Positive Reinforcement 

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My work life has not always been wonderful. I have struggled to learn how to deal with coworkers, patients, and teachers fairly frequently. Maybe I should have read that damn book my Grandaddy gave me when I was 8. Carnegie reportedly had all the answers for how to get along better. I’ve read it since and it basically boils down to being nice and considerate of others. 

I have a rather polarizing personality. You either like me a lot or you can’t stand to be around me. I don’t inspire much apathy. It has taken me years to mellow out and stop carrying a chip around on my shoulder. I also had a horrible inferiority complex. I knew I was different than other people and I assumed that was a bad thing. I never felt competent, nevermind successful. I just knew I was not good enough. 

So, I worked hard and tried to prove myself. Well, actually I turned into an insufferable asshole. People thought I was judging them, but the person I actually despised was myself. So, I overcompensated. I was a jerk. A completely unhappy jerk. 

It made work difficult. I own it. I made lots of mistakes. I just wanted to be better. I wanted to be worthy. 

I was shocked when my dream job didn’t solve the problem. All the people I had pissed off throughout my career were not impressed. All they saw was an asshole who apparently thought she was special. Little did they know I was wracked with self-doubt and insecurity. 

I loved my job though. I wanted to be good at it. I wanted to make the people who had invested time and energy into teaching me proud. I just wanted to deserve their respect. Unfortunately, I had left a trail of people behind me who remembered the wreckage of my feeble attempts to prove my worth. So, they were watching and expecting me to fail. They viewed every single thing I did through a lens clouded with disdain. There was no way for me to earn their respect. Who the hell did I think I was? So,  my insecurity grew. It became a cycle. I cried a lot. I think the most confusing part for me was the incongruity between my sincere love for my job and my misery. 

I suffered from mood swings and my attitude was completely unpredictable. I was either sullen and snarky or overly sweet and disingenuous. I reeked of insincerity. I was moderately paranoid that everyone was out to get me. To be honest, some were. Not all though. I was losing my mind. I could not understand why getting exactly what I wanted had not made me happy. 

I don’t mean to make it sound like it was all bad. It wasn’t. I had some people take me under their wing and coach me until I was actually pretty good at my job. There were many times I was included and made to feel like I was a valuable member of the team. I had people give me their time and expertise freely. They didn’t have to do so much for me. The physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers who invested their energy in developing my skills are the reason I can do this job now. I am so grateful. I hope they know how much I appreciate them.

Fast forward past a very dark time when it became apparent I was not going to be able to overcome all the challenges associated with the job I loved so desperately. I started working as a Locum. I love a lot about this lifestyle. I get to decide when and where I work. I get to move on when I am bored. I have met people all over the country. 

I think I have gotten better at my job. I am able to walk into new situations with confidence. I am not competing with the imaginary person I think I should be anymore. This is important. This confidence has allowed me to stop trying to prove myself constantly. It’s a relief. I allow myself to talk to my patients like they are people instead of patients. I am so much happier. I am a better provider because of it. 

I wouldn’t trade my past for anything. That experience was wonderful and painful at the same time. Now there are times I miss my old job. I miss the familiarity of being with people who have known me for all these years. Sometimes I feel untethered and unattached. So, I keep in touch. My former coworkers have not left my life, they just have a different role. They are my friends. A couple are my best friends. They have seen me at my best and my worst. They are on my side. 

It feels weird to receive compliments, especially written ones. This patient and her family were a joy to work with. It was an honor. This little note gave me some positive reinforcement to keep doing my best. Not because I have a past to atone for, but because my patients, coworkers, and I deserve my best. 

4 thoughts on “Positive Reinforcement 

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