negative feedback, criticism, nurse bullying, incivility, nurse burnout, compassion fatigue

When I was a new nurse I worked with Carol, an experienced nurse. Carol didn’t like me and would find reasons to criticize me in front of other people. I just couldn’t do anything right. One day I was trying to put an order sheet into the fax machine and I put it in the wrong way. She yanked the paper out in front of everybody and yelled, “Can’t you do anything right? It’s here,” and then she called me stupid. I felt tears welling up in my eyes and said to myself, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry in front of all these people.”  A physician whom I respected saw what was happening, and he pulled me aside. He took me by the hand and said, “My dear, why would you let anybody who is not a kind, generous, intelligent human being make you feel bad about yourself?” He said, “You stand up tall with your shoulders back because you are kind. You are generous. You are an intelligent human being.”  I never allowed Carol to affect me again.

Why do we let other people who are not important in our lives make us feel bad about ourselves? You may receive 12 compliments in a day but you’ll focus on that ONE critical remark someone makes. Even as a speaker, out of 1000 people 999 people think that I’m amazing but one person thinks I’m the spawn of the devil. Who do I focus on? Yep. The one person who didn’t like me.


Because humans want to be liked by other humans. However, when we measure ourselves by the opinions of others, especially people who we either don’t know or who aren’t important in our lives,  we can completely deplete our emotional energy.

A writer in the 1920’s and 30’s by the name of H.L. Mencken would receive critical letters from his readers. One day he decided to respond with a letter addressing their criticisms. He wrote,  “I am sitting here in the smallest room of my house with your letter of criticism BEFORE me. Soon, it will be BEHIND me.”

1.     Self evaluate  – Before allowing yourself to be open to criticism, evaluate your performance first. After I conduct a presentation or seminar, I objectively look at my performance and give myself a grade – A+, B, B-, etc. THEN, I read the evaluations.

2.     Ask questions – when receiving criticism from anyone, ask yourself these questions, “Is this an important person in my life? Do I value this person’s opinion? Does this person have good intent?”

3.     Create a mental stop sign – and use it whenever you feel yourself going down the rabbit hole of feeling bad. Just stop.

Nurse fatigue occurs due to mental, emotional and physical depletion. Allowing others to make you feel bad about yourself saps your emotional energy stores and prevents you from feeling good about yourself and the work you do. Don’t let the Carols in the world sap YOUR energy!

Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to read YOUR comments about this topic.

Take care and stay connected!

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