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Speak up, but don’t offend anyone

Last week, I was at the grocery store checkout with my 6 month old son, Austin. He was fussing in his car seat because he needed to sleep. After ringing through my groceries, bagging them and handling my money, the cashier proceeded to walk around the counter and play with my son’s hands and toys…

Last week, I was at the grocery store checkout with my 6 month old son, Austin. He was fussing in his car seat because he needed to sleep. After ringing through my groceries, bagging them and handling my money, the cashier proceeded to walk around the counter and play with my son’s hands and toys in an attempt to stop his crying.

Are you friggin kidding me? I remember thinking. It’s cold and flu season. Don’t you realize how dirty your hands are? Now my son is going to put his hands in his mouth because he’s teething and be exposed to who knows what. 

But I said nothing. Literally, nothing.

I stood there and let it happen, completely flooded with anxiety, confusion and anger. After the cashier stopped touching Austin, all I could do was take him out of his car seat, swaddle him in a blanket and walk out of the store.

Once I got to my car and disinfected his hands, I realized what had happened: I was tangled in a web of shame about speaking up. I was so overwhelmed by unreasonable and unattainable expectations I have about standing up and speaking out that I shut down and froze.

Say what you want to say, but don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Use your expertise, but don’t be a know-it-all. 

Say something, but don’t be annoying.

Care, but don’t care too much.

Maintain boundaries, but don’t piss people off.

Be protective, but don’t be overprotective.

Stand up for what you believe in, but don’t offend people.

Advocate, but not too hard.

Be brave, but don’t take risks.

If I did speak up, then I risked being criticized, judged and perceived as ‘crazy’. But if I didn’t speak up, then I risked exposing my vulnerable baby to harm. I was ashamed and trapped between two no good options, so I said nothing.

Speaking up is hard for many people, especially women. Not many of us are comfortable taking a stand for something we believe in. We tell ourselves stories that make us afraid to speak up, people close to us teach us not to and we’re surrounded by messages in our culture that work hard to keep us quiet.

How is this relevant to nursing? It’s relevant because none of us are immune to the conflicting expectations upon us about who we should be and how we ought to act, especially when it comes to speaking up. What triggers us to experience shame around speaking up at home can trigger us to feel shame and fear at work.

If we’re afraid of the potential consequences of speaking up, advocating, taking a stand, doing the right thing and questioning authority in our work, what’s at stake? For starters, the wellbeing of the people we care for, the public’s trust in our profession, our own reputation and authenticity.

We can talk about all the things we should do for clients and we can know what’s expected of nurses. We can hear about the importance of advocating, reporting colleagues, questioning unsafe orders, and admitting mistakes. But that won’t get us far unless we learn how to overcome the shame and fear we experience when who we want to be and what we need to say conflicts with expectations that lead us to shut down and stay quiet.

It’s impossible to avoid unattainable expectations and feelings of shame, but it is possible to develop the capacity to move through shame and behave in a way that allows us to be who we want to be.

If we’re going to do the work we need to do as nurses, the only way we’re going to be able to do that is to start talking about shame.

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Feel more, think less

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become. – Steve Jobs I didn’t grow up knowing much about intuition. I was always the go-getter, over-achiever, hard-working, people-pleaser kind of girl. There was no time for wishy washy, touchy feely crap. My brain controlled the steering…

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become. – Steve Jobs

I didn’t grow up knowing much about intuition. I was always the go-getter, over-achiever, hard-working, people-pleaser kind of girl. There was no time for wishy washy, touchy feely crap. My brain controlled the steering wheel while my feelings took the backseat. As a result, without even realizing it, I spent the first three decades of my life ignoring and drowning out the whispers of my inner voice.

What I’ve come to know about intuition is this: It’s a feeling of knowing what’s true and what’s right without understanding why. It often tells us things we don’t want to hear. It always tells the truth, and it’s never about what other people think.

Here’s what following our intuition looks like:

I should do this.

I’ve always done this. 

I was trained to do this. 

It’s what everyone else is doing. 

People expect me to do this. 

[enter intuition]

But my heart says no. 

My gut tells me this isn’t right. 

I’m supposed to do something else. 

A voice inside me is telling me to do this instead. 

For the record, I hate that intuition is always right and sometimes contradictory to my actions. I’d much rather trust my years of training, long-term goals and expensive degrees hanging in my office to guide my decisions. But I can’t. It’s not how life works.

When confusion sets in about whether we should do this or that, we must think less and feel more. We’ve got to turn inwards and listen to what our heart and gut is telling us. Rumblings from within are there to guide us in the right direction. To ignore them is to abandon our purpose.

Don’t let worrying about everyone’s – including your own – expectations and opinions dampen what’s true and what feels right deep inside. You can never go wrong with following your intuition. It knows what you’re supposed to do, whether you like it or not. It’s counterproductive to ignore it and harmful to try and out-smart it.

Your best bet is to let it guide you where you’re meant to go.

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NursEd blog archives

                View the collection of blog posts from over the years. 2019 October Speak up, but don’t offend anyone  Feel more, think less  Me too Grateful for enough Make them count Learn by not doing it right September Health = Luck + privilege Do what others won’t Ignore…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View the collection of blog posts from over the years.

2019

2018

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Me too

We often believe we’re supposed to keep our personal lives private, but this is not always true. Hardships are something we all experience, and nothing connects us together more than sharing feelings with other people and honestly saying “Me too, I’ve been there. I know that feeling. It’s hard”. Disclosing information with clients about our own…

We often believe we’re supposed to keep our personal lives private, but this is not always true. Hardships are something we all experience, and nothing connects us together more than sharing feelings with other people and honestly saying “Me too, I’ve been there. I know that feeling. It’s hard”.

Disclosing information with clients about our own lives can help us offer support, show empathy and build rapport.

It’s okay for us to share information about ourselves with clients as long as it’s brief, intentional and relevant to a client’s health care needs. And, as long as what we’re sharing isn’t too intimate, diminishes a client’s feelings or makes them feel uncomfortable.

When sharing is done at the right time for the right reasons, self-disclosure is a temporary boundary crossing that can help us meet people’s needs in a way that nothing else can.

Pretending to be perfect and live a perfect life for the sake of appearing professional and bulletproof gets in the way of seeing, hearing and respecting the people we care for.

We are imperfect. Our lives are imperfect. But these imperfections are what connect us.

Our scars are the stories reminding us that we’re all in this together.

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Grateful for enough

Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough – Brene Brown As we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend, I’m thinking about how grateful I am for my family, friends, career and community of readers from coast to coast and around the world.  One thing I’m most grateful for right…

Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough – Brene Brown

As we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend, I’m thinking about how grateful I am for my family, friends, career and community of readers from coast to coast and around the world. 

One thing I’m most grateful for right now is finally feeling enough. 

Smart enough.

Pretty enough.

Making enough.

Caring enough. 

Good enough.    

Doing enough.

That no matter what I accomplish today, no matter what I look like, no matter what I know, no matter what I earn – I am enough. 

And so are you. 

In our culture of scarcity, it can be really hard to feel a sense of contentment with ourselves and in our lives. We’re bombarded with messages that tell us we’re not [blank] enough.

You’re not just a nurse. You are a nurse, and that’s enough. 

Happy thanksgiving, and thanks for all that you do.

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