For those of you who may not know this story, Stefani Germanotta is the given name of the superstar, Lady Gaga. When Stefani was in college at NYU, a group of her classmates made a Facebook group (a feat unto itself since Facebook was in its infancy back then), which was dedicated to mocking the then rising star in her attempts at achieving fame. It was called, “Stefani Germanotta You Will Never Be Famous.” Little did they anticipate that the young and ambitious Stefani would go on to win countless awards including nine GRAMMYs and an Oscar.
I bet they feel really silly right now….
When I share this story with friends, they are shocked to learn that people can be so cruel. How can someone work so hard to devalue another person’s success? Why is it so hard to be happy for people when their star rises? What compels another person to bring someone down like that?
In reality, this is more the rule than the exception.
Whenever someone starts to see their hard work equate to success, there is always someone in the background discrediting and undermining them. This is especially true in female relationships, unfortunately.
A few years ago, I wrote a post here called Why Women Hate Each Other which discussed how evolutionary psychology works to create a sense of scarcity and competition. The basic idea is that we see “success” (which equates to things like wealth, fame, prestige, accolades, etc.) as a finite resource. Somewhere along the line in our upbringing, we learn (falsely) that there are only a small handful of spots at the top, so if someone takes one, there are fewer to go around for the rest of us.
This is a false narrative of success scarcity, and it is the reason people become so uncomfortable when other people do well.
Additionally, there is a concept of humility and humbleness as a virtue that is ingrained in us from a young age. This equates to the idea that it is “unbecoming” to flaunt one’s success so as to not come off as a braggart. When we achieve success, we are told to minimize it so as to not make others feel uncomfortable. I think this is because we don’t want others to feel insecure about their own lack of success, so we downplay our own.
And that is at the core of all of this – the idea that insecurity about our own lot in life is something that becomes someone else’s fault.
It was insecurity that caused those NYU students to criticize Stefani behind her back in the “Stefani Germanotta You Will Never Be Famous” group. They were also aspiring performers, and they felt insecure that Stefani was getting noticed and they were not. They probably felt jaded by the perceived unfairness of it all, and they wanted to commiserate in their shared pain. And so, they tried to dull Stefani’s shine in an effort to get her to abandon her path so perhaps there was now more opportunity for the rest of them.
But you see, that is just NOT how all this works. Success is not finite.
It is available to all those who work hard to achieve it. Sure, there are people who were at the right place at the right time or who were born into privilege who may have an easier road to walk, but that doesn’t negate the narrative that working hard at something often leads to being successful at it.
If you see someone rise, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do the same.
The two are not mutually exclusive. You may feel compelled to “knock someone down a peg” or “put them in their place” or even “humble them,” but that is most definitely NOT your job. It’s no one’s job. If you see someone achieve what you cannot or have not, the best thing you can do for yourself is evaluate what is standing in YOUR way, and I can assure you, it is not someone else blocking you.
“Stefani Germanotta You Will Never Be Famous”
Perhaps the roadblocks in your way can be removed by re-evaluating things or regrouping and restarting on a slightly different path. Maybe it means working even harder to achieve the same results for yourself. Maybe it means tapping resources to find help and support to get you where you want to go. It may even mean abandoning a particular path or dream in favor of something equally awesome that you might have more aptitude for.
But, in no way shape or form does it mean that you need to dull someone else’s shine. There is enough success to go around folks, so let’s stop being insecure and petty.
Instead, let’s be the voice that helps someone ascend. That way, when you get to the top yourself, you are in good company.