Mama M.: Struggling with Self-Confidence
Dear Mama M.,
I am a student in the School of Nursing. I guess I don’t have a lot of self-confidence in general, but I know I am in the right place. The thing that I don’t understand is how other people seem so much more confident than me, especially the medical students with whom we occasionally share teaching sessions. It seems like they are so much more confident, and that they might even feel superior to nursing students. Or is it that I feel inferior to them?
It’s hard enough feeling OK about myself, I don’t need others to make me feel “less than.” Is my whole career as a nurse going to make me feel inferior to doctors? What am I getting myself into?
Dear Less Than,
Oh, sweetie, I am so sorry you are caught in the confidence trap. It is true — there is a perception of hierarchical worth in the hospital setting, and a long history of nurses feeling devalued in relation to doctors. The sad reality about feelings of inferiority, though, is that you don’t need a doctor around for them to surface. If you go down that path—and I hope that you do not—you will be forever trapped in the “less than” mindset.
I am removing the spell that has bewitched you about being “good enough.”
You are exactly the way you need to be. Your new mantra is: “I am enough. I am valued. I appreciate my role on the medical team.”
More and more, the medical world is one of collaboration and respect. Your role is vital to the day-to-day care of the patients, and the more you respect your role, the better you will be treated. So, sugar, keep your eye on the prize, enjoy the amazingly diverse and much needed field of nursing, and guide your doctors to appreciating your knowledge and skills for your shared patients.
Also, a word about medical students. They are human beings struggling along just like the rest of us, though they may hide their insecurities better. Confidence is a strange bird, darling. I am pretty sure it is a rote exercise.
Practice giving yourself the love, appreciation and respect you deserve, and suddenly you will feel more confident.
Remember, my dear one, that there is nothing like being on the job to boost your confidence. School does not mirror the real world. You are going to be a self-reflective, kind and intelligent nurse, and you will grow into yourself.
Give yourself some time. Act confident and you will feel confident. And then you will actually notice that you have found your way to your own confidence.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Mama M. and her editor are health providers at UCSF who understand the challenges facing health professionals. This column offers students honest, compassionate advice, wisdom and love. All communication is confidential. Names and identifying information will be withheld to maintain anonymity. Send letters to MamaM.firstname.lastname@example.org.