Essays & Confessions

“Success Is The Best Revenge” Is Actually Terrible Advice

By | Friday, December 21, 2018

We’ve all heard it. “Success is the best revenge.” And sure, it’s enticing. After all, what would feel better than righting the wrongs of someone who slighted you, who brushed you aside? Wouldn’t it just feel so damn good to see them on the sidelines of your life, watching you fucking thrive while they just sit there wishing they could take back all the ways the hurt and underestimated you?

I mean, I guess it could. For a little while, at least. But I’m willing to bet you may find that the satisfaction that accompanies revenge is as fleeting at their presence was in your life — as fleeting as their lack of belief in your goals and aspirations was in their own mind. Because, sorry, people really aren’t thinking about you all that much. They’re thinking about themselves. And this doesn’t make them bad people, to be clear. It simply makes them human.   

So that whole “Success is the best revenge” narrative? It’s actually awful advice. Not only does it not serve you or your life at all, it also breeds toxicity in your mind and in your heart.   

And there’s an honest-to-god scientific reason to back me up here. According to Psychology Today, studies show that the high from your revenge mentality is extremely short-lived. Moreover, seeking revenge on those who have hurt you only makes the situation and the pain that much harder to let go of and move on from. This tit-for-tat strategy only keeps the “villain” at the front and center of your story, instead of, well, you.

Now, I get that motivation is hard to come by. Believe me; I understand! It’s so fucking fleeting that if you can find a source, any source, you drink from that well as if it’s a fine wine. But eventually, that source will deplete and run out. And when that happens, all you’re left with is the bitter aftertaste of a revenge plot gone cold.

Like most people, I’ve been hurt by a lot of people my life. And for a long time, I clung to the revenge plot as a means to “get back” at them. I mean, if I got that dream byline, if I landed the impressive job with the salary to match, if I took care of myself and got super hot, then they’d see what they lost out on, and then I’d be happy. All that invalidation and dismissal of my worth would be totally erased.

Of course, that didn’t happen. It stalled my growth and progress because instead of focusing on what I needed to do, I felt stressed and pressured to prove these people wrong. And then, when I didn’t have abs in three weeks, when I didn’t get that byline, when I didn’t land my dream job, all I could think was, Maybe they were right to walk away from me, to not believe in my goals. Maybe I never truly will prove them wrong because they were right about me all along.

Yeah. Not so effective. I’m sure some of you can relate to this, too, this feeling of utter defeat when we fall short, especially when we think we have an audience. The truth is, though, we are going to fall short all of our life. We’re not always going to get it right. Sometimes, our best won’t be good enough. And you know what? That’s okay.  

So instead of seeking revenge, instead of focusing on how our lives look on the outside, why don’t we all just take a damn step back and think about what feels good rather than what looks good to others? That makes the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram post? How about we live a life we actually want, without our past holding us back? How about disregarding the “audience” we’ve created in our mind and not giving a shit what they think or do at all? After all, when you start living your life through the lens of revenge, through proving everyone wrong, you not only take away the joy — you take away your own autonomy. And why the hell would you do that? Seems pretty pointless to me.

So, please, for the love of God, let it go; let them go. Because honestly? They probably aren’t even thinking about you. So why are you giving them so much power of your life?

Molly is an assistant digital strategist by day and a writer by night. She drinks way too much coffee and can be found on Twitter here.

Image via Unsplash

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