Those people in our lives who are threatened by our desire for success are our saboteurs. They do not want for us what we want for ourselves. They will, either overtly or passive-aggressively, work hard to discourage us.
Saboteurs can be coworkers, friends or family who are threatened in large part because they have always thought of themselves as being superior in some regard. Relatively few people are secure enough to pursue as potential friends others who they feel are superior to them in important ways. Most people want friends who they feel comfortable with, their so-called “equals.” But in many instances if not most, that comfort is in fact about their feeling slightly superior — smarter, better looking, more talented, from a better family, etc. — than their friends.
Most people have someone in their lives who is uncomfortable with others’ ambition. As a fitness trainer and author I have found this most commonly true when it comes to weight loss and fitness. The common term many use to describe these people is “jealous.” I feel the term jealous is too simplistic. One dictionary definition of jealous is “feeling resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages.” The term “threatened” is nowhere to be found in any definitions I looked up, but “threatened” is the key component to jealousy. Threatened in this case meaning “You’re making me look bad in comparison, and I won’t tolerate that.”
Many people suffer insecurities which result in their being more attracted to those over whom they feel some measure of superiority. So when the supposed inferior individual breaks out of that mold, when he or she pursues or accomplishes something admirable or impressive or ballsy that they themselves have not or cannot, like losing weight or getting fit, this is interpreted as a threat:
1 — Failure. Your success brings into sharper focus their failures as they pertain to the way they view themselves, and how they perceive themselves as being viewed and judged by others.
2 — Balance of Power. Your success upsets the dynamic. You are accomplishing something impressive that they have not been able to.
3 — Abandonment. You were once in solidarity with them, they believed, regarding a shared lack of interest in weight loss or fitness. But now you've broken out of that alliance by pursuing an unshared goal. You are leaving them behind and they are upset with you for that. It doesn’t matter that you may well have invited them along with you. They don’t want to go along, or are not ready to go along. Because you went ahead anyway on your own they interpret that as having been left behind.
Calling someone “jealous” rather than the more accurate “threatened” minimizes the real problem. Often our saboteurs are those we are closest to and love the most, which makes coming to terms with the phenomenon painful.
The bottom line is this: don’t allow saboteurs to get under your skin.