Is it over? Let's start again.


The end of a veterinary conference can be a quiet, tired, strange affair, but Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, brought energy and lessons of confidence for veterinary professionals into our 2020.

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For the Fetch dvm360 conference a couple of weeks ago, the San Diego Convention Center was a flurry of veterinarians and veterinary technicians and practice managers and assistants and salespeople and speakers and facilitators and dreamers for a few days, and then on the last day, the big, big place slowly exhales and everyone blows out into the world again.

It's our last conference of the year, it's the last veterinary conference of the year (that I know of). It's the end.

I sat in one of the last sessions of the last day, and how appropriate that at the close, with the last few valuable days of a year, we got secrets on self-confidence “declassified” for us, and it's 50 minutes of Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, who's been working in amazing ways on her own personal growth as a doctor and an entrepreneur and a speaker and a writer and human being, tells us how to be confident.

“I think you will be a different person 50 minutes from now than you were,” Dr. Wooten said.

Dr. Wooten's personal story is about seeking external validation, fighting her way from the top in undergrad to the middle of the veterinary school bell curve to panic attacks in her first year out in practice.

“We have to talk about the stuff we need to let go of.”

“I felt like a failure for a long, long time,” she said, and explained that she turned her bad feelings into a lot of judging herself and other people.

“I didn't want that to be my story anymore, so I started doing the work to uncover some of that stuff,” she said. “We have to talk about the stuff we need to let go of.”

Here's what she told the class and what she wants you and me and everyone else to believe:

You already have the self-confidence you need

You can change your beliefs about yourself that are holding you down

You may have picked them up from your parents. “You probably have one or more than one habit you'll need to let go of before you discover this amazing, confident individual inside you,” Dr. Wooten said.

You will need to do the work

The work will be hard. Make a promise to yourself to do it. Here are the four big tasks that Dr. Wooten shared. (Your habits-“parts of yourself you're at war with,” she said-may vary.)

1. Let go of the expert mind. You're less open to new information if you think you already know this-whatever “this” is. This is hard, because veterinarians are led to be seen as experts.

“What if you learned one way of doing things instead of the way?” Dr. Wooten asked.

Aim for beginner's mind.

2. Let go of comparison. Every time you compare yourself to somebody else or some other “you” at some other time, and you feel less than, you're comparing. That's a bummer. What for? Where's that get you? Stop that.

Try this: What's inspiring you about that other person? Dig deep. Then reach out to that person and talk to them and tell them they're inspiring you. It's a two-fer: You feel better, they feel better, and now you can pick one action, one activity, one adventure to get closer to what's inspiring you. Go do it.

3. Let go of fear of what other people think. This fear is natural, of course, because we're built to fear rejection of being kicked out of the tribe-and bad stuff happening.

“Other people will make you feel small to make themselves feel better.”

Truth? “If somebody thinks you're weird, you're not gonna die,” Dr. Wooten said to laughter in the room. “Most of the time you think people are paying more attention to you than they are.”

And remember, hurt people hurt people: “Other people will make you feel small to make themselves feel better,” said Dr. Wooten. “And that's sad.”

Your self-confidence should be based on what you think of you, not other people's version of you.

4. Let go of your harsh inner critic.I hate myself, you think. I can't believe I'm so stupid. I can't do anything right. Nobody likes me.

Watch this. Pretty sad and cruel, right? Time to do the work to let go of it, right? Sounds easy, right? Nope.

“No, but you're going to start working on this,” Dr. Wooten said. “[And] if you keep doing the work, at some point you'll notice the difference.”

Inspired? I was.

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