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Nurses With Low Self-Esteem: Please Seek Help

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Working with a colleague who has low self-esteem can be a perpetually frustrating experience. The intended purpose of this article is to discuss the topic of nurses with low self-esteem, and at the same time, offer some feasible solutions.

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Nurses With Low Self-Esteem: Please Seek Help

Self-esteem can be defined as the extent to which we deem our value, worth, and competence as a person. It factors significantly in how we view ourselves and the manner in which we progress through life. Hence, low self-esteem is best described as a negative view of one's perceived value, worthiness, and competency.

Some of the classic signs of low self-esteem are: consistent anxiety and emotional turmoil, always accentuating the negative, unable to accept compliments, overly concerned about what others think, don't trust one's own opinions, constantly depressed, socially withdraw, self-neglect, eating disorders, unable to take on challenges, always quitting and resigning, controlling, needy, success driven, arrogant, extremely self-defensive (someone who retaliates far worse than what would normally be expected), exaggerated perfectionism, and a constant need for validation and recognition (Therative, n.d.).

Low self-worth is a major problem in the nursing profession. Nurses with healthy self-esteem are likely to deliver therapeutic patient care, while those with low self-esteem are less likely to do so (Randle, 2003). Nursing staff members who struggle with their self-esteems also display immature behaviors at the workplace. One strong indicator of low self-esteem is an inability or unwillingness to deal with issues directly at the source and a propensity to find alternative inappropriate ways to communicate (e.g., talking behind people's back, putting other's down to make themselves look good, etc.) (Weisman, 2012).

The typical nurse who thinks poorly of oneself is likely to sabotage, snitch, and figuratively 'stab coworkers in the back' to deflect attention away from any shortcomings that he or she might have. Nurses with low self-esteems are all too ready to throw their colleagues under the bus to make themselves look better, even if the effect is short-lived. Thus, the nurse who has a low opinion of oneself is problematic to the rest of us.

How does someone address the problem of low self-esteem? Our choices are the biggest factor in how we lead our lives and to change our choices, we must first change the way we think about ourselves (Therative, n.d.). The nurse with a chronically low self-esteem may use positive thoughts and affirmations as a step in changing negative thoughts. Individuals with low self-worth also tend to gravitate toward overly critical or abusive spouses, friends, and associates, so it would help greatly if the nurse with a self-esteem problem could somehow purge the negative people out of his/her life.

Hobbies and activities have been known to boost peoples' self-esteems, so it would be beneficial to do something meaningful on one's spare time. Enroll in an exercise class, learn a new art or craft, travel, join an organization, or become good at something unrelated to the job. Keep in mind that professional counseling may be needed for the most chronic problems with self-worth.

Low self-esteem is an issue that can be conquered with time, effort, and the desire to change. Nobody develops a poor view of his/her own worth overnight; therefore, the problem cannot be expected to go away quickly. However, the person who works diligently to change his/her thoughts can change his/her life for the better.

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TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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22 Comment(s)

BlueDevil,DNP, DNP, RN

Specializes in FNP, ONP. Has 25 years experience.

I don't think LSE is at all unique to nursing, or even women. I do agree it is very frustrating to deal with. I despise trying to deal anhedonic personalities.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I don't think LSE is at all unique to nursing, or even women.
Self-esteem problems are not unique to nursing. However, I feel that a significant number of the people in our ranks have low self-esteem, and this can be evidenced by their puzzling interactions with coworkers and the ways in which they deliver patient care.

nerdtonurse?, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, Telemetry.

I see this as a chicken and the egg situation. If you have depression, you tend to have feelings of inadequacy, poor self care, you feel like you're not worth looking after, you doubt your abilities, so I would tend to think these are a symptom of depression rather than independent feelings/behaviors. I mean, everybody has days where nothing goes right, the brief always falls poop side down, etc. However, consistently feeling that way is something along Axis I. If it goes into paranoia ("they're all out to get me") that's going into Axis II. Many people have untreated or undertreated depression, and that includes nurses. I had a grandparent who committed suicide due to depression, and the other was clinically depressed also. They are not fun to be around, particularly when they attempt to self-medicate with ETOH and valium, and I watched the "poor pitiful me" and the "I'm not good enough" and the "you all hate me" stuff all thru my childhood. The simple truth was my grandparents weren't good enough to be my caregiver, weren't adequate to the task, and I think (now) some of grandma's "poor pitiful me" moments were actually moments of clarity where she realized she shouldn't have been my primary caregiver -- but a valium and a beer fixed that. Dad was overseas, mom was working 2 jobs, and mom was in denial that she was leaving me with 2 depressed alcoholics.

Borderline personality disorder is different, and those make any shift a living death when you work with them, but depression is anger turned inward; they usually don't do much beside dump all work on you and play Eeyore in the corner. Which still stinks.

CranberryMuffin

Specializes in Critical Care, Patient Safety.

Self-esteem problems are not unique to nursing. However, I feel that a significant number of the people in our ranks have low self-esteem, and this can be evidenced by their puzzling interactions with coworkers and the ways in which they deliver patient care.

