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"You Need to Start Saying, 'I Can Do This'"

You are listening to Bundle of Hers:

"You Need to Start Saying, 'I Can Do This'"

Sep 24, 2020

It's a strange dynamic when everyone around you gives you praises and compliments, but you're full of negative self-doubt. Words can have the ability to bring you down, but it can also just as easily prop you up. In this mentor moment, Leen shares one of the most important lessons she learned in med school.

Episode Transcript

Isn't it strange how you can still feel like a failure even after you've achieved your dream of getting into medical school? It's such a strange dynamic to be in. You know, on one hand, everybody in society or your family is praising you, and here I was sitting in my classroom, sitting among my peers and thinking, "I am the dumbest person here. I do not deserve to be here." And the amount of negative thoughts started building and building up in my head. And eventually, I started to spiral and I thought, "Who are you kidding? You're not going to be a doctor. You don't deserve to do this. You faked your way into medical school. You are not anywhere near the brilliance to be able to make it and become a physician who can take care of people."

And I remember sitting in Dr. Baumann's office. He's our academic advisor in medical school. And I'm telling him these things, and I'm telling him, I said, "I'm too dumb for this. Look, I'm too . . ." you know, "Look at my grade here. Look at my grade there." And I remember him saying, "Stop. You need to start changing the way you think. For every instance you start thinking, 'I can't do it, you need to start saying, 'I can do it.'" And I thought that's not going to do anything.

And I'm sitting in the classroom waiting for an exam to start. And the anxiety is just building and building in me. And I thought there's nothing else to lose now, might as well just say it, just say, "I can do this." And so I started to say that, and, you know, before every exam, it became like this crazy obsessive ritual. I would sit there and I would say, "I can do this. I can do this." And slowly over time, this "I can do it" phrase started seeping into various aspects of my medical school life. Before every patient interaction, "I can do this." Before I go and present to an attending, I would say, "I can do this."

Words never were powerful to me, but at the same time, the words that were doubtful were very powerful to me. So why can't the words that are positive also be equally powerful?

Slowly, these changes were happening, but I didn't really notice it until I was a fourth-year med student. I have been traveling across the nation for these away rotations. I'm living in different states for a month at a time, working at different EDs, working with different doctors and physicians and, you know, seeing how everybody thinks differently, and I'm thinking I'm actually doing this. And then I submit my application to go into emergency medicine I thought, "Oh my God, I did this." It became more apparent that my success comes from my ability to pull myself up rather than my ability to compare to others. And I started doing way more better in clinical settings.

It hit me how much self-doubt can block so much of your learning, so much of your growth, and that it hinders your path to success. It's so important to be able to see that positivity within yourself, that resilience within yourself and acknowledge when you're about to self-doubt and be able to beat it at the spot and recognize that it comes from a place of fear rather than a place of capability.

So, as cheesy as it sounds probably the most important lesson I learned out of medical school was that you have to believe in yourself first. Believing yourself is going to lead you to open your mind in order to be successful in the environment that you're so passionate about.