"I'll Have What She's Having"
Remember that scene from When Harry Met Sally? The one where Rob Riner's mother tells the waiter, "l'll have what she's having" after seeing Meg Ryan fake an orgasm in a diner? If you haven't seen the late 80's classic, you can check it out here. It became an instant classic in part because of the awesome way Estelle Riner delivered the line, and in part because everyone could relate to that feeling of wanting what someone else seems to have. Plus, for 1989, it was pretty risqué.
Envy is a natural human emotion. We all feel it from time to time. We hear about someone's new car, and we wish we had a new car too. Someone posts about their vacation, or new boots, or whatever, and we want it want it want it, and can even start to feel a little bad about ourselves for not having it.
The same is true in private practice development- where moments for potential envy are plentiful. You see some other therapist's website, one with captivating copy and a layout that is somehow both slick and modern and warm and inviting, and you start in on a process of "compare and despair." That knotted up happy-for-you-but-not-so-happy feeling you get when you hear about the 10 private pay referral calls your friend got last week? That's called "compare and despair". And when envy turns into this kind of spiral of shame and self-attack, it undermines your ability to put your skills and your services out there.
You can't control when envy arises, but you can keep it from becoming corrosive. If you catch it, you can turn it around. Envy is just a sign that there is something someone has that you want. It's good to know what you want.
"This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies" -Lynne Twist
Where envy can turn corrosive is if you start thinking that there's not enough to go around, that if someone else has something, there won't be enough for you. If you have a sense that there is enough, then envy can be a helpful indicator. The key is to turn envy into inspiration.
When your envy gets going, try to ask yourself just what it is you are actually wanting. Here's an example. You hear about a colleague being asked to write a chapter in a book related to their niche and notice that you are experiencing some envy. Just what is it that you are wanting? Are you envious of the recognition of their expertise? Their writing skills? Their clarity or passion for their niche? That person you are envying- let them inspire you. If you can respond with compassion to the feelings of envy and be curious about it, you'll find out what you are wanting. You can then decide what actions to take to bring you closer to what you want. Maybe it's dedicating more time to writing, or doing some reflection on your interests so you can clarify a niche, or noticing the resources you already have.
Of course, there are systemic reasons (think systemic racism, systemic sexism), that influence how easy it is for some to access certain resources, and we should continue doing our part to dismantle those systems. However, the inside work still needs to be done. For example, I've seen many more clinicians who were socialized female struggle with asking for the fee they want than clinicians who were socialized male. There's a systemic issue at play as well as an internal one.
One other thing about envy-
Remember that you don't actually know what is going on for the other person. Everyone has their struggles. Everyone. Someone may have an easy time attracting new clients, but not feel confident in their ability to retain clients when the work starts getting intense. Someone may be showing up for work at their full practice grief-stricken or broken-hearted over personal losses. You just never know. Instead, try to focus on gratitude for the resources you do have, having compassion for the part of you that is experiencing envy, and how you can work on building the qualities .
If you are looking for support in cultivating the internal qualities needed to develop the private practice you want, check out my upcoming consultation group. Envy arises, no doubt, but we talk about it and foster an atmosphere of inspiration and support.
© 2017 Deb Lyman, LCSW
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