Improving Your Practice

Improve Your Self Talk, Revolutionize Your Practice

“Thoughts are things, REAL things, and they are the only things you can control” My adaptation from Napoleon Hill

 Whether or not you’re familiar with the science behind the power of the mind to influence reality, it’s something you should be using to your advantage every day. As nurses, our days are crazy. They often hold within them a gamut of emotions usually only seen in romantic comedies and a good teenage melodrama.  Compliments of this, we can often take very much to heart the ups, and particularly the downs of our day.  We internalize that negativity and as it builds, we can start to believe we hate what we do. It robs us of our passion, and steals our power.

I want to remind you of your own power to control your day.  We control our outlook, no matter what chaos is brewing around us.  If it’s our own special superpower, then why are we surrendering it on a daily basis? Why do we succumb to the negativity that thrives all around us? Why are we handing our power over to other people to control our day? These are questions you must address, and think about, before you can make a change. If you don’t know the ‘why’, you’ll never be able to overcome it.

“What you allow is what will continue”

In growing up, we learn to talk to ourselves. These internal, and often unintentional conversations shape how we interact with the world. Good or bad, our self talk shifts our outlook of not just ourselves, but of the events that occur around us. Try to think back to the formation of your ‘self’. What were messages you got from those around you?  Were they ones of encouragement, or did they chip away at you ever so slightly? Often we have a combination of both, but research continues to show us that the negatives often sit deeper and influence us more heavily than the positives (which is why I try to fill my babies up with positive self talk, so they have a shield against the demons in our society that will make it their mission to tear them down like wallpaper).

For me personally, my self talk had been (and sometimes can still be), my worst enemy. Growing up, I was told to make myself smaller by all of my peers. Not directly, but in smaller, more insidious ways. That I was too bitchy. I shouldn’t be so ambitious. “What makes you think you can do that?” “You’re not smart enough.” “That’s a great idea, for someone else.”

All of these messages, repeated in different ways over the course of years had resulted in me seeing myself as small,  insignificant and forgettable.  I had surrendered the power I never knew was mine, did what I was told, and grew smaller. As a result, I FELT AWFUL, and floundered.

Luckily, somewhere along the way I was blessed with friends and interactions with people who were builders. The people who see greatness in you, and want to draw it out. The ones who push you, not because they need you to be better, but because they know you need you to be better.

As it turns out, all I needed was the push and a couple of successes under my belt for everything to change. All of the suffocation I had felt by stuffing myself into a smaller and smaller package so as to not make anyone else feel inferior, began to scream out of me uncontrollably. No longer was I afraid of my fire, but began to harness it as fuel to spur me forward.

It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you if you let it.

We must first change how we speak to ourselves, before we can change our outlook. This is where I find affirmations to be particularly helpful.  They are short, sweet and a perfect way to shove a negative thought out of our minds before it takes root and grows.  Anybody can use them, but for them to be truly effective, you must discipline yourself to pay attention to your thoughts. You have to notice them, because they are things. Catch the negative ones and drown them with with good ones.

You’ll never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself in your head, be kind!

They must be significant for you. They don’t have to be eloquent, or long, but they MUST be significant. Here are some of my favorites that I keep on hand to drown out the negativity not just around me, but within me (sorry about the profanity, but like Tony Robbins says, sometimes you need to give your head a jolt to get out of a pattern).

  • “You’re a motherf&#@%ing rock star, of course people are looking”. This one gets used more than I’d like to admit. When you’ve felt small for so long, you get used to blending in. You really do begin to like being in the background, and it’s where you feel safe. Once you tap into who you were made to be though, you can’t blend in. You’re out there, and people start to look, and that is terrifying!  So let them look, and own it. They wouldn’t be looking if you weren’t giving them something to look at.
  • “Be the nurse YOU’D want to have”. It’s my nursing version of the ‘Golden Rule’. I use this to spur myself on during crazy-town shifts, or when a touch of apathy kicks in and I get to feeling lazy. It’s hard to give so much of ourselves day in and day out, but we have to remember that we are doing work that is significant. Nothing significant is ever easy, even if it appears simple. I’m human, and therefore imperfect, but I must hold myself to the same standard I hold others to.
  • “No is not naughty word”. I know I cannot be the only one who struggles saying ‘no’. In the past, I said yes to everyone who asked for help, and spread myself so thin that there wasn’t anything left for myself. This dug me into a deep hole, and I was too exhausted to climb out.  Turns out, all I had to do was reclaim my time and be more selective with my commitments. Now when I say yes to something, I don’t dread my commitment, because I have given myself my due value, and I can wholeheartedly participate.
  • “I must be a positive memory for my patients”. Patients often can jade us, because they often don’t remember us. They see so many people, that we fade in to the background and become part of the collective memory. By being intentional with our care, and personalizing what we do for them, we make them feel significant. In turn, we will also be.  We hold the power to be possibly the only pleasant memory they have of a hospital stay, embrace it!
  • “I’m running this day, not the other way around”. This one is simple, and I say it every single morning regardless of whether or not I’m going to work. This day is mine, and I cannot afford for someone else’s chaos to throw it off. It also makes me focus on not being an agent of chaos in someone else’s day.
  • “F&%k you bad JuJu”. So there are going to be days where the day just does what it wants. Patients crash, cars crash and things just go awry.  A friend of mine who has since passed, was a Marine and this was his motto. He was an infantryman, and there were days that simply when to Hell in a hand-basket. He couldn’t control it, but he could control how he let it affect him.  So he gave the bad the finger, and moved on.  It’s good advice.
  • “You are worthy of love and belonging”. So I have Brene Brown’s TED talk to thank for this one. She did substantial research (think the better part of a decade) on the undercurrents of shame and how they affect our society, and how it impairs our ability to connect with each other. We live in a society that perpetuates and almost encourages disconnection. It scoffs at empathy. We are continually in a hostile environment, so we must be mindful and remember this one, it might just save us. Don’t be afraid to tell someone else either, because they might be struggling with their need for love belonging too.

We are always works in progress. As long as we keep working toward self improvement, we can always feel better and be better. It’s our responsibility to be the best nurses we can, and that means we must take care of ourselves too.

So what affirmations would be significant for you???  I’d love to hear them in the comments! 🙂

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