The Mask of Congratulations

What a strange way to name a piece, but I think it properly summarizes my thoughts around the topic of congratulations, that has been taking place on social media recently.

There is a certain narcissism about these congratulations. Let me use this quote as hyperbole: “Success of others can evoke all sorts of internal feelings. From a sense of pride, envy, fear, gratitude, low self-worth, a need to always associate their success with yourself to show the world our proximity to their success, a feeling of unfairness, genuine happiness, relief etc. The evoked emotion has little to do with the actual content of success of the other and more to do with YOUR attitude towards life.”

So the congratulations are one of the quickest ways to feed our own egos, hence the race to congratulate first, to congratulate the biggest and even more telling, to congratulate with our pictures next to the congratulatee. We want to approximate ourselves to their success through proximity. We want to tell other fellow losers that I’m a better loser than them because I know people worthy of being celebrated, it’s a loaned show off.

There is another side to it which many might not admit easily. We can use congratulations to lie to ourselves about how we feel. Allow me to expand on this in an example. You see something noteworthy from someone you know or grew up with, let’s say they just bought a Ferrari. You then look at the person in relation to yourself. In your thoughts you might say the following:

“But what’s different about him?”
“We have a similar background” “There is really nothing exceptional here”

Then the thoughts change towards you:
“Why don’t I have a Ferrari?”
“Is he cleverer than me?”
“Am I a failure in life?”

At this stage you corner yourself into a tough question, “am I feeling envious? Me, the great me feeling envious no maan it can’t be”. Then you quickly call yourself to order, decide to congratulate the fellow to prove to yourself that you are not the envious type.

You can even congratulate someone in order to prove to others that you are not envious. Let me explain. So if you think everyone knows you know the fellow with the Ferrari, and they all saw that you saw the Ferrari. You are socially trapped to say congratulations because you can’t be seen to be silent when your peers do well.

Obviously after the comparison you can choose to find reasons as to why he has the Ferrari and not you. He is lucky, his family this and that, he is immoral, the list of justifications goes on and on but that’s not my focus on this piece.

Obviously there are well intended congratulations that come from a place of genuine happiness for others doing well but that’s not my focus on this piece either.

If you find yourself congratulating on the basis of wanting to make yourself feel better; if you find yourself congratulating to hide your envy, if you find yourself congratulating because you feel bullied to by society... unmask yourself and look in the mirror.