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Imposter Syndrome

