It's better to be envied than pitied, perhaps, but it's still no fun. "Marketers tell us we should want to be envied, but if you are top dog, you are a target of hostility," says Julie Exline, assistant professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Ambivalent feelings accompany a surge in status, she says. You'll be proud of your success, but you'll also become uncomfortably aware that you now pose a threat to someone else. There's a very real possibility that others will reject you.
And get ready to have your accomplishments diminished: "People will try to make it look as though what you have going for you is actually a bad thing," Exline says. "That's why a gifted kid is labeled a nerd, why a cheerleader is called superficial."
If you are extra gracious about your success, though, you may steer people toward befriending you so as to share in the spoils. "If a rival is nice, we tend not to feel as envious," says Sarah Hill of the University of Texas, Austin, "because it's a clue that she is socially cooperative, and it would be in our best interest to have her as an ally."