Top 5 reasons doctors lack self-confidence

3 minute read

What prevents us from being the doctors we always imagined? asks Dr Pamela Wible

What prevents us from being the doctors we always imagined?

We enter medicine as inspired, intelligent and compassionate humanitarians. Soon, we’re cynical and exhausted. How did all these totally amazing and high-functioning people get screwed up so fast? Attention, medical students and doctors: It’s not your fault. Here’s why you are suffering and what you can do about it.

With decades of experience helping people break trauma bonds, overcome destructive thinking patterns and transcend their personal goals, Sydney Ashland now helps physicians boost self-confidence and break free of fear-driven medicine. Here’s a brief summary of her best advice for physicians (and all health professionals).

Low self-confidence, financial concern, PTSD/guild, family responsibilities, anxiety, health, addiction, isolation, lack of direction and abuse cycles are all fears that hold doctors back.

So how do we overcome our fears as physicians? How do we build our self-confidence?

Top five warning signs you lack self-confidence (and how to get it back):

1. Confusion — fear of not knowing. 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. Antidote: clarity.

2. Perfectionism — fear of mistakes. Perfectionism is a major issue for many physicians and health care 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. Antidote: Accept your humanity.

3. 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: Choose opportunities to heal yourself.

4. 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. What we focus on grows. Antidote: Identify your positive belief system.

5. 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: connect with your purpose, your dream, your reason for being here.

Dr Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Physician Suicide Letters — Answered and Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor. She hosts the physician retreat, Live Your Dream, to help her colleagues heal from grief and reclaim their lives and careers.

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