What To Do When You Feel Jealous

Oct 17, 2022

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As physicians, as business owners, as human beings, we all struggle with jealousy and/or envy from time to time. Those feelings like others have more or that we want something they have. I’m here to tell you, it’s normal. But if it’s just a natural human emotion, why bother to think much about it?

Because I believe examining jealousy and envy gives us deep and valuable insight into how we think about ourselves. Hand in hand with that, it reveals our perceptions of what we believe we can have, what we can achieve, even our place in the world. When we can step back and objectively examine times of jealousy or envy, we can turn that normally negative experience to our advantage. Let’s talk about what to do when you feel jealousy or envy.

“A lot of people notice that when they feel envious or jealous, then they also sort of add on a layer of shame or wrongness for even feeling it… I just want to say it’s totally normal. And that layer of shame or embarrassment or denying it or resisting it… that's super unnecessary. That is just gonna block you from actually working with it, from actually getting the information that jealousy and envy are there to provide for us.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • Differences between jealousy and envy
  • Value of examining our thoughts
  • Steps for what to do when you feel jealousy or envy
    • Notice when or what causes it
    • Identify your thoughts
    • Question your thoughts
    • Come up with 3 ways
    • Discover how you would feel
  • Go on assignment

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Small Group Physician Coaching starting soon! Sign up at saradill.com/coaching. Have questions about the group? Email me at [email protected].

Podcast Episodes:

Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach


Dr. Sara Dill: I’m Dr. Sara Dill, and this is the Stress-Less Physician podcast, Episode Number 36. Welcome to the Stress-Less Physician podcast, I’m your host, Dr. Sara Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone, how are you? Welcome back to the podcast. It is a very cold and foggy October day here in coastal California. I know a lot of people when they visit California, especially the coast, are always sort of surprised at how chilly it can be. We often don’t get a lot of heat, so when it’s in the 80s, all of us are sort of shocked.

But we also get a lot of what’s called the marine layer; a little fog, a little dampness, mostly in early summertime, but we get a little bit right now too. So, today it is a little foggy, I always like to remind myself that the weather is just a circumstance. And yet I do always feel a little blah on foggy days, but it’s good for our climate. We are in a perpetual drought, so every little bit of moisture helps. And I have an office that looks out into my little side yard or backyard, and there’s the world’s cutest little chipmunk there, so, that is something too.

I am so excited to talk to you about this subject today, which maybe sounds a little bit weird, because I really wanted to talk to you about what to do when you feel jealous, or when you feel envy, right? And so a lot of us probably don’t even like to admit that we feel jealous or envious, generally it’s not considered a very positive, I’m air quoting now, positive emotion, or emotions to feel. But I think paying attention to what we feel jealous about, or who we feel jealous about is so super important.

It is actually one of the things I have my clients do, right? Pay attention to what brings up jealousy or envy for them, especially if they are in a place where they feel stuck, or if they aren’t really sure what they want, or how they want to change their life in any way, or career, or any little detail.

So first, of course, I always like to define my terms, and so, I actually went and looked this up online, and I have a couple books on emotions as well, that I found super helpful when I first started this work, just as someone who wasn’t very well versed in emotions and had spent most of my life trying not to feel any emotions.

I always like to start with little research. So, what does it mean to be jealous? So, technically jealousy describes a feeling of protectiveness or insecurity you have over a rivalry, or perhaps being replaced. So, this typically happens in a significant relationship, and is described as often requiring three people, you, the significant person, and some other person.

So, envy is often confused with jealousy, however, where jealousy is described as taking three parties to happen, envy only takes two. So, envy is typically described as an internal longing you feel for something that someone else has. So, I tend to be a lumper, rather than a splitter. And I noticed that when I read up on these descriptions and definitions of jealousy or envy, I tend to describe myself as feeling jealous, when I guess I am actually technically envious, right?

I often will notice that I have this longing or wanting for something that someone else has, or something like that, an experience or a thing, or maybe the lack of something. So, that is what I actually want to talk about, is that internal longing. So, whether you call it envy, or whether you call it jealousy, I want to talk about the value and importance of paying attention when we feel jealous or envious of someone else for what they have, maybe what they don’t have, what they are doing or not doing, right? All of that.

For me, the first clue often that I’m feeling jealous or envious—I’m just going to use them interchangeably here—is that I will often catch myself saying to myself, oh, that must be nice, must be nice. And you’ll notice that I say that in a not very nice tone, right? It’s not particularly nice, because I’m not feeling very nice, I’m feeling jealous or envious, right? I’m longing or wanting for something that I don’t currently have. And so again, I just want to go back to what I talked about in some earlier podcasts about emotions, is that I would just remind everyone listening that at least in my opinion, no emotion is bad, right?

