Climbing The Ladder

How I Turn My Professional Jealousy Into Something Productive

By | Monday, October 31, 2016


As a new freelance writer, I struggle with it all the time. I’m constantly networking, making connections, and trying to carve out my place inside this weird, internet-obsessed industry. I look at fellow writers and feel jealous, convinced that there is no way that will ever be me. On a good day, I am able to remind myself to stop the comparison before I get in too deep. On a bad day, I can fall straight into an all-consuming resentment spiral.

And it’s not just fellow writers that cause me to feel jealous; it’s anyone who has a clear sense of their career, anyone who truly knows what they want and is working hard to make it happen. Obviously, this is all a reflection of my own confidence (or lack thereof) in this particular piece of my life. It has nothing to do with who I’m comparing myself too; it’s even happened with friends. They’ll tell me about their latest promotion, or grad school project, or new creative endeavor, and I find myself struggling to be fully happy for them — which of course leads me to feel an additional layer of shame for not being a good friend.

But jealousy is natural. Envy is a part of life. And we’re living in a society that’s dead-set on pitting women against each other, so it’s easy to feel competitive. It’s normal to worry that another person’s success could mean less for you, because these fears stem from our reality. They’re fed to us on a daily basis. We’re not just making this stuff up because we’re horrible people who only think about ourselves. We’re operating in a scarcity mindset, because that’s the way women have been forced to operate since the dawn of time.

It’s easy to feel intimidated by women who are slaying, even if they’re our closest friends. But instead of going straight into comparison mode when these feelings come up, I’m making a conscious decision to try out a different route. Instead of being jealous and resentful, I’m choosing to befriend these women, to support them and raise them up, instead of feeling bad about their accomplishments.

This way of interacting with fellow women is called “Shine Theory” and it’s a term coined by Ann Friedman in NY Mag. Friedman writes:

When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.

Friedman’s right. It might be your natural instinct to want to resent, ignore, or villainize women who are accomplished, but it’s actually in your best interest to add them to your network. Get to know them. Learn from them. The simple act of being around people who have their shit together tends to make you want to get your shit together. They raise you up. They bring you to the next level.

Not to mention, it’s good networking. Surrounding yourself with badass women ups your reputation as a fellow badass woman. You start to run in the same circles, and when the time comes, you’ll have a recommendation from someone you already know is admired and well-respected.

From a writing perspective, adopting the principles of Shine Theory has been incredibly helpful in my career. It’s basically networking, but without the supreme awkwardness the idea implies. If there is a writer that I’m particularly intimidated by, I make a point of reaching out and commenting on their work. Simply following women I admire on social media has helped me make important industry contacts. Plus, it’s a lot more fun than wallowing alone, resentful and convinced that you will never be as talented as so and so.

Shine Theory has also helped me on a personal level. I have friends that are lawyers and doctors, friends that are bosses, friends that are athletes, friends with seriously impressive educations and volunteer backgrounds. All of my friends are killing it in their own ways. And sometimes that makes me feel a little self-conscious, but if I can put my shit aside and not get into competition mode, I’m able to let their success motivate me to be on that same level. It’s like the saying goes: “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.”

I believe that in order for women to really get ahead and start to dominate the workforce, we need to start advocating for one another. Instead of competing with the other woman in our office, befriend her. Work together. Nominate her ideas. Stop trying to prove to everyone else that you are better, and instead, work as a team.

I’ve been on both sides of this experience. I’ve had women colleagues, mentors, and supervisors advocate for my work, nominate me for projects, and echo my ideas when they are talked over or ignored. Working with those women — women I genuinely respected and admired — made me want to work harder. It also made me like the experience of working much more.

When I’ve worked with women who ignored me, competed with me, or straight up tried to sabotage me, my work and my happiness both suffered. And when I felt intimidated by a brilliant colleague, my resentfulness only made it worse. Befriending these women was always the right move. I was motivated to do better, and most of the time, I got the opportunity to learn from them.

Next time you are feeling envious of another woman, remind yourself that this is a good thing. You want what this person has. This is a clue to your own journey. Utilize Shine Theory and befriend her. Learn from her. Advocate and support her. You will both rise. Success is available for everyone, and it’s always easier when we work together.


Jillian wants to live in a world where the coffee is bottomless and the sweatpants are mandatory. As a professional writer, she enjoys crafting copy that cuts through the bullshit of the everyday media. When she’s not being a word wizard, Jillian can be found hiking the trails with her husband and her slightly neurotic German Shepherd named Penny. To learn more about her work and her love of sweatpants, visit her website or find her on Twitter.

Image via Unsplash

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