goals, and it can change the vibe from competition to camaraderie.


Celebrate Others: Give props to others for their successes. It builds a positive environment for everyone.

Set Boundaries: Not everyone's a fan, and that's fine. Keep some distance from toxic vibes.

In the end, grasping why people might resent success helps us navigate it better. By being kind, sharing the bumps in the road, and cheering on others, we can make the journey to success a smoother ride.

Remember, success isn't a win-lose game; we can all thrive in our own way.

RELATED: How To Measure Your Success In Life On Your Own Terms

Deauna Roane is a writer and the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.