I see your comments on social media, and I wonder: Why are you upset? How do the negative comments towards physician colleagues serve you?
This is not an attack (that would be hypocritical). Rather, I invite you to genuinely ask yourself these questions as I sense something familiar — a projection of frustration and pain, perhaps? And I wonder how we may stop projecting and, instead, indeed start healing together?
While I’ll focus on physicians, I anticipate other communities may (or may not!) relate depending on their training and work culture. I am focusing on physician communities because the comments that triggered the “last straw” for me were comments criticizing physicians for “selling” to other physicians.
Granted, most of the comments I see on social media posts are generally positive. However, the naysayers’ comments triggered me deeply.
First, from my perspective, the comments were in reply to services created by incredibly generous physicians who also provide tons of free content.
I value the opportunity to support these physicians, knowing that the services created have the potential to save lives and provide support for unmet needs within medicine. They also can support life skills/services that may be taught/provided by non-physicians at a cost, albeit not in the same way because those individuals don’t understand the obstacles faced from the perspective of lived experience (i.e., training and working within the medical system).
When I read the naysayers’ comments, I did not see the value added by the negativity — I did see the potential harm. Who’s truly contributing to the problems here?
At face value, no one is forcing anyone to purchase anything. People get to choose to invest in offers or not and move on. Why the negativity? There must be more to the story.
There is certainly more to my story and why these comments are so triggering. Trying to dissect it all would fill a book, so for the sake of this article — let’s talk money.
The commenters were upset that physicians are “selling” something. Why should physician-entrepreneurs not charge money for their services? This was a big trigger for me as it relates to my recent experience of working half a year for no pay — very traumatic.
Regarding my experience: When I asked myself, “Why did I allow myself to work for free? Where did I learn that was appropriate?” I felt like working for free was more comfortable than advocating for money. Why? Likely for the same reason the naysayers think it’s wrong for the physician-entrepreneurs to charge money.
I think the flawed assumption that physicians should do anything for free is a reflection of our broken system. And sometimes, our harmful thought patterns and behaviors developed through being part of the broken system are not apparent until we step out to ask ourselves: Where did the accepted “norms” originate? Who do they actually serve? How are we perpetuating the problems?
There’s a term I learned along my journey trying to make sense of what was happening: “gaslighting.” I’ll leave it right there.
You may feel that physicians are supposed to work for free because you’ve fallen for it, too? Which begs the question: Why are you not celebrating the physicians who are paving the way for change?
Too often, we work for free at our own expense, and I feel that our flawed system of being overworked/underpaid perpetuates a challenging relationship with money.
I had no idea how to put my “worth” into a monetary amount, and thus I worked for no money. It was not a pleasant experience. While I work hard to not stew in the victim mindset, I felt that my people-pleasing tendencies and my inability to advocate for myself led me into a situation where people could choose to take advantage of me — or not. I no longer feel psychologically safe around the people who chose the former.
Interestingly, fast forward to today, my primary job is as a W-2 employee, and I still offer many options outside of my primary job for no cost!
What — still offering things for free? Didn’t I learn my lesson? Well, yes (learning). And just like many fellow physician-entrepreneurs, I offer services and resources at no-low cost in addition to working for compensation.
The sentiment is different when we know how to advocate for our value and have the opportunity to choose if and where to allocate free-lower cost options. It feels nice to be able to offer accessible resources. However, there must be a balance to make those efforts financially sustainable. Thus, for most people, income must be obtained from somewhere. I love that physician-entrepreneurs are finding ways to rock avenues that best suit them.
Additionally, non-traditional paths may save careers and lives. Feeling trapped or unpaid/underpaid does the opposite. Thus, where do the negative comments bashing colleagues fit in? Who do they serve?
(No one. Please stop.)
Rather than add negative comments to posts, I ask you to sit with the feeling. Where is the urge to knock the physician down coming from? Think about your actions. If I relate it to sports, the negative comments remind me of trying to injure a perceived competitor to win. That does not make you a winner. It makes you a cheater. And aren’t we on the same team?
I also appreciate the comments may be coming from a place of pain and insecurity, as I believe most bullying does. Thus, rather than point fingers and be upset, it’s time we all spread more compassion — to ourselves and others. Heal together.
As I work to heal from my period of no pay and understand my relationship with self and money, I am grateful for the physician-entrepreneurs who are showing us how to advocate for ourselves in many ways — including how to talk about money.
We are strong — and stronger together.
Jillian Rigert is an oral medicine specialist and radiation oncology research fellow.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com