What is resiliency?
Medical schools say they desire this in candidates and in response applicants strive to demonstrate this quality in their written application, as well as interviews. Easy enough, just talk about how you recovered from a significant setback, whether it be in your personal life or career. The more important question though, is not how we portray this quality, but instead how we develop it. Some may say it is inherent and fixed, but that could not be further from the truth. I believe it can be refined and needs to be refined to prepare you for the challenges ahead. What follows is how to develop resiliency.
Doubt is an interesting phenomenon in that it can creep into everyone’s mind, even the most elite. Given the humbling nature of medicine, its breadth and lack of mercy in presentation, I assure you that even the most badass physician has had to stare it down. When this happens, look to your past achievements. In my mind, past success is the greatest predictor of future success. If you are a premed, you have likely begun the process of crafting your resume, including research, volunteering, shadowing, work experience, etc. There are definitely notable achievements buried in here. If you are a medical student, don’t forget that your body of work earned you matriculation over literally thousands of qualified candidates. The point is, in times of uncertainty, lean on your past. I guarantee it significantly outweighs a single poor event and should illustrate your ability to triumphantly bounce back.
Fake it Until You Make It
This mantra permeates all aspects of life. There is a reason though, it’s true. Faking it until you make it is all about projecting positively. In clinic, given my limited knowledge base thus far, I feel like an imposter. I wander around in my short white coat, take histories and examine patients, and then present to my preceptor. To put it bluntly, my presentations are horrible. However, if I focused on all that I did not know and all that I was doing wrong, it would weight me down. Instead, I zero in on what I do know. This allows me to calmly connect the dots and recognize the strides I have made. I know that this attitude will serve me well going forward because I won’t have “made it,” being defined as a competent physician, for at least a decade.
This is not faith in any sort of a religious sense, but rather a deep seeded belief that everything is going to work out. That is different for everyone. For some, it may encompass balancing competing demands in your personal life and work. For others, it may focus more so on matching in a specific specialty. Faking it until you make it plays into this some, in that you may not have an organic belief that everything will be okay. No matter, saying it to yourself enough times will cement it as a natural response. Ultimately, this takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of yourself because you focus on the things inside of your control, rather than those outside of it.
Life, especially within medicine, is a roller coaster. Therefore, you will need to rely on these tactics time and time again. I alluded to the badass physician who still combats insecurity. Writing this has been therapeutic for me too, normalizing my intermittent feelings of doubt and reminding myself of the tools to squash it!
By Bryan Miles