Are you smug? Me, too. Sometimes I hate that about myself. However, its always fascinating to me that ones greatest weakness is often simultaneously ones greatest strength. One mans smugness is another mans self-assuredness, and so forth.

But about the smug thing. If it gets out of hand, it can definitely get you in trouble in our profession. Ever experience any of the following?

A patient who hasnt been in to see you in five years calls with a painful, red eye. As a health-care provider, you feel deeply for this patient, for certain. However, take an emotional inventory. How do you REALLY feeleven if just for a moment? Remember, when compassion meets glee, it equals smug.

A contact lens patient who never listens to you when you recommend backup glasses calls from the beach where she lost her last pair of contacts in the ocean Does this make you sad? Uh-huh. Boo hoo. Smug smug.

A patient tells you he just cant afford an eye exam and you know he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day Are you empathetic? Of course! Cigarettes always trump eye examinations. That just makes sense! Smug enough? You could choke on it.

A mom tells you that she just cant afford to bring her myopic kids in to catch up with their glassesand, by the way, they all had a great time at Disney World. Do you hope they truly did? Supercalifragilisticexpiali-smugness!

A patient misses her third appointment with no call to your office. Do you schedule her for a fourth appointment on a Friday? Certainly After all, thats your day off. Smugalicious!


Why We Wallow in Smug

To clear your psyche of all smug-related neuroses, you just have to step back and analyze your smugginess once and for all. Here are the qualities that keep smug in your heart:

1. It feels damn good. Thats right. When smug hits your day, it just envelops you in a warm and cushy feeling of superiority. You feel that wonderful and very human condition that says, I just KNEW it! I AM better than you! 

2. Smug builds a wall between you and the other party. Do you truly want to build barriers between you and that other lovely human being over there? You know, the one wearing a half-gallon of Eau de Hospital Sanitizer.

3. Smug may lose you a patient. Now, remember, that patient will tell the next one and the next one and so on. So, not only will you lose that individual patient due to your smug attitude, but youll also lose the chance to see all the other losers in his poor, pitiful life.

4. Smug follows you home. Smug is a habitaddictive as nicotine and American Idol. If you are smug at work, youll be smug when the kid comes in proud of his A- in algebra and you immediately discuss the A+ that you got on your art project in kindergarten. This kind of smuggism doesnt hurt your childs self-esteem, but it does give him the feeling that Dads an idiot, which starts the kid on his own road to Smugville. You are creating a new generation of smug.

The rules of nature do not specifically prohibit smug. Nor do the laws of man lock you up for smug. In fact, we often elect the truly smug to important areas of national leadership.

Smug, instead, is a decision and, perhaps, a disease. I would advise you to quit thinking smugly.

You are NOT better than everyone else.

I am.

Vol. No: 146:03Issue: 3/15/2009