Lack of confidence is the #1 complaint physicians share with me. They remember a time when they felt competent, above average, but somehow medical training and the practice of medicine has eroded their sense of self. Below is a list of the most common self-confidence issues and confidence boosters.
- I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH FEAR It is scary to put yourself out there when your confidence is low. We can often think of 110 positive things to say about everybody else, but when it comes to ourselves…. What if I don’t know what’s wrong with the patient? What if I’m not smart enough to figure it out? Fear of not knowing is often rooted in traumatic med school or residency training. If you’ve managed to get through training without self-doubt, it can develop in toxic/dysfunctional work environments. Exercise 1: Remember and document successes past and present. Make a list of all your accomplishments. Go into detail (bullets or paragraphs), you can use visuals if you are artistic.
- PERFECTIONISM–FEAR OF MISTAKES Perfectionism is a major issue for many physicians and healthcare professionals. We take our jobs very seriously and know that getting it wrong can have far-reaching devastating results. Wanting to get it right at our own expense leads to obsessing, overworking, lack of balance. These behaviors deplete our self-confidence. Exercise 2: Practice mediocrity somewhere. Leave something unfinished. Embrace your imperfections and humanity. AREAS OF FOCUS—What you do, what you think, what you feel.
- LOSING YOUR SENSE OF PURPOSE There was a time when you entered medicine inspired by a vision or passion. You had a dream. You had a sense of purpose. Now, these many months and years later, you are lost. Jaded by all you have been through, you no longer easily connect with what you are here to do and have begun to doubt yourself.
Antidote: Create a timeline of dreams that reflects only the positive aspects of your dreams and goals. Have a conversation with someone about it. Return to the good stuff.
- RELATIONSHIP ISSUES/FAMILY/MONEY I am worthy. I am enough. I am valuable.
- TRAUMA/PTSD Working in the field of medicine often triggers old trauma and PTSD. Acknowledging and healing our trauma has to happen in order to build self-confidence. Antidote: Acknowledge the truth. Get help! Don’t allow yourself to be pathologized.
- FEAR OF AUTHORITY FIGURES AND POWER STRUCTURES We become conditioned to fear those in power. Antidote: Refuse to be controlled.
- DESTRUCTIVE BELIEFS Choosing stress as a belief and lifestyle has devastating consequences. “I have chosen a stress-filled profession and therefore I will live a stress-filled life,” is distorted, destructive thinking. Fueling the stress in our lives only erodes our self-confidence. By the time you finish medical school, it’s hard to remember your brilliance. By the time you’ve been out in the field awhile, you feel woefully inadequate. You have lots of dreams and potential, but you cease to believe in your potential.
Antidote: Choose your beliefs. Don’t allow your experiences to unconsciously create an unacknowledged belief system.
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