High Five: Finding Joy in Others' Success

06.01.24 09:48 PM By Peak Mind


I am fan of high fivesIt's not necessarily the high five itself. Though, I find a perfectly executed Top Gun style high five to be extremely satisfying, it's what it represents: taking the time to celebrate a victory with someone. 



Dr. April, my counterpart here at Peak Mind, is, hands down, my favorite person to share good news with. She lights up and is so genuinely thrilled for other's success and good fortune. It amplifies the joy of the moment in ways that are hard to articulate. Trust me. It's awesome.

We were on a zoom call when I told her that my new book was finally out (SQUEAL! Details below). Before I could even finish the sentence, "I'm going to mail you one as soon as I get my copies," she had already ordered one from Amazon. 

Two days later, she Facetimed me the second she opened the package to laugh and cheer and celebrate this big moment. It was so special to me!

And this reaction is not unusual from her. She is the poster child of freudenfreude, a German word for the emotion that encapsulates finding joy in another person's joy or happiness. 

It's not to be confused with schadenfreude.



The polar opposite of finding joy in someone else's joy is schadenfreude, finding pleasure in their pain or misfortune. 

I experienced this the other night hanging out with my newest friend. As he told me that his childhood bully, the kid who made 5th grade a nightmare for him, is now currently in jail, I found myself gleefully exclaiming, "Good!"

I have a bit of a vengeful streak that shows up to wish bad things on people who hurt those I care about. It's not a good look, but I get it. It stems from a desire to right a wrong and to protect those who matter to me, but I think indulging it beyond a few thoughts right in the moment isn't worthwhile. 

When I take the time to pause and exercise a bit of psychological strength, I can tap into compassion for that bully. I can recognize that, as enticing as it might be to plot revenge, it doesn't actually serve me. Spending a lot of time in that headspace detracts from the quality of my life experience, and it doesn't line up with my values. 

In the big picture, I'd much rather channel April.

Shoy and Bragitude

I was introduced to the terms shoy and bragitude in Brene Brown's Atlas of the Heart, a book that dives into human emotions. They are like freudenfreude on steroids.

According to Brown, shoy is sharing in another's joy by expressing interest and asking follow up questions. It goes beyond the initial high five and levels up the celebration.

Bragitude, on the other hand, is intentionally being grateful for another's success. 

Since announcing the release of my book in mid-May, I have had the amazing fortune of experiencing all of these positive, connecting emotions from people in my life. It's been really overwhelming.

And interesting.

Working through the Ick

April and I met up in New York City last week to do a wellbeing session for a company there. It was during those few days that I sent out tons of emails and made social media posts to share the release of my book.

While I've gotten pretty comfortable with self-promotion and putting stuff out there over the years, it's not always fun and games. 

I am learning to recognize the ick (my preferred, very professional term for the negative, difficult, ugly, and unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and urges that we experience internally) that is part of the process. 

Initially, there is excitement and pride, hope and confidence... followed by this small, vulnerable part that shows up just as people start to celebrate with me. 

I got slammed with that ick while sitting in La Guardia airport. 

As I read through loving, supportive, congratulatory messages, I could feel the tears start to rise. I felt grateful and overwhelmed... and small. 

This fragile, small part of me felt like I messed up, like I was going to fail or regret what I had done. It was anxiety and shame and vulnerability rolled into one.

I texted my brother Joey, "...it's weird. I feel super proud AND super vulnerable about putting it out there. It's a bit of a rollercoaster." To which he responded, "I bet, but that feeling is growth and why we do what we do."

And just like that, my little brother shifted my world... again (other kernels from Joe are sprinkled throughout the book. He has knack for dropping unexpected words of wisdom on me).

He was right. Growth is important to me, and it doesn't happen without stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a chance. And you can't step outside your comfort zone without experiencing some inside ick.

And it's a heck of a lot easier to do that when you've got people in your corner rooting for you (or talking you off a ledge when you need it).

Surrounding yourself with people who fan your flame rather than dousing it is so important, and I'm lucky in that regard. I'm also working hard to be that kind of person to others. 

But it's not always easy.

Ick in the Face of Others' Success

Sometimes we experience ick when someone shares a victory, even if it's someone we like.

Envy, the "green-eyed monster," might show up, and that's actually completely understandable. Envy just tells us that they have something we want. We can take that as important data and use it as fuel for motivation. 

That is, if we can remember that happiness and success are not zero sum games. Your good fortune does not take away from the potential for mine.

Sometimes our mind's default habits kick in, and we compare, judge, criticize, or make it all about us. 

We need to make effort to step outside of ourselves sometimes. While our minds naturally consider everything we hear as it relates to us or what it might mean for or about us, It's just not always about us, and we need to remind ourselves of that.

We can also inadvertently dampen someone's flame by critiquing at the wrong time. It might be natural to hone in on what could be improved, what's not perfect, or "problems," but the moment for doing that is not when we're celebrating. The time for that is when you're being asked for your input or when constructive feedback can actually be used. 

Similarly, judgments and comparisons just aren't helpful in this context. They're going to show up, but set them aside. Have some compassion for yourself but also challenge yourself to practice shoy and bragitude. 

What if we could all be like April and focus on celebrating, on lifting each other up, and giving enthusiastic high fives?

Speaking of High Fives...

My brand new book, The Way I See It:  A Psychologist's Guide to a Happier Life, is out! It's a compilation of some of my favorite of these newsletters and articles I've written plus a few new pieces that tie everything together. With it, my hope is to share what I know from psychology and from my own journey of trying to find happiness to change the way you see life. Get your copy here. I hope you enjoy it!


“Promise yourself... to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own." 
- Christian D. Larson   


Dr. Ashley Smith photo

Written by Dr. Ashley Smith

Peak Mind Co-founder

Peak Mind

Peak Mind Co-founders Peak Mind: The Center for Psychological Strength