On Sunday, I enthusiastically jumped in my car, reversed out swinging sideways and heard that sickening whump that cars makes when then they run into each other. The door of the Volkswagen is now looking like something that would feature in a museum of modern art.
Then the internal dialogue started.
You idiot. How could you not look. You knew the car was there. If only you had put the VW in the garage like you were supposed to. And on and on. Until I realised I was doing it and shut it off. I made a mistake. I didn't mean to. Nothing I can do to fix it. We have insurance. Move on.
You see, to get into medicine or dentistry, you have to be driven to some extent. It takes a lot of effort academically to get in. We are constantly trained that our efforts are not good enough.
And the professions are very stressful with many forces pulling at us. Lawyers. Regulators. Indemnifiers. Patients. Insurance companies. Other dentists or doctors.
All ready at a moments notice to pounce. You aren't good enough.
However the person most often telling us we aren't good enough, is us.
To get into a highly demanding health profession takes a drive that usually comes from something in our childhood. Perhaps it was a tiger mother driving us to get "A" on every subject. Or being in poverty. Or a family tradition of dentistry. Or parents who criticised every mistake.
Whatever it is, most dentists I meet have very low levels of self compassion. The inner dialogue that goes on in our heads is not usually normal or balanced. It's harsh. And unkind. If you treated someone else like you treat yourself, they would not hang around you for long.
You can test your self compassion level here.
So who cares?
Because it is very unhealthy and results in high levels of anxiety. It is not uncommon for dentists to not be able to sleep because they couldn't get the matrix band on and perfectly sealed. It is not uncommon for dentists to have chest pain worrying about that filling they did that blew up into a root canal and the patient complained that they caused it.
To endlessly replay the scenario in their head with a negative dialogue telling themselves they aren't good enough. They are useless. Perhaps even lazy, driving themselves to workholism.
And it affects how we treat others. When we are critical of ourselves, we tend to be critical of others. Including our children, staff, spouses, partners.
I'm not saying to be careless and not to do your best. To not do the best dentistry you can.
I'm just saying think about what you are telling yourself inside all the time. If it's constantly negative, you will give yourself significant health problems later in life.
Sometimes it's not necessary to tell ourselves that we are stupid, lazy, incompetent, not good enough, failures and so on.
Sometimes, it's ok to say " I wish it was better, but it was the best I could do on that patient today. I did my best. I'm good enough" And every time those negative thoughts pop up, consciously stop them.
Do you often catch yourself beating yourself up endlessly about not achieving some impossible standard? Was your self compassion score lower than you thought? Please comment like and share if you found this helpful.
Dr Lincoln Harris has been completely focused on excellence and quality from the beginning of his career as a dentist. He established the first private dental practice in Bargara – Harris Dental Boutique in 2000. Since graduation he has trained extensively in Aesthetic Implant Techniques and Full Mouth Rehabilitation to attain immense skill and knowledge. With his vast dental knowledge Dr Harris coaches and trains dentists from all over the world on complex aesthetic dentistry, surgical techniques and business management. Dr Harris is the founder of RIPE. Restorative Implant Practice Excellence: Full Protocol group an international forum of over 70,000 members worldwide. The purpose of the group is to share information and excellence in the dental industry. He has also lectured in multiple cities throughout Australia, North America, Asia, Singapore, United Kingdom and Europe.