Appreciating your own abilities can help you go far.

You will be reading this in winter, but as I write this in mid-August in Dallas, we are in throes of the dog days of summer. Each day below triple digits Fahrenheit seems a small blessing, and although the shops may be selling fall-scented candles, we “southerners” recognize that those cool autumn evenings are still a distant dream. For us runners, summer means pounding the footpath before dawn or after dusk to escape the brutal heat.

Summer is also a time for transition and change in veterinary medicine; we celebrate the graduation of last year’s interns and residents and welcome the new class. There is likely a new nurse, client service representative, or doctor joining the team too. Like starting a summer running program, that first month or two of starting a new job is a sweaty business! New names, new protocols, new skills, and new computer systems can leave even the most experienced team members exhausted.

So, this is the time that we can help our new running mates, whether that’s an intern you’re mentoring or the new kennel assistant, to build their confidence and assure them that they’re an asset to the team. It’s also an important time to be your own coach and build your own confidence.

Confidence is often mistaken for being “cocky,” being overly self-assured. Yet the Oxford English Dictionary definition of confidence is a “feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”

Let that sink in; confidence is to appreciate your own abilities or qualities.

So how can you build your confidence?

Firstly, appreciate how far you’ve come. I remember the first “couch to 5K” program I did; I could barely run for a few minutes at the start. Similarly – remember that first IV catheter you placed? Did your hands tremble, did the tape stick to your fingers, maybe the vein blew first poke? Think back to those times and remember the elation when you got your first jugular blood draw or your first solo spay surgery. I’ve long forgotten my first finish time, but I will never forget that feeling of finishing my first 5k race.

Secondly, confidence is drawn from mastering what you were once afraid of. A common misconception that degrades confidence is the notion that “your job will get easier with time.” Whether you’re a runner or not, I’m sure you can appreciate that running never gets easier. Perhaps the distances you run get longer. Perhaps your sprint time gets faster. But there will always be hard runs. There will be runs where your legs feel heavy, and the hills seem steeper. A hard run doesn’t make you a weak runner, just like a challenging client or difficult surgery doesn’t make you a bad nurse, or vet. We don’t train to make running easy; we train to do harder runs! What was once your first cystocentesis is now you’re your first cystotomy surgery! Remind yourself to appreciate the things that once were hard, and know that the current challenge will one day be something you’ve mastered.

The final way we can run with confidence is to measure success in as many ways as you can. Ran your personal best mile? – success! Ran the slowest mile ever up that hill you hate? – success, you conquered that beast! Did you help a team member when they were struggling? – success! Did you stop yourself from freaking out during that surgery? – success!

Be your own best coach. Appreciate your skills, know that the hard things today will be the easier things tomorrow. By finding the little wins every day your confidence will grow. My next race won’t be easier, but I know I’ll make it to the finish line.