Puzzling interactions with coworkers can also be attributed to not having an outlet for healthy interactions and feelings of powerlessness within the workplace. Where there is poor management (which I've seen a lot within healthcare), there are poor workplace relations/communications.

It's easy to blame the people within the ranks of our profession for unhealthy workplace behaviors. It's harder to address the systemic issues that are rampant within the system itself.

BlueDevil,DNP, DNP, RN

Specializes in FNP, ONP. Has 25 years experience.

Self-esteem problems are not unique to nursing. However, I feel that a significant number of the people in our ranks have low self-esteem, and this can be evidenced by their puzzling interactions with coworkers and the ways in which they deliver patient care.

It would be interesting to see some comparative data.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

It's easy to blame the people within the ranks of our profession for unhealthy workplace behaviors. It's harder to address the systemic issues that are rampant within the system itself.

True. As the saying goes: "Crap rolls downhill."

Management can set the tone for the rest of the organization, and if the people at the very top of the food chain are dysfunctional, the results can be disastrous for those in the trenches.

HM-8404, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma. Has 8 years experience.

I am going to get blasted for this, so bring it on. One of the reasons I think this occurs in nursing is because it is dominated by females. Women are very competitive with each other. Rather than banding together they rip each other apart. In male dominated fields if management ticks us off, we as a group, get mad at management not each other. We don't think if we can make a co-worker look bad that will take the focus off of us. I have had many female friends tell me that they get along better with men than other women because women are too catty.

MedChica

Specializes in Psych, LTC/SNF, Rehab, Corrections.

^^^

You shouldn't get blasted. It's the truth.

The most peaceful and fun time that I ever experienced at work? When my old dept (radiology) experienced a hormonal shift.

I was one of 3 females left. I loved it.

- No gossip...but a whole lot of light-hearted pooh-talking.

- No mindless whining and complaining.

- No constant 'come to jesus' meetings because of workplace interpersonal issues.

- No crazy attitude.

Men are actually FUN to work with. Heterosexual men, anyway...

Yes - that will sound offensive. I apologize but I cannot take it back. Most homosexual men are usually about AS drama-filled as the females. They'll usually join in the gossip and pooh-talk. They'll usually complain and catch attitudes just like women.

They're always talking about their sex lives and sexual ecapades...and don't let an attractive man enter the area. You might have to get the water hose.

Horny, light-hearted, a-hole-ish and sexually abrasive/inappropriate like men...gossipy, hormonal and b--hy like women.

It's like the worst of both gender worlds.

There are exceptions, but c'mon - if it weren't true? Women wouldn't practically collect gay men like accessories. I confess that I do it, too. They can change my oil and do my makeup and window shop with me.

Anyway, it's going on right now where I work as a PNA (psych nurse aide)! I just do my job and go home and they're always like, "Why are you so quiet?"

Pfft...

Why wouldn't I be? They talk mess about everyone. My only recourse IS to disengage and pull into myself. I'm nice and professonal but I keep to myself. I'm not alone. There are 3 of us with the same mindset and whenever the charge initiates a 'come to jesus' meeting (which takes place twice a month because these broads b---h about everything under the sun)? We never know what the heck is going on. It's the best way to be.

I get along well with women, because I don't deal with all women. In my personal life, I have a choice.

In the workplace, I do not.

I'm really not looking forward to the supervisory aspect of my job as a nurse. Some of the PNA's are too much.

Edited by MedChica

Nursing staff members who struggle with their self-esteems also display immature behaviors at the workplace. One strong indicator of low self-esteem is an inability or unwillingness to deal with issues directly at the source and a propensity to find alternative inappropriate ways to communicate (e.g., talking behind people’s back, putting other’s down to make themselves look good, etc.) (Weisman, 2012).

The typical nurse who thinks poorly of oneself is likely to sabotage, snitch, and figuratively 'stab coworkers in the back' to deflect attention away from any shortcomings that he or she might have. Nurses with low self-esteems are all too ready to throw their colleagues under the bus to make themselves look better, even if the effect is short-lived. Thus, the nurse who has a low opinion of oneself is problematic to the rest of us.

really i had an experience with my senior colleque.what is the solution for that...i m suffuring a lot,in my work situation...

Edited by TheCommuter
quotation blocks

yes its true,100 percentage i will agree.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Men are actually FUN to work with.
I agree. I worked at a paper products factory for three years and I was one of the only females in a sea of men. The factory had 500+ employees and 450 of them were males. While the few females who worked there got into screaming matches and petty gossip, the men generally pushed their personal differences aside to get the job done without all of the emotional psycho-babble.

really i had an experience with my senior colleque.what is the solution for that...i m suffuring a lot,in my work situation...
What type of behavior is your coworker displaying? What type of personality does this person have? How are you suffering?

