Isn’t it marvellous when good stuff happens to other people? No, seriously, isn’t it? Good for you, we cry, stifling an eye roll and forcing our mouths into a smile. It’s often hard to do, but what if we started to practise freudenfreude? This new word is the opposite of schadenfreude, its more famous (and darker) sister. It allows us to feel happy when someone else succeeds. And apparently, if we get really good at it, we can feel that sense of bliss even when we’re not involved with the person. Something good happens to a complete stranger and we get all happy? I don’t think I’m there yet. To be honest I find schadenfreude far too delicious and enjoyable. It just tastes so good.
So the past couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing freudenfreude first hand with close friends and, I have to admit, it’s starting to feel good. First up, my bestie, Katy, only went and won a BBC competition to appear on Strictly and then The One Show. I dropped my phone when the message came through. And when I saw her dance with (insert name of the famous Strictly person here, I want to say George?) I got all teary-eyed and proud. Katy was confident in front of the camera, funny and warm and talented. If the BBC has any sense it will snap her up immediately.
Then I was invited to the launch of an art exhibition featuring my new chum Nina and her amazing paintings. Sipping the wine and hob-nobbing with artsy types and looking more closely at her talent, I had that feeling again. It was lovely.
It might be trickier to celebrate when the person isn’t known to me, or if they get something I wanted (hey, that’s not fair!) or if I’m in a bit of a slump and my inner critic is making snarky comments, but I’m working on the empathy muscle that allows me to find joy in someone else’s success. The more practice I get in, the easier it’ll be. And that can only be a good thing.