Is Your Inner Nurse Critic in the Back Seat?


Published: 27 January 2021

Nobody loves a critic, and we nurses can be so hard on ourselves, can’t we?

When your inner nurse critic is constantly shouting at you from the back seat of your car, something has to change. The easiest solution is to simply hit the ejector seat button if you can, but if that fails, it’s time to talk back.

The Ejector Seat? It’s Likely Too Easy

If your inner monologue about your nursing skills, expertise, career trajectory or knowledge has turned hyper-critical lately, you need to do something about it.

Using a metaphor of your nursing career as a car and your inner critic as an annoying passenger in the back seat, it would be so easy to just hit that ejector seat button and be on your merry way. In reality, however, it’s probably not going to be that simple.

Nurses are often very particular; they like when things are done correctly and are unhappy when things are disorderly. When you look at yourself as a nurse, what do you see? Do you find every excuse for self-criticism, or do you also look for what’s good?

When the ejector seat button is malfunctioning, the first thing to do is to respond to every attack from your inner nurse critic, which may often have to do with comparing yourself to others.

Attack: I’m such a lame nurse; I don’t do anything as exciting as my friends.

Response: I’ve actually done some very good work with my patients. I may not work in __________ like Susan does, but I know that I’ve made a difference in my patients’ lives.

Attack: I’m not as smart as the other nurses. I don’t know anything.

Response: If I made a list of everything I know about the human body, pathophysiology, pharmacology, human behaviour, and other areas I’m knowledgeable about, that list would fill a very large book.

Attack: My career is going nowhere. I’m a failure.

Response: When I look back, I can see that I’ve actually come a long way. I may have a lot more to learn, but compared to when I was fresh out of school, I’ve actually accomplished a lot.

If you don’t talk back to your inner critic, they will simply take up an increasing amount of space until your positive self-talk has been edged out. Don’t allow that critic so much air time.

nurse critic self doubt

Replacing the Critic

If a movie critic only talks about how much they hate everything they see, that would get pretty boring after a while. In fact, the newspaper or website that pays their salary would probably fire them eventually and look for someone who could see both the good and the bad. The same applies to your inner critic.

Just like a movie critic, you don’t have to love every single thing you’ve done and think you’re absolutely perfect at every moment. Rather, you can bring balance to the conversation by acknowledging, for instance, that there are things that could be better and some things that are pretty good as they are.

A critic who rides in the back seat and does nothing but negate you is adding nothing to your life and career. As in the examples of attacks and responses above, you can talk back to that critic and try to put them in their place; in fact, they may actually learn to be more measured in their appraisals.

In the end, you have to decide if you’re willing to drive around with this voice always telling you that you’re not good enough and never will be. Being realistic, there’s always more to learn and experience, but that’s a part of life.

You likely became a nurse to be a productive member of society who gives back through heartfelt and compassionate service. How cool is that?

So give yourself a break, train your critic to chill out a little, and be willing to see how you’ve done some great things and still have room to learn and grow. Your critic is probably willing to learn too, and if not, you can always get that ejector seat button fixed.

nurse critic confidence