It is hard to suggest a solution if we do not yet know what the problem is.

self-esteem can be defined as the extent to which we deem our value, worth, and competence as a person. it factors significantly in how we view ourselves and the manner in which we progress through life. hence, low self-esteem is best described as a negative view of one's perceived value, worthiness, and competency.

some of the classic signs of low self-esteem are: consistent anxiety and emotional turmoil, always accentuating the negative, unable to accept compliments, overly concerned about what others think, don’t trust one’s own opinions, constantly depressed, socially withdraw, self-neglect, eating disorders, unable to take on challenges, always quitting and resigning, controlling, needy, success driven, arrogant, extremely self-defensive (someone who retaliates far worse than what would normally be expected), exaggerated perfectionism, and a constant need for validation and recognition (therative, n.d.).

low self-worth is a major problem in the nursing profession. nurses with healthy self-esteem are likely to deliver therapeutic patient care, while those with low self-esteem are less likely to do so (randle, 2003). nursing staff members who struggle with their self-esteems also display immature behaviors at the workplace. one strong indicator of low self-esteem is an inability or unwillingness to deal with issues directly at the source and a propensity to find alternative inappropriate ways to communicate (e.g., talking behind people’s back, putting other’s down to make themselves look good, etc.) (weisman, 2012).

the typical nurse who thinks poorly of oneself is likely to sabotage, snitch, and figuratively 'stab coworkers in the back' to deflect attention away from any shortcomings that he or she might have. nurses with low self-esteems are all too ready to throw their colleagues under the bus to make themselves look better, even if the effect is short-lived. thus, the nurse who has a low opinion of oneself is problematic to the rest of us.

how does someone address the problem of low self-esteem? our choices are the biggest factor in how we lead our lives and to change our choices, we must first change the way we think about ourselves (therative, n.d.). the nurse with a chronically low self-esteem may use positive thoughts and affirmations as a step in changing negative thoughts. individuals with low self-worth also tend to gravitate toward overly critical or abusive spouses, friends, and associates, so it would help greatly if the nurse with a self-esteem problem could somehow purge the negative people out of his/her life.

hobbies and activities have been known to boost peoples' self-esteems, so it would be beneficial to do something meaningful on one's spare time. enroll in an exercise class, learn a new art or craft, travel, join an organization, or become good at something unrelated to the job. keep in mind that professional counseling may be needed for the most chronic problems with self-worth.

low self-esteem is an issue that can be conquered with time, effort, and the desire to change. nobody develops a poor view of his/her own worth overnight; therefore, the problem cannot be expected to go away quickly. however, the person who works diligently to change his/her thoughts can change his/her life for the better.

nursing is a profession that is predominantly dominated by women,and therefore it is not uncommon to compete with peers,or to put down another nurse in order to show who is the super nurse. the perpretrator in this case is always the bully;it is the bully who has low self esteem, so in order to address the problem of low self esteem in nursing or any other profession corrective measures should be aimed at the bullies,not at the victims.remember the old adage, " nurses eat their young."

Edited by TheCommuter
duplicate

Kashia, ASN, LVN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Home Health, LTC. Has 13 years experience.

I am going to get blasted for this, so bring it on. One of the reasons I think this occurs in nursing is because it is dominated by females. Women are very competitive with each other. Rather than banding together they rip each other apart. In male dominated fields if management ticks us off, we as a group, get mad at management not each other. We don't think if we can make a co-worker look bad that will take the focus off of us. I have had many female friends tell me that they get along better with men than other women because women are too catty.

Your comment is so right on, to the point and true! Would much rather work with male charge nurse especially or at least other male floor nurses. It does make a difference in the balance of attitudes and energies. Thank you for posting this.

Kashia, ASN, LVN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Home Health, LTC. Has 13 years experience.

Low self esteem I imagine would stem from looking for natural "man" to provide you with something they can not.

The more disillusioned we become, the more blind we become, the more lost we are, the longer we stay on the same empty

road -the worse we feel...and are.

yadda_yadda_yadda, LPN, LVN

Specializes in LTC, SCI/TBI Rehab,RX Research, Psych. Has 28 years experience.

SO true! We've got a supervisor that has a select % of the staff as 'FaceBook friends', and actually talks about this in front of the others...and wonders why the morale is as it is.

The 'friends', of course, can do no wrong.

Years of dealing with back-stabbing, drama, snarky comments and passive-aggressive behaviors takes a toll on one's self-esteem. Most of my experience in nursing has been like an abusive relationship. I know several nurses who meet the criteria for PTSD due to incidents on the job. It seems that admin staff supports this type of environment- after all, how can staff rally in support when they are constantly bickering? A staff member said this to me the other day: "Its the people who walk around with a smile on their face that I don't trust. Those are the ones who are stabbing you in the back."

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Most of my experience in nursing has been like an abusive relationship.
One of our other members, who happens to be a nurse with 30+ years of experience, jokingly mentioned that you need a 12-step program to get out of nursing.

A staff member said this to me the other day: "Its the people who walk around with a smile on their face that I don't trust. Those are the ones who are stabbing you in the back."
This is very true. Passive-aggressive coworkers use indirect methods to express their aggression. Therefore, they outwardly smile and act agreeable, but they are secretly focused on sabotaging the colleagues whom they dislike. One thing I cannot stand is being forced to work with a passive-aggressive coworker.