Emotions or feelings, the way I think about them, are just as signals that we are thinking something in particular, that then is generating that emotional response, right? So, emotions or feelings are not the problem, although we often don’t like how they feel. Emotions or feelings are just indicator lights to pay attention to what my brain, to what my mind is telling me, right? It’s just a way for me to come out of the habit of thinking thoughts and feeling feelings and not really paying attention to them, right? The unconsciousness, or sub consciousness of that, and being like, oh, something’s happening here, something that I would like to pay attention to. Because when I’m thinking, oh, that must be nice, it doesn’t feel nice for me, right?

The other thing I just want to mention is that what’s very common is that, a lot of people notice that when they feel envious or jealous, then they also add on a layer of shame or wrongness for even feeling it, right? They feel embarrassed or ashamed that they are one of those people that feels jealous of other people, right? Or envious. I just want to say its totally normal, and that layer of shame or embarrassment, or denying it, or resisting it, that’s super unnecessary, that is just going to block you from actually working with it, from actually getting the information that jealousy and envy are there to provide for us.

So, when you notice you feel envious of someone or something, just make sure you weren’t then adding shame or judgment to yourself about it. Again, it isn’t helpful or necessary, right? Our brain generates on average, what I’ve read, is about 60,000 thoughts a day. And so, we just get to pay attention to the ones that either stress us out, right? The ones that feel painful, or to the thoughts that help us create the life we want to be living, right? The thoughts we want to continue to think more of, and act from, feel from.

I love the phrase—I think I learned this from a meditation teacher or mindfulness teacher. The idea that the mind generates thoughts, like the mouth generates saliva, right? The mind generates thoughts like the mouth generates saliva. We don’t blame ourselves for salivating, right? So, let’s not blame ourselves or in some sense make ourselves wrong for just having certain thoughts, right? Where our responsibility and power lies is whether we want to continue to believe them, whether we want to continue to act from them, right? Or whether we want to sort of loosen them, wiggle them looser. Detach from them, defuse from some of these thoughts, right? Disbelieve them.

All right, so what should we do when we are feeling or notice we are feeling jealousy or envy? So, this is what I do. So, my first step, and this is actually the hardest part, is to notice that you feel jealous or envious, right? Get familiar with the feeling or the sensations, right? How does it feel in your body? How do you notice it? For me, I often then notice that phrase that comes out of it, “Oh, must be nice, must be nice, when I’m scrolling on Facebook, or listening to a friend, or hearing about what someone else is doing”, any of that. Even sometimes seeing patients.

I see a lot of patients who split their time between Santa Barbara and at least before COVID, with other places, New York City, or Europe. And I would always think, “Oh, that must be so nice,” because it was something I wanted too, right? I was having a little jealousy there, a little subconscious or unconscious jealousy. So, notice when you feel jealous or envious, you can go back right now and think about it, right? You can just go back and do like a sports replay of a moment in time when you felt jealous or envious.

It might have been a long time ago, or it might have just been earlier today, right? Maybe you’re feeling it right. So, the key is that you want to either work with a real situation in the past, often there’s somewhat repetitive situations, or often we feel jealous about the same people, or people, or we feel jealous about the same situations, or you want to notice it in the moment, right? But it’s totally fine to do this work after the fact, and in fact, sometimes it’s easier than in the moment when you are feeling jealous.

So, first you notice it, and the second step is to identify the thought or thoughts you’re having, right? What are those thoughts? Typically, one of the thoughts is like, that’s something that we want, right? We wish we could have it, we want to have it. And there’s usually a thought in there too, that we are telling ourselves, that we can’t have it, or we don’t get it, or we shouldn’t want it, right? That it’s not for us to have, that somehow we can’t have it. So, usually it’s I want it, and I can’t have it, that produces a feeling of jealousy or envy in the way I’m defining it, right? That longing for what someone else has.

So, that’s the second step, identify what’s going on in your head, right? Just write it down maybe. What are all those thoughts? They’re probably going to be a lot of them.

The third step is to check in with yourself whether this is something you really want or not, right? Why do you want it? Why are we not? Not with judgment, but just with curiosity. Sometimes when I do this, I find that I don’t actually want it, it’s like an automatic thought. Sometimes what I want, is I just want to be able to have it, but if I really could have it, or thought I could have it, I don’t actually really want it, right? Which is so good to know, because it lets you off the hook. Do you actually want just the option of it? Or is this something that you really want in your life? Why or why not?

And then step four, the thought or thoughts to question, are the thoughts that you can’t have it, right? That somehow it’s not for you, that you don’t get it, that it’s too late, or only other people get to experience that.

So, I want you to really start to question that, really? What if it’s not true? What if you could have something even better? Maybe you can have it, but later, maybe in a different form, right? Is it possible that you’re wrong about that? Is it possible that actually you could totally have that in your life? You could totally experience that, right? Then I like to challenge myself, can I start to come up with ways that possibly I’m wrong, that maybe I could actually have whatever it is I’m jealous about, right?

