There’s a reason it is so easy to make friends at college. For the first time in your life, you’ve chosen where you want to be and you’re surrounded by people who want to be there too. Once you pick a major, you’ll find yourself amongst more people who share similar interests and aspirations. Then add in the fact that you’re all the same age, and you have a recipe for lifelong friendships.
Next you head to work, where again, many of the people you work with have similar goals. While you burn the midnight oil at that first entry-level job, you’ll likely make a friend or two — someone to commiserate with when your boss is being unreasonable or when you hate the project you’re working on.
Hopefully, you’ll find friends that stand by you through thick and thin — through marriage, babies, and sick parents. But what happens if you’re competing with these friends for the same professional goals? Chances are a few of your close friends have similar aspirations as you, especially if you met at work, so you can expect a little tension.
So, how do you maintain a healthy friendship with someone you’re competing with?
Talk About It
There really is no way around this step. Even if you have the best of intentions when it comes to supporting your friend’s success, you still need to make sure she knows that. Next time you’re talking about your dreams and where they overlap, make sure she knows that you’re happy for her success — no matter what. She needs to know that when she lands a great job, client, or project, that you’ll support her. If she feels she can’t tell you about things that may make you jealous, she might not tell you at all. Be her biggest cheerleader and she’ll know that your friendship can survive any awkward moments to come.
Here’s an important fact for you to memorize: your own success is not measured based off anyone else’s. Comparing yourself to someone else is unproductive and unfair to both parties. If you find yourself struggling when a friend achieves something you want, try to find a positive perspective. Look at a friend’s success as inspiration instead of competition. Ask for her help or her advice. If you lean on each other, chances are you’ll both be happier and more successful.
It’s a weird feeling when you realize you’re jealous of a friend. Instead of letting this feeling roll right past you, embrace it. Sure, you may want to drown your jealousy sorrows in a glass of wine, or a binge marathon of The Office. Instead, try to sit with the feelings you are having. Why are you jealous? Are you letting the jealousy affect your friendship? Are you treating your friend differently? Are you actually mad at her, or just feeling insecure? Having these conversations out loud with a loved one can help you pinpoint your feelings. Talk through why you’re struggling with your friend’s success, and chances are, you’ll find some form of clarity.
Help Her Out
This might be the most important step. Actions speak louder than words. Proofread that presentation for her, even if it will help her win the promotion you want. Give her a heads-up about an amazing job opening. Collaborate, promote her work on social media, and be there when she needs you. Your success won’t be delayed by helping out a friend, but your friendship could crumble if you aren’t supportive.
Evaluate The Friendship
The fact that you’re still reading this article shows you care about the friendship, and that you want to find a way to maintain it even when competing. But before you put more time and energy into the relationship, evaluate if your friend feels the same way. Does she celebrate your success? Can you count on her when you need her? If she helps you make connections or develop new skills, then it sounds like she wants to support you. As long as the relationship makes you feel good, you can have a lasting friendship — even when competing.