Hey NPs, Your Insecurity is Showing…

I can’t even begin to tell you how insecure I was as a new graduate nurse practitioner. While I’m a driven person, I wouldn’t describe my personality as ‘dominant’. I’m more of a blend into the crowd kind of individual. There’s a little bit of a natural insecurity that goes along with that. Paired with my new grad NP status, my lack of confidence was apparent to those I worked with. While over-confidence has its own set of problems, I could have stood a little taller my first year of practice

Chances are that if you’re a bit unsure of yourself as a nurse practitioner you’re displaying some career-inhibiting signs of insecurity, too. 

The good news? With a little self assessment and intentional correction, you can change your insecure habits to look and feel more confident. Faking it until you make it is for real (and scientifically proven to be effective, just watch this TED talk). Check yourself for these signs of insecurity in your NP life. 

1. Borborygmi, onychocryptosis and morsicatio buccarum…oh my! 

Using technical or medical jargon to cover up insecurity won’t get you very far as a nurse practitioner. You aren’t fooling anyone by overcompensating for an overall lack of understanding by using big words. Sure, use proper medical terminology when it flows naturally because you’re comfortable with what you’re talking about. But, don’t use it as a charade. I’ve actually had specialists thank me for admitting when I’m not sure about aspects of a patient’s history, physical exam or diagnosis rather than making something up to cover up a point of weakness when I’ve called for a consult. Overcompensation screams insecurity. 

(Key to above terminology: Borborygmi – stomach growling, Onychocryptosis – ingrown toenail, Morsicatio buccarum – cheek biting) 

2. “I just wanted to let you know…”

Communicating with weak language like the word “just”, either verbally or in writing, might as well be a flag flying over your head that says ‘insecure’. Say what you mean. Ask for what you want at work. If you have a question, be confident that it deserves an answer. Speak with assurance and your disposition will follow. Step out of your comfort zone and communicate in a way that commands the professional respect and attention you worked hard to earn (this means you new grads!). You might not have all the answers, but say so with confidence. 

3. Your body language says it all 

Do you make yourself small, particularly when you approach another provider to ask a question or for advice? Behavior like slouching, rolling your shoulders inward, putting your head down, crossing arms or ‘self hugging’ and fidgeting are all physical demonstrations of insecurity. Avoid them at work. You might have to talk yourself into confident body language, but roll your shoulders back, stand up straight and portray external confidence. This way, you’ll be treated with professional respect and regard. It’s okay if you are unsure about something, but admit it with your head held high (you’re more likely to get help this way, too!). 

4. A laugh at your own expense 

Everyone loves to work with someone who’s got wit – except when they use humor to bring themselves down. Self-deprecating humor may garner a laugh but it’s certainly not doing your career any favors. Your coworkers will see right through this insecure habit – you’ll lead others to pity you rather than see you as a leader in the workplace. As a nurse practitioner, it’s essential that you maintain a position of some level of authority at work among coworkers and patients. Self-deprecating humor won’t accomplish this. 

5. Just do something!  

Sure, it’s normal to have questions in your practice, especially if you’re an inexperienced nurse practitioner. But, you have to make some decisions on your own. Hesitation to act and general indecisiveness are downright annoying to others. Constantly asking “What do you think?” is an insecurity red flag. Before you approach a coworker or supervising physician with a question, ask yourself if it’s a decision that truly requires input. Can you find the answer on your own? Is the issue something you can safely make a decision about without help? If so, get some guts and get to work. If not, come prepared with what you think the answer or plan for the patient should be. At least you’ve taken the initiative to put some thought into your question before seeking assistance. 

Are you insecure as a nurse practitioner? In what ways does this manifest itself?


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