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The Patient Will See You Now - Small steps towards valuing yourself

by David Gilbert

November 14, 2019

The stories we tell ourselves, particularly those about ourselves can become fixed. Often almost invisible and deeply held. Only surfaced when we react to something that triggers them.

I have always under-valued myself. And notice a queasiness when others seem not to value me, or when I see others under-valuing themselves. No wonder I am in the patient leadership business.

But we have to rewrite those scripts. That starts by noticing how we play along - when we withdraw (fester and sulk). Or turn aggressive.

After becoming a Patient Director and writing a book, some things have changed. I am more assured about what I have to say. And people say nice things, which is, er, nice. You would have thought I have stopped listening to the insecure bits of me - fat chance! That is a lifelong struggle.


Yesterday, I was doing an evaluation and for the third time, the person who I wanted to speak to did not answer the phone. He had given no advance warning again, and offered no apology. Then I got a text this morning, saying he could speak this morning. I checked with others as to how to respond and said no. I asked him to write his responses down and send them to me. I said to myself that my time was as valuable (even as a ‘lowly’ evaluator) as his.

This morning, I was on the phone to an international patient leader who totally understood my need to value myself. We got on famously and agreed that, if she was to pick my brains further, she would not want to suck them for free – she knew what that was like. She may bring back some money and resources, she may not. But it sometimes seems that only fellow patient leaders get this need to be valued properly.

This afternoon, after waiting to meet a ‘quite important person’ and having finally got the slot into my diary, she emailed and said sorry because she was meeting another big wig and this had to before xmas. I summoned up the courage to write an email back and say, in effect, ‘hey, I am important too’.

This time because it was a health professional, it reminded me of doctors not having time to ‘fit me in’. It also reminded me perhaps of another story I hold – that we patient leaders are not as important as ‘professional leaders’. Of course, my story may not be ‘true’, but it feels so. The best I can do not to collude with telling myself the old story is to stop being an actor within it. That is why I wrote back.

Meanwhile, back at Sussex in the (part-time) day job, our amazing Patient Partners are rolling their sleeves up a bit too. One of our gang has summoned up the courage to remind the local power-brokers beyond our service that she is astute in things beyond her ‘patienthood’ and is now entering some in-depth conversations in the STP arena around quality assurance and competency frameworks, stuff she knows more about than them.

These are small moments, but I have taken the time to process them (also critical in the non-stop world we live in). They remind me of my recovery many years ago from being in the depths – that it is small behavioural steps that slowly shift our self-thoughts. Thinking and feeling lag behind behaviours. It is uncomfortable to break old habits.

I am waiting for the reply to my email with trepidation – also a habit of mind. So, let us reframe that too – I am waiting with hope of a good outcome. And trusting that the doctor will recognise the courage it took to make that honest challenge.

Good luck with it. Be gentle with yourself, but a tiny bit tougher with others.

p.s. The response to my email to the doc has come back - she has been refreshingly honest too. No change of mind, but a transparent response. And she says she admires me for my truth-telling. Adult-adult. Respect!


© 2019 David Gilbert

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