How to Turn Professional Jealousy into Personal Growth

I recently had that reaction of discomfort toward a woman at a networking event. We are similar in age, and she is succeeding in a sister field to myself. I was confused by my strong dislike for her and asked myself if there was a legitimate reason that feeling, but I hadn’t seen her mistreat anyone or do anything untoward. The more I looked for a reason to explain my dislike for her, the more I came up empty. She was friendly and kind to me personally and helped me find the vegetarian food on the buffet. My reaction was not just bad for me, but it was possibly bad for my business and reputation if I couldn’t figure it out and get over it.

I considered a piece of wisdom from David Markowitz in Self-Care of the Self-Aware, in which he explains that sometimes when we have a knee-jerk dislike for someone, it might not be about them, it might be about us. I considered what I might have seen in her that might have made me feel “less than,” and realized he was right in my case.

I was jealous of this woman. I saw what she was doing and believed I could be as successful as she in that enterprise, and I felt misplaced resentment. I wasn’t upset with her, but with myself for not trying harder to reach my potential. My small-mindedness had no effect on her, but I knew immediately that it could keep me forever shy of my goals if I didn’t learn from it and grow as a person.

The first thing I did is make a list of everything she is doing that I admire. The list is long, and I realized that of the things she does that I think I should be doing, I need to add to my action plan. With my action planned form, the only fault is my own if I fail to follow through on all the items. It also me made want to try to spend more time with her since she is probably someone who can help me, and whom I might also be able to help.

So, the next week I attended an event at which she was featured, and as I heard more about her story, I was even more drawn to her and offered comments of support. She was kind afterward and suggested that we schedule a meeting to see if there are some ways we can work together. I did it! but the story doesn’t end there. I accepted her offer and paid her a sincere compliment, that I am a big fan of her approach to her business and am glad she is doing such a great job serving her clients and building great relationships. This earned me a genuine hug!

Later that day I had coffee with a friend and shared my experience and what I learned. “I am so impressed by your honesty to name your jealousy” she said, and I decided that the story deserves to be in the blog. I hope the woman I described reads it! The truth is that everyone owes it to ourselves to give thought to our knee-jerk reactions. This can help us make the wisest choices both personally and in our professional lives. One doesn’t stop where the other starts, but rather they both inform each other, and growth in one can’t be stopped from spilling into the other.

Have you ever had a dislike for someone that you couldn’t understand? What did you learn from it? If you try my suggestion to list all the things about them that you like, please share!