In most domains, I think I come across as confident, bubbly, positive and enthusiastic. And for the large part… I am. But it’s no secret that very few people are truly consistent with exactly what they showcase on the outside and like everyone else, I too fall into that category.
Eight weeks away from my final exams of medical school and I am fully aware that this is the time where those insecurities eat into me more than ever. Why? Because it happens every year. Medical students are, by nature, often intelligent, high achieving and highly driven with a gift of working smart or a curse of working hard.
For several years of my life, I have needed to seek external validation in order to feel good about myself. That isn’t unusual either. Fortunately, as my own self awareness grew, so did my ability to recognise where this was happening and I learnt to force myself out of it. As a result, I’ve become a little less anxious, a little more daring and kinder to myself. But there are a couple of areas of my life where that has been a real struggle. It’s as if a feud is taking place between the person I feel like I am and the person I would like to be.
All those years as a child where I was the new girl at every school and at the receiving end of other girls’ bitchiness… the one thing I was able to turn to was the fact that I was smart-ish. That, coupled with the indian mentality of my parents where nothing below 95% was good enough had me burying myself in books so that I could prove to everyone around me how good I actually was. It’s only now, several years down the line that I realise that I wasn’t proving anything to anyone. I behaved that way to prove to myself that I was, good enough. That’s why I studied for every minor class test. That’s why I sailed through my GCSEs with a straight set of A*s. That’s why I submitted extra papers to my teachers until I hit the top scores. That’s one of the reasons I applied to medical school… to prove to myself that I could get in. That’s why I worked so hard throughout my A-levels to exceed my required grades for entry. That’s why I myself would never feel satisfied with anything less than 95%. That’s why, for my pre-clinical years, I have eight files’ worth of immaculate lecture notes, written mostly in the early hours of the morning where I wasn’t otherwise occupied with everything else I was also piling on my plate to prove to myself that I was fucking good enough.
The issue with this vicious cycle of proving something to yourself is that you never actually get there. The more you look for something outside of you to tell you that you’re good enough, that you deserve to be where you are and that you’re ready for the challenges that lie ahead, the less likely you are to find it. That deep, fulfilling security is only something that you can generate internally. No grades will ever give you that. That’s why the highest achievers are often the most insecure people.
Since coming to medical school, the sad truth is that my mentality has taken a turn for the worst. I never expected to be at the top. What I expected was to be average. And in an environment that values exam technique, memory recall and the ability to deliver a wealth of knowledge coherently to an examiner in a room with a five minute timer… I have fallen to a place that is well below average and that has bruised my ego.
I’ve also learnt a hard truth: working hard does not often equate to doing well. This is a bittersweet lesson that the universe has taught me time and time again. What equates to doing well is a high degree of self confidence. Knowing you’re good enough gives you more grounds on which to stay totally calm. Why would you panic? You know you’ve got this. A calm mind is the most fertile place for the right facts to come to you, exactly when you need them. It all begins with self confidence. The one thing I could really use a bucketful of right now.
So today, I’m writing this post to remind myself of some long forgotten facts.
I am good enough to be here. I am intelligent enough to be here. I am enthusiastic enough, bright enough, smart enough, conscientious enough, dedicated enough, resourceful enough, kind enough and lucky enough to be here. And in three months time I will leave here having consciously chipped away at these insecurities because it is not what I have done that makes me worthy of this, it is who I am. And at 2 in the morning as I run around the wards with a stethoscope around my neck, a bleep going off on my belt, loose papers with scribbles of jobs tucked into my pockets, and a body full of weary caffeine receptors, I will look back on all it took to get me there and maybe I’ll smile, maybe I’ll cry, maybe I’ll love it or maybe I won’t but because of who I am… I will draw as much happiness out of that moment as physically possible.
I am good enough.