Episode 28: I’ve heard of perfectionism, but is the Imposter Phenomenon like being abducted by aliens? No, most medical students do it early in the first year of medical school and Pre-Meds usually live that way!
Listen to the podcast here…
If a physician is honest with herself, she will have to admit that sometimes medicine isn’t enough to care for patients.
There exists a chasm between the volume of information that one can apply in medical practice and where we live.
Medical students realize this in a matter of weeks once medical school starts – there is simply to much to learn!
In this podcast, I discuss perfectionism – a disposition to feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. The result of a perfectionistic internal dialogue in medical school is a conflict with reality.
There are only a few categories of responses to the overwhelm in medical school.
- Honesty with yourself
- Honesty with others
- A bring-it-on attitude (necessary for the most competitive residencies)
A majority of medical students, I believe, are honest with themselves about this, but don’t like to talk about it with others.
Often, there is a delay in talking about struggling academically in medical school. It was astonishing to see the personality of my 225-person medical school class switch from being like regular, idealistic Pre-Meds, to being quiet about their grades overnight.
After the first set of tests came out, no one talked about them. I had a friend that aced all the tests and people got mad when he told them about it.
The opposite was more often true: students don’t want to discuss their mediocre grades.
The result is the Imposter Phenomenon: occurs when high achieving individuals chronically question their abilities and fear that others will discover them to be intellectual frauds (1).
So, what is a mature, healthy response to this type of stress? How will you get through it in a way that will leave you happy and whole all the way through the medical education journey?
This is a very personal struggle for everyone, and there a lots of things people do to cope. It’s easy to cite research articles that discuss every step of the medical education journey, but how does Doctor Dan really feel internally?
I have decided to be increasingly vulnerable in this podcast, so I’ll actually answer this question publicly. I’m about to lay out more than I discussed in the private burnout MP3 that I made available for members only years ago.
Here’s how I reckon all of these points in my own, spiritual life:
- I am not perfect. In fact, I’m prone to do the wrong thing when left alone.
- Of myself I don’t have the intellectual power to remember every single detail that will be important one day to a patient.
- I will make mistakes.
- I have to find a way to be happy with whom I am even though I can’t live up to the unspoken curriculum that states I need to remember everything.
This mindset fluctuated so often in medical school that I felt like I had Multiple Personality Disorder.
It wasn’t until residency that I came to terms with where to find that sort of strength – in spirituality, a Power Greater Than Myself. It was time to reignite my faith…
To be continued…