Jealousy, a Well-Known But Unspoken Part of Physical Therapy School
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
"A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms."
Jealousy is a common emotion, we've all experienced it in various facets of our lives. But is it a desired one? Not really.
Let's be honest though, jealousy is a powerful emotion. One that doesn't necessarily bring out our best selves or positivity in someone. But let's not forget, we are in control of our emotions to an extent, we can become self-aware and know when jealousy is creeping up on us and when we need to put it in check.
Personally, I don't believe that we should use feelings of jealousy to push ourselves to do more or to strive to be more successful. And here's why: jealousy is an emotion that is experienced when we compare someone's situation to our own; when we take their success and measure that to our own, and find that theirs measures higher. Jealousy isn't experienced when we believe that we are doing better. To do a simple comparison like that is unfair to both ourselves and the other person.
To operate on jealousy would be to operate on an external locus of control and to lack focus in our successes and accomplishments.
Physical therapy school is challenging, exhausting, and stressful though also rewarding, energizing, and empowering. As students we are embarking on our journeys as PT and PTA students, and we should be proud of that. Now add jealousy. Not only does jealousy dampen this achievement—que rain cloud and feelings of negativity—and change our outlook, it makes our lives as students that much harder, and admittedly at times, pretty stressful.
Comparing grades, clinical experiences, and overall knowledge is not how we're going to be the best student or best clinician, to be honest those things will hold us back. Not only that, but it will hold our profession back.
Let's do a reflection exercise. Can you think back to why you applied to physical therapy school? It was in most cases an internal cause, reason, calling, or feeling that you had, right? It was internal drive that got you to school, and let's be honest, it's what has gotten you this far as a student.
Can you say the same for external influencers or comparisons made? Have those emotions or feelings benefited you or caused you more strife and stress than they were worth? Just a guess, but I'm assuming that's the case, at least it was for me.
As students we have learned that every patient is unique, and in order to make a comprehensive and effective rehabilitation plan we must take a look at their biology, their psychology, and their social components that are impacting and influencing their life. And this holds true for every single person that we meet, including our classmates and colleagues.
Jealousy is a powerful emotion causing our motivation and drive to be dependent on the successes of the people we surround ourselves with. Additionally, it causes our happiness to be contingent on the highs and lows of those around us. This does not lend itself to a happy or healthy mind-set as students or as future professionals.
Someone else's success says nothing about your own. It is a complete reflection on what they have gone through and what they have achieved. As students, we are all on the same team, working toward the same goal – we need to remember that.
The other day I was listening to a podcast where the guest, Lolly Daskal, founder and CEO of Lead From Within, discussed her nightly ritual that consisted of thinking about all the great things she had done that day, and then followed by a few things that she could do tomorrow to further her positive impact on the world.
This resonated with me.
As students we are constantly facing the overwhelming journey that is physical therapy school. And I can say anecdotally that this type of positive self-talk can prove to be very beneficial in helping us navigate life as students.
I often find myself ignoring all the things I've accomplished or done, and instead focusing on the things I have yet to do. But get this, there are no negative side effects of taking a minute before your day is over to acknowledge what you've done that day, whereas the alternative of denying yourself that praise can be costly to your mental health.
I think the second part of the ritual is equally important. We need motivation, and we should push ourselves to do things that help to accomplish our mission and goals. And that motivation in part should come from within ourselves. Our goals should be set based on what we've done and what we can do, not what someone else has done.
We won't experience jealousy if we're focused on our own successes and accomplishments, but then also feel genuinely proud and happy for our fellow classmates. We're all working hard and trudging through school, let's not make it harder on one another. Instead, let's be that cheerleader, motivator, eternal optimist that we ourselves need and our classmates and colleagues need as well. It's on us.
Now let's get to work.
This article was originally published on the Maryland Chapter SSIG blog.
Megan Mitchell, SPT, attends the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is secretary of a newly formed Maryland Chapter SSIG and has just submitted a proposal to create a social media task force for the Pain Management SIG. You can find Megan on Twitter: @MegMitchellSPT.