Your mindset can truly determine the course of your future.
I'll be honest, I was a very self-deprecating person...still am sometimes. Self-sabotage is something that I am very familiar with. Confidence and self-esteem were often low for me and I am in the process now of working on prioritizing myself to build my confidence back.
When I was a toddler, everything just seemed simpler. If I wanted to be a chef, I am going to be a chef. That was how I thought of things.
In high school I got all A’s, played every sport, and was a part of just about every club. I thought my time management and organizational skills were amazing. At that time there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a doctor.
But boy oh boy, when I got into college, the games changed so fast. I started getting C’s, failing exams, and falling into a deep hole of comparison. As I was struggling, I looked towards my fellow pre-med classmates and felt that they were thriving. I started wondering what I was doing wrong, what I should be doing, and why I didn’t seem to be on the same path as my classmates. I felt like the idea of me becoming a doctor was becoming more of an actual dream than a reality. I was hoping and wishing saying that IF I was able to become a doctor then I would do this, this, and that or I would go above and beyond further than so and so who was doing well.
If I could go back and tell freshman me one thing it would be “STOP WITH THE COMPARISON!” There really isn’t a set order, timing, or anything when it comes to pursuing medicine and I wish I had allowed myself to accept that sooner. Allowing myself to compare my stats, activities, volunteer hours, and everything else truly hurt me more than I noticed in the moment. I was stealing the joy out of my own memories because I was so caught up in the idea of comparing myself to my peers.
For some time, I had lost the reason of why I was doing everything I was doing and thought of it all as a value of time and hours I was putting in. It was the idea of putting in more study hours would be equivalent to performing better on exams. The more and the harder I studied then the better I would do next time around. If I didn’t do better, it was because I wasn’t working hard enough. Basically, it was kind of like saying I wasn’t torturing myself enough. I equivalated my worth with my productivity and that was not okay.
My first year of undergrad I lost a lot of my confidence and felt like I was losing my sense of purpose. I thought that all those feelings could be ignored or erased if I just put in more hours of work throughout my years in college. The most rigorous schedule I gave myself came with:
23 credit-hours of classes
Ambassador Co-Coordinator of my University
Did I enjoy my time with it all? I can honestly say yes, but not as much as I could have enjoyed it and I definitely wasn’t spacing my time out that well. What I realize now is that I was making myself so busy that I didn’t have time to process or really reflect on anything. I wasn’t allowing myself to see just how low my self-esteem was and that I was constantly keeping myself busy to try and make it seem as though I was like my peers. I wanted to seem as though I had it all together, that I was a great example of a pre-med student, and that I was “on track” and knew exactly what I was doing.
At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing at all and was completely terrified with every decision I was making. I was putting so much pressure on myself and thought that every action I take would determine if I was going to be a doctor. If I was going to pass my classes. If I was accumulating enough shadowing and volunteer hours. If I was working enough. If I was exceptional and unique enough to be accepted into medical school. If I was going to be a good student or doctor.
My mindset was not one that I would suggest to others. It took me a long while to realize how much I was sabotaging myself and creating so much self-doubt in my own abilities. If you couldn’t tell, I was struggling…HARD. From a third-person perspective, many people would say that I was just a bubbly person, happy, a multitasker, and just enjoying life. True…yes, but also having such a hard time and I felt like I was going through it all alone. I never wanted to talk about my struggles because I was so scared that others would just think lesser of me.
For me, I felt there was just a big shift after I had listened to a physician and an advisor speak at my university and they said, “I want everyone in this room to no longer use ‘if’ but say ‘when I become a physician’ and ‘Comparison is the stealer of joy’.” That was my game changing moment. I never thought that just alternating between two words could have such an impact on my perspectives.
It was no longer “if I become a doctor” but rather “WHEN I become a doctor.” When you read those two statements, do you notice or feel anything?
Here is what I notice for myself when I say those two statements aloud:
“If I become a doctor”
Maybe this might happen
Unsure if this is really for me
An unreachable dream
I am not enough
“When I become a doctor”
It will happen by putting in the work
I can do this
My skills, work, and determination are going to get me there
I have what it takes
It may have not been the absolute best, but it was taking an escalator, slowing going up.
Now I’m not saying that I did a full 180 degree turn overnight. I just became a little more aware that what I was doing wasn’t healthy. I re-evaluated and gave more time to reflect so that I wouldn’t feel so burnt out.
This is something that I still struggle with now in medical school. The imposter syndrome really gets me to revert back to that use of the word “if”, but I have to remind myself that it wasn’t just luck that got me to where I am now. I didn’t get into medical school based on luck. I didn’t graduate from college based on luck. I worked hard and earned where I am now in my life.
Persistence. Resiliency. Confidence. Determination. Passion.
There will be days when you feel like you aren’t enough or that you don’t belong where you are. It is okay to have a bad day, but don’t allow yourself to stay there. Set reminders of your goals, write down your achievements, and celebrate your accomplishments whether they are big or small.
Wherever you are in life, it wasn’t from just luck. You worked for it, and you earned it.