So, in the situation with patients of mine, who are by coastal or split their time, I have really been thinking about ways that I can still see patients, and have a medical practice, and a coaching practice, and a consulting practice, and also maybe travel a little bit, and I’ve actually done that before. I’ve been location independent when I was taking a sabbatical from seeing patients, and I lived in Maine, I lived in Rhode Island, I lived in California, I also did Locum Tenens in Hawaii, right? So, I actually know now it’s totally possible, there’s just some details to work out. Can you come up with three ways that maybe you can have what it is you’re feeling jealous about, that someone else has?

And then the last part of this process is to notice that if you had this thing, what would be different for you? How would you feel? Can you feel that way now? And that’s because the reason we want anything is typically because of how we think it will make us feel. And that is always available now. So, if I want to be bi-coastal, maybe it’s because it feels interesting or exciting, or feels like freedom, freedom is always something I’m pursuing.

But I can create those emotions now, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t decide that I want to have more travel, right? Or I want to figure out a way to do everything I do, but also spend more time in Europe, or more time in Hawaii, or more time on the East Coast, right? So, it’s not saying that you don’t pursue what it is you’re wanting and creating that. But what is it that you’re really going after? What is that going to give for you?Sometimes I coach people who really want to be married, right? I’d like to be married sometime, and I love being single, I feel like both are great options.

So, what would be married create for me? What’s the emotion? Why do I want it? Can I start to feel that way now? So again, it doesn’t mean you don’t decide to figure out how to get whatever it is that you’re jealous about, but I find its way easier, and also feels less urgent, once you realize that the feelings you’re after are available now.

So, what are some examples of things I’ve coached clients on, or that friends have told me about, or that I’ve been jealous or envious about, right? I have some people who get jealous when they hear about people going to a yoga class every week, or maybe in the morning before going to work. People who have more vacation time, or travel more, people who have more time off, maybe that have more flexible days, right? Who can schedule a doctor’s appointment, or more easily take time off.

It’s interesting that prior to COVID, I think a lot of physicians were sometimes jealous about people who could work from home. And before COVID, I feel like this was sort of a physician or doctor fantasy that no one thought was really possible, at least for the majority of specialties, for the majority of physicians. And now, I think we all realize that it’s totally possible. Yes, it takes some permutations and takes some details, right? You got to troubleshoot some things, and figure out how to do billing, and what your software is, and all other things. But I think most of us realize that it’s completely possible as a physician to work from home. And I think a lot of us don’t want to anymore, maybe because it’s possible. So, it’s just an interesting example.

So, I would just ask yourself, what are you jealous about? What are you envious of? Do you ever say, oh, that must be so nice to have! Must be nice. Maybe it involves making more money, maybe it involves working less, or working more. Maybe it involves seeing a different kind of patient population. Maybe it involves getting married or getting divorced, having kids, traveling more, living somewhere else.

So, I’d love to give you an assignment, if you want it. The first part is to start paying attention to when and what and who brings up feelings of jealous or envy. Notice what you are telling yourself you can’t have, what if you can have it? Would you still want it? Why do you want it? Can you come up with three possible ways to get it or create it in your life relatively soon? What would have to change?

And then I want you to notice if this is hard for you, right? It’s interesting that so many of us actually, it feels scary to actually admit to ourselves and acknowledge what we really, truly want, and then especially to wonder if maybe it is possible? To start to dream and scheme about how to make it happen.

Sometimes it’s easier in some ways just to tell ourselves that we don’t get to have it, right? That it’s just not going to happen for us in this lifetime. What happens for you when you start to wonder, maybe it is possible. If almost anything is possible, what do I really want to create? How do I want to spend my time and energy? What do I want to change?

Notice if that brings up some fear. For me, fear is often a sign I’m moving in the right direction. As long as it comes along with enthusiasm or excitement. I think I’ve talked about this before. For me, a green light to move ahead is if I feel scared and excited, right? So, notice if it’s hard for you, or feels scary, but is there some excitement when you think about, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I could have this. Do I still want it? What has to change?

And let’s work on it. Let me know if I can help. This is fun stuff. I love doing this. I love blowing up my life and recreating it, and I love helping others. Sometimes you don’t have to blow up the whole thing, sometimes you just need to tweak it. So, don’t feel like everything has to be jettisoned, but certainly possible.

That’s what I got for you this week, love talking to you. Again, please send me an email, Sarah, [email protected] anytime. Or feel free to set up a free one-on-one consultation session, a free mini coaching session, and we can work on this, whatever you want. Talk to you next week, bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at www.saradill.com, that’s S-A-R-A-D-I-L-L.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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