Impostor syndrome

impostor syndrome:
-this is a phenomenon that is loosely defined as doubting your own God given
abilities and thinking that you’re a fraud.

As doctors, we are taught the art of medicine. We are taught that everyone has their
own way around the art, but you will bever be wrong as long as you know the guidelines
and maintain the mantra of “do no harm” for your patients. It sounds easy, right? Well,
it’s not. And it’s not easy because of this little thing called imposter syndrome.
All throughout our educational careers, we are told that we are the best and we are
blessed to be in our current career paths. Starting from primary school, we likely
excelled academically in the math and sciences and understanding complex concepts
mostly likely came easy to us. We were often at the top of our classes and regularly
achieved rewards because of our academic acumen. Unfortunately, I believe this is
when the seed of imposter syndrome is planted. Yes, we knew that we exceled in all
that we did, but there was always that thought that we could have achieved more. For
example, we obtain a 90% / 100% on an exam, and there is always a little voice that
asks, where is the other 10%? And this is where feelings of inadequacy and
fraudulence creep in even though the world is telling you that you’re doing a great job.
You do everything to stifle the feelings of self-doubt through college, through medical
school, but I can tell you that it came out like a roaring lion when I started residency. Oh,
residency. Residency is the beginning of the journey where you’re officially a doctor and
people’s lives are literally in your own hands. This is a time that you truly experience
exhaustion, fear, and true doubt. Doubt that you are even smart. Doubt that you even
made the right decision to enter medicine. Doubt that you will ever go back to sleeping 8
hours a day again. Doubt that you could ever go out into the real world and have the
ability to do any of this on your own. And I believe now more than ever that it is a natural
feeling that everyone goes through; however, I feel as if it is more deeply rooted as a
woman in medicine and more specifically as a MINORITY woman in medicine.
Despite the medical world telling you that you are the best and the brightest (because
you have chosen to enter a field of medicine), it is bedimmed by another part of the
world telling you that you’re never enough. People outside of the hospital question how
you (with a side eye) could ever enter a field of medicine because there is no way that
you could ever be smart enough. People question what school you completed your
education, in an accusatory way to question the reliability of the 2 letters that you have
graciously acquired behind your name. Despite you wearing a white coat and introduce
yourself as “DOCTOR”, some will still want to ask you to take their meal tray away and
take their dinner orders. It is all a unique and disgruntling part of “imposter syndrome”
that we have had to face.
I am not here to tell you that overcoming imposter syndrome is easy. Nor will I tell you
that there will be a time that small feelings of self-doubt will not creep in. However, I can
say that if you are experiencing it, even if you’re not in the field of medicine yet, that you
are qualified. You are qualified for that position that you have spent your entire life

preparing for. You are qualified for that salary that you are asking for. You are qualified
for the best things. Don’t be afraid to shine. It’s your gift. ~AOS, MD

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