"I was full in six months!"
"I made 6 figures in my first year!"
"I landed a paid speaking gig!"
"I have a wait list!"
These are all phrases that I absolutely hated hearing in my early days of private practice. They would immediately trigger a wave of intense, uncomfortable jealousy.
While I was happy for the person who was enjoying the success (or I at least tried really, really hard), it made me feel like a total loser.
Why wasn't I enjoying all of these amazing things? Why was I just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring?
I'm no stranger to feeling jealous. Growing up, I was an immigrant, in a family who was trying to establish themselves. We lived in small, rented apartment and shopped at discount stores (I remember the shame of being seen going into a Bargain Harold's). My friends all lived in big homes, wore name brand clothing and one of them even had a car phone!
I felt like I was on the outside looking into these big, fabulous lives that were out of reach for me.
While I eventually got over the disappointment of not getting everything I wanted in childhood, these familiar feelings resurfaced during those early days of private practice building.
I would hang out in Facebook groups for therapists and read about people's successes. They seemed out of reach to me (both the people and the successes!). I would start feeling that uncomfortable feeling of envy and then would shame myself for being so petty.
It was not pretty.
Eventually, I began changing how I dealt with these pesky feelings.
Rather than interpreting jealousy as a sign that I was a terrible person, I started viewing it as a message;
"Hey, I want that for myself too!"
Jealousy became a messaging service that reminded me of my own goals. It became less about the other person and more about what I wanted and was willing to work for.
This also allowed me to change how I responded to those "successful" people. Rather than viewing them as people who's sole purpose was to make me feel like crap, I began to see them as potential teachers, mentors or even friends.
I began to reach out to the people that I was feeling jealous of. I would comment on their blog post, share their content and would even send messages. As I got to know some of these people, I realized that they had their own struggles and challenges. Their early successes did not actually mean that they were perfect human beings!
If you experience jealousy, know that you are not alone. It's a very natural and understandable experience especially when we are immersed in groups for therapists. Interpret your own jealousy as a signal that there is something about that person's success that you would like for yourself.