The Nurse’s Inner Critic | The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 130

There’s a saying that everyone’s a critic, and that probably couldn’t be more true of nurses. We criticize other nurses (often in the form of bullying), doctors, patients and their families, our employers, and the healthcare system writ large. But we mostly criticize ourselves. That gets old, doesn’t it?

You're just not good enough.In speaking with so many nurses, I hear nurses’ lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of personal agency. Here are just some of the questions and statements I hear in career coaching sessions:

  • I don’t really deserve a raise
  • I’m just not good enough to consider applying for that promotion
  • Can I really do this job?
  • So many other nurses are so much better/smarter/faster than me
  • I really don’t have that much experience
  • I don’t really know that much
  • I’m just a nurse
  • I’m not smart enough to get a Master’s or PhD
  • The doctors won’t listen to me because I’m just a nurse
  • I can’t teach other nurses — I don’t know enough
  • How can I start a business? I’m just a nurse
  • I’m not creative enough to write a book/article/blog

“I can’t” and “I’m not” are words used all too often by nurses. We have collective and individual low self-esteem, and it shows when we have the chance to ask for a raise, negotiate a salary, or talk with doctors. We dump all over ourselves at every opportunity, and this lack of self-esteem does nothing for our ability to have the careers we really want.

On episode 257 of RNFM Radio, we discussed how diminishing yourself by saying you’re “just a nurse” can really be damaging. And back on episode 54 of this show, I talked about Self-Limiting Nurse Syndrome, and I sadly see this subject read its ugly head over and over.

Why Limit Ourselves and Each Other? 

Nurses have the darndest proclivity to limit themselves. We also impose limits on each other, with statements like, “You can’t go back to school for your BSN — how will you ever have time for your kids?” or “What makes you think you can get that job?”

When crabs are boiling in a pot, it’s been observed that they’ll pull on each other in order to make sure that no individual successfully climbs to the top of the pot and gets out. Nurses can be like that, too. We can pull each other down and hinder each other’s growth.

Fight Back Against the Critics

Nurses, you need to fight back against the critics with everything you’ve got. Those bitchy nurses on your unit who don’t want to see you succeed? Show them a thing or two about success. That doctor who you’re afraid to talk to? Confidently tell him what you think. The voice in your head? Talk back to it with confidence.

Who else can your critics be, other than colleagues? Your kids, your spouse, your parents, your siblings and other family members, and even people whose opinion shouldn’t matter to you at all.

And that inner critic? He or she has to go. Whether it’s the voice of your father or mother, or just your own lack of confidence and self-assurance, you need to hit the ejector seat button.

If you need to gain confidence and talk back to your inner and outer critics, there are plenty of ways to make that happen:

  • Career coaching can boost your self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Psychotherapy or mental health counseling can help you to unpack deep-seated patterns of behavior and thought that undermine your ability to fully succeed and manifest your goals and dreams
  • Remove people from your life who have a negative influence on your self-worth, and surround yourself with people who are encouraging and supportive
  • Engage in activities that embolden your self-esteem (eg: learning or mastering a new skill, or teaching someone else something that you know how to do well)
  • Make a list of everything you can do well as a nurse. Think of it as a personal success inventory or brag list
  • Ask trusted colleagues for positive feedback about your strengths as a nurse

Your success is rooted in your ability to truly believe in yourself and propel your career forward with positivity and confidence. You’ve worked hard to become a nurse — don’t let the critics get you down, even if they’re in your own head.

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The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by Tim Hallowell of The; social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.

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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith was previously the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century” and “Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters.”

He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and has written for,, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, American Sentinel University, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.

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