We have all answered the question “What do you do?” with “I’m a physician.” There is nothing wrong with that response. But why do we change it from what we do to who we are? Everyone does it, not just physicians. Equating our profession with our identity over and over changes how we view ourselves. If we are defined by our work as a physician, then our self worth is held captive in the performance of that work, or patient satisfaction surveys, or how efficient or inefficient our charting is, etc.
While I am deeply proud of my education, training, and skills as a physician, this is not who I am. So I thought I would write a post inspired by who I am – outside of medicine. My original vision for this was to have a post filled with pictures describing who else I am.
But I am not those things either.
Posting pictures of all the other things I love to do with my time serves the purpose of showing that there is so much more life to be lived than our work. It was for me a way to push back at all I felt I let medicine take from me. And show myself and you guys that you can get it back. Life as a whole person with interests and passions outside of medicine.
But it can also just make some folks that read it feel like crap. For not doing more in life than they currently are, for not being enough.
Then I got all deep and thoughtful. Warning, deep thoughts ahead. (Anyone remember that SNL skit? Deep thoughts by Jack Handey. He’s actually a real guy!) Sorry – squirrel – moving on.
I realized my problem in composing this post was a microcosm of a larger, dare I say existential, life struggle we all have. My value, my worth is not even the sum of all I do, or want to do, and certainly not how I compare to others out there.
Brene Brown alludes to it in her books, particularly The Gifts of Imperfection: “Some of us spend most of our lives trying to outrun vulnerability and uncertainty. We weren’t raised with the skills and emotional practice to ‘lean into vulnerability.’ Do our numbing activities get in the way of our authenticity? Do they stop us from being emotionally honest and feeling like we are enough? (Perfectionism, work, planning, saving the world).”
For many medical professionals the “saving the world” activity rings true. For this post, the “numbing activity” of having lots of other (non-medical) activities may be a way I am trying to prove myself, trying to be good enough, worthy, rather than just loving myself as is and presenting my authentic self for others to see, accept, love. I don’t want to do the former. I want to do the latter. For myself but also so as not to mislead anyone reading this. I count just for being me. So do you. And because we count, we can go and do so many many amazing things not to make ourselves worthy but to fully live life.
(and now I’m thinking of another SNL skit – Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley. That guy was played by Al Franken, who is now a US senator!) Side tracked again – super squirrel! Back to my deep thoughts.
In my original listing of all the things that make me who I am (which we have just discussed – see above – that those activities and roles don’t actually define me either) I knew I would need to list my spirituality. Because who I am lies there. But as deeply meaningful and satisfying as it is for me to know that I am a child of God and that this faith is all I truly need, I debated even placing that aspect of my life in this post. Because I didn’t want to alienate anyone, and I acknowledge that this is not everyone’s belief, I wanted to stay “spiritually neutral.” But that didn’t quite feel authentic either.
And then pg 73 of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection validated what I was struggling to articulate: “The most difficult thing about what I’m proposing in this chapter is captured by a question that I get a lot (especially by my colleagues in the academic world): Is spirituality a necessary component for resilience? The answer is yes. Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like this is the belief that were all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.”
So below is my list of activities and roles in my life as it currently stands, with medicine being but a part of it. It is not a list that makes me enough or accepted. It does not define me. I will not use it or my busyness with life to run away from vulnerability and the authenticity of being enough just as I am. But I will use it to celebrate life and remind me of the goodness outside of medicine there is to experience. May the perspective that being in medicine has given us help us to experience this world more fully and deeply.
Child of God :: Daughter, Granddaughter, Sister, Wife, Mother :: Friend :: Ballet Dancer :: SUP Paddleboarder :: Sorta Mountain Biker :: Skier, 3 year old ski instructor :: (Likely ADHD) I mentioned to a Nurse once that I was probably ADD, but didn’t have the hyperactivity component. She gave me an incredulous stare. Fine then (not confirmed by pyschiatrist but self diagnosed with the aid of my co-workers) ADHD :: Hiker :: Nature lover :: Beach and water lover :: Physician :: Blogger and Physician advocate :: Book lover :: Snuggler :: Dance Mom :: Soccer Mom :: Gym Mom :: Educator :: Not really a cook, but can make a mean cheese platter :: Cake (real and diaper) decorator :: Board breaker :: Leader
To Quote Howard Thurman (a quote I read in The Gifts of Imperfection) “Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”