I see it all the time. Employees, ortho residents, ortho associates and even owner doctors at one point or another come to believe that they are invulnerable and entitled to what they have and what they believe they deserve in the future. I’ve fallen prey to this kind of thinking myself on more than one occasion – believed that I had things figured out and that nothing could stop me or that I knew what I was doing… The funny thing is, looking back, this feeling of invincibility almost always preceded a “life lesson” applied harshly by the forces of reality. Recently I’ve seen more cases of hubris than usual and I thought it time to put pen to paper in an attempt warn others and remind myself of the consequences of self-worship.

It all comes down to a few simple points:

  1. We MUST learn to recognize the very instant we start believing we are bulletproof and realize that we are in great danger when that happens.
  2. We have to understand that just because things have always been one way, it doesn’t mean radical change cannot happen tomorrow (or even today) – the world is changing and we must know when to sit still and when to adapt.
  3. Want examples of self-delusion and self-worship? Here you go:
    • I hear residents talking all the time about how they have “earned” the lifestyle and the income they think an orthodontist deserves – often to the point that they start living an extravagant lifestyle while in school (paying for it with student loans)
    • I see residents who try to justify lifestyle choices like where to live and work as good business decisions (going to LA or San Fran because family or significant other lives there or wants to be there, but saying it is a good idea for their practice prospects even though it’s not)
    • I see associates join a practice and take for granted the systems that bring new patients in the door, train the staff, keep them on schedule and make all the other support systems run smoothly. They believe that they are the reason the practice is doing well and have no appreciation for what it takes to actually own and run a practice. They believe that the owner doctor “can’t do it without me” but they are wrong more often than not and many of these folks are in for a rude awakening! They cannot believe it and feel “it’s not fair” when they are dismissed like any other entitled employee. If you’re an employee and think you can do it better yourself, you may be right. I have several friends who were associates and left to do their own thing and now kill it as an owner. However, be careful to know your limitations and understand what it takes to run the business before you get too crazy with the self-worship.
    • I see owner orthodontists who believe that because they have “done it this way and been successful for 20 years” that they do not need to change or adapt to a changing world. I’ve seen owner docs who think they can do anything at any time and that every idea that occurs to them is gold (and I have done this myself). The sweet spot is somewhere in between the two extremes and free of self-indulgence.
  4. Though difficult, self-awareness is the answer. We all must understand our strengths and weaknesses in a realistic way. Discovering our strengths is empowering and doubly so if you can figure out how to do more of what you are good at. Coming to grips with our weaknesses, however is a painful and time-consuming process. It is difficult to do on your own. The best way is to have a trusted friend and confidant and make a pact to share everything with one another while giving and receiving critical assessment. It is very difficult at first but after a few years it gets easier. I’m very fortunate to have such 3 people in my life who act as sounding boards to help me know myself better.


The most important thing is to start the process of recognizing self-indulgence and begin working on an accurate self-image NOW. Try to get a friend to engage as a confidant but if you cannot or don’t like that idea then consider joining a group like Pragmatic Clinical Orthodontic Discussions or Orthodontic Exchange on Facebook. These types of peer groups can give you a much better perspective as to how you stack up when it comes to clinical or business acumen. The good news is it’s all good news! If you discover you are actually as awesome as you think you are, then that should give you confidence to get out there and do great things. If you discover you’re middle of the road or even less than average then you have discovered an opportunity to improve and peers to help you do so!


Can I get an Amen!?


4 thoughts on “The “Self-Made” Often Worship Their Creators

  1. AMEN! I used to think I was a decent size fish until I met you all….Im a minnow compared to you sharks…thank God, Im not swimming in the same waters.

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