Simon Cowell's right! Success is the best revenge, says a career woman driven by her enemies
20:25 GMT, 23 May 2012
Just last week a colleague casually dropped into conversation that a woman we both knew had got a publishing deal. As he wittered on about how great it was for her, how hard she’d worked to secure it, and how lucrative it was, I felt my nails digging into my palms in anger.
One thought and one thought only seared through my brain: to get my own book idea out to some agents, pronto.
Why Because this ‘mutual friend’ was actually an arch-enemy; a business rival, someone who had blatantly stolen a work idea from me a few years ago, and whose very name was enough to turn my blood cold with fury.
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Yet a part of me should be thanking this woman for her success for, unwittingly, she has probably just given my career a very welcome boost.
People often tell me I am very driven. As a single parent and a self-employed writer and broadcaster I need to be. I have to seek out opportunities, keep them coming, and make sure I am always ready, willing and able to take on an assignment.
And on the days I’m not The mornings I just want to idle away the day flicking through magazines I think about the people who drive me to achieve: my enemies.
I’d always thought this was a rare trait among women, a shameful secret side to me I should never admit to — and one I certainly wasn’t ready to confess to my lunch companion.
So I almost leapt up and down with glee when reading in The Mail last week how Simon Cowell credited his success with being ‘driven by revenge’ and a desire to get his own back on his enemies.
Competitive: Simon Cowell said he is 'driven by revenge'
The truth is, my desire to succeed is spurred on by a need to show anyone who has doubted my abilities or crossed me that I will — ultimately — win.
Growing up in a working-class family, I was somewhat at odds with my largely middle-class school chums. I can clearly recall being in an English lesson as a 13-year-old and the teacher asking the class what their career aspirations were. ‘I want to be a writer,’ I replied.
Leaning in close, the girl sitting next to me whispered: ‘You live in a council house and don’t even have a telephone at home. You’ll be lucky to get a job in Woolworths.’
Resisting the temptation to plunge my freshly sharpened pencil into her fleshy arm, I bit my lip and fought back tears. But a voice in my head said loud and clear: ‘I’ll show you.’
It took a while, though. I left school and got a job in an office of an accountancy software firm, where, as a nervous 17-year-old eager to impress, I threw myself into my tasks, relishing my ‘office junior’ role.
Until that is, the office manager took issue with me.
Perhaps my enthusiasm and energy were too much for her. She was, after all, a greying, increasingly embittered 50-something old witch.
She gradually took jobs away from me, barely spoke, and made the atmosphere in our office hell. I began to dislike her with such a passion that it spurred me on to increase my skill set and flee.
She didn’t look up from her keyboard the day I handed in my notice for a better-paid job with a friendly environment. Her head bowed, she marked the date on her wall calendar and said nothing. I, however, thanked her for all she had taught me.
Many years and several jobs later, I embarked on my dream career in my late 20s, relishing every byline, imagining my old schoolroom nemesis reading it and eating her nasty words.
But even having achieved my goal, and now a mature woman a year away from my 40th birthday, that ‘I’ll show you’ petulance is still there, driving me on, day after day. And I am not alone.
Belinda, a successful colleague, tells me of the absolute fury she felt when a girl she went to school with got a job on a national newspaper.
‘At school, she was popular, trendy and a complete b***h,’ Belinda says. ‘And when she popped up on a certain paper it annoyed me. So much so that I channelled all my energy into sending them ideas until I was writing for them, too.
‘Now she’s ended up being a TV presenter and it has infuriated me so much it drives me to assess my own achievements.’
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Are Belinda and I right to feel like this, or would the sisterhood at large brand us jealous or spiteful. A chance conversation with another pal made me realise that a desire to always be a step ahead of our enemies drove us in other ways, too.
‘Have you seen how much weight Diane has lost’ my friend Kate asked me over coffee.
I pulled a face. I had seen. Not that Diane and I were friends: her double-crossing ways some years ago had seen to that, but when a picture of her had shown up on another friend’s Facebook page looking svelte in a fitted dress, I had immediately sworn off my late-night crisp-fests.
I admitted as much to Kate, and she raised an eyebrow in solidarity. ‘Do you know why I took up running’ she asked, lowering her voice. I shook my head.
‘It was because a super-fit female friend of my husband started to make a play for him,’ she replied.
‘Things got messy for a while, and then, when it was all behind us, my absolute hatred for her and my need to look the best I possibly could drove me to the treadmill.
I knew where she was coming from, as I suspect many women do.
Getting mad or even is not good enough where enemies are concerned. Only better will do.