You are enough.
You are unbelievably enough.
You are wonderfully, unashamedly, brilliantly, enough.
These words may seem completely ridiculous to read (if so, you should try typing them!).
But just take a second to stop and think how often you tell yourself the opposite. How often you tell yourself you need to do more, be more, achieve more – whether that’s in your personal, clinical or academic lives. I would hazard a guess and say it may be a daily occurrence. It is for me.
Being a woman in medicine is an unusual entity. By passing medical school and our residency programs, we have proven to our peers (and hopefully ourselves) that we are smart enough, skilled enough and prepared enough to take on the excitement, challenges, hopes and fears of every patient entrusted in our care. Yet despite having the same training programs and university degrees, we experience feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’ more frequently than our male colleagues.
For those who haven’t heard of it, imposter syndrome is a colloquialism describing the feeling that our successes are due to luck rather than skill or personal achievement. To take this a step further, it embodies a sense that any second now, someone is going to expose us for the frauds that we really are. A sense that we don’t deserve to be here; that we are imposters because we’re not enough.
We work in an increasingly competitive industry, while also taking on the roles of mothers, wives, partners, best friends, mentors and colleagues. We are traditionally seen as the care-givers, as well as efficient multi-taskers. Plus we are also expected eat well, stay trim, get enough sleep, hydrate, be mindful and self-reflect frequently. And don’t even get me started on dealing with the hormones.
Where exactly do we define “enough”?
My very wise mentor once told me, “As a woman in medicine, you can have everything – just not everything at exactly the same time”. It’s not about what you say yes to, it’s what you say no to.
That young go-getter who does a seemingly endless amount of extra-curricular activities to boost her CV? She’s perpetually single, doesn’t sleep much and usually lets her washing accumulate until she’s run out of clothes. That woman who has the perfect relationship with her husband and two well-adjusted children, who always has dinner ready on time and a completely spotless house? She works 0.5 FTE and pays someone to do the cleaning for her. This is not to say that women in medicine have a choice between a career or a family, as they can clearly have both, but the question is what other aspects of our lives are we willing to forgo in order to focus on what is important to us?
Because the things that are most important and valuable to us? That’s how we find our ‘enough’.
It was Voltaire who once said, ‘perfect is the enemy of good’. When we focus so much on trying to be perfect, we overlook the good we already have. You may not be the most up-to-date with the latest podcasts on emergency medicine, but you’re making huge progress with your time to compete in your first half-marathon. You may not know how to bake a cake for your kid’s birthday, but you’re there every day to help them with their homework. You may not have aced your fellowship exam, but you can team lead a resus like you were born to do it. And while you’re feeling like the imposter in the room, know that many others are feeling the same, only they’re comparing themselves to you.
You are enough.