What Medical School Taught Me Part Two

So this is part two of my promised thirteen lessons I have learned from medical school. Took sometime but here goes.

Second lesson – COURAGE.

I believe that fear is something learned, it’s something that’s the cause of an experience we had or still have but as they say you can’t really learn how to be brave unless you stare at fear right at its face. Medical school brought me a lot of fears, most specially the fear of failing the oh-so difficult examinations we had, oral presentations and reports submission; there’s also that fear of not being able to make it even as an MD, nothing was definite and that in itself I feared about but one thing remained constant – it was my drive to get that MD and reach for that goal, even if it meant sleepless nights and at some point missing out on family gatherings and questioning if the path was really for me.

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination. - Earl Nightingale

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination. – Earl Nightingale

So the question is what are the fears I had to overcome in my journey way back medical school, here’s a roll call –

  1. The fear of vulnerability –

Way back then I probably lived in a society that pretty much gauges human worth by how well we do things in life, remember my self-worth post? I had to live up to the feeling that I had no right to cry for help because I chose this path and I had to stand by it. But you see, it didn’t help me much in my quest to move forward with that dream. People who struggle with their own vulnerability end up being overwhelmed simply because they don’t reach out for help, and that in itself was something I needed the courage to overcome – simple things like I needed to borrow notes, photocopy it, help in making case reports because I was just too tired from a 24 hour hospital duty seemed like menial tasks for others but they were large for me, I needed help but by being too proud in admitting my own vulnerability little did I know I was already on the brink of being burned out, and so I had to step out from my state and opened myself up that I may reach out to ask for help from others. Besides, strong people realize that it’s okay to not be okay and ask for help, so that’s something I realized. Vulnerability is a sign of authenticity to self and to others, nothing wrong with it.

  1. The fear of being defeated –

Who wants to fail? Raise your hands! Not me. But many times I have failed not only in terms of grades but I guess relationships too. Who enjoys messing up? No one but you see this is where the valuable lessons come in though. I’m not saying you aim to fail but if you do, know that it always aims to make us better people in the end.

Each time I find myself stuck I would often ask myself why I feel stuck. Is there a way out or can someone else save me? The answers would always lead me to look inside myself and decide to either continue or stop. But I would always choose to move forward, as Elbert Hubbard said “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear you will make one.”

  1. The fear of being rejected –

Part of being human is the want to be acknowledged and affirmed by others. Somehow we all tend to be people pleasers, besides being loved is a basic human need but when it begins to be destructive to you that’s when we begin to stop and ask ourselves if it’s all worth it. Well I was exactly like this during medical clerkship, sometimes having to take on duties even if I was dead tired just to give in to others requests which even if I knew then that it was on a personal agenda, well, people pleaser here before so I took it upon myself. But as what Paulo Coelho would say – When you say yes to others make sure you’re not saying no to yourself.

And after all the pain, I came to realize that the ones who take good care of themselves are less dependent on the approval of others and happier at that. That was the beginning of my belief of self-care first before others, well there’s internship still which pretty much taught me about overcoming this fear.

  1. The fear of asking –

Sometimes I didn’t feel brave enough to show my vulnerability in front of others because of the fear of being judged based on my performance.

During medical clerkship I can recall situations when I didn’t dare to ask questions, especially when there was something I didn’t know for fear of being judged as one who doesn’t know anything, but I have come to terms that I needed to simply ask because these are lives at stake and that it shouldn’t make me feel any lesser than myself, and hey that’s what learning is all about – asking others that you may learn from each other leading towards a common good goal of good patient care.

  1. The fear of delegation –

The struggle of delegation is real, we all handled a team or group way back clerkship or even from first to third year medical school, and I wasn’t mentally strong enough to bear failure on my shoulders at that time. On hindsight making mistakes would mean tragedy for me that would leave me scarred, but I realized that the practice of medicine is all about teamwork, and that all this I am doing not only for myself but a purpose higher than me and that was for my patients.

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity. – Mark Twain

Looking back on my past, it has taught me to stop feeling guilty and ashamed of my fears and that it’s part of the package called “being human.” Fear is a precedent towards courage and that it takes a lot of the latter to embrace the former to the fullest but in this world you’ll never know how strong you are until it becomes your only option, choose to be brave at all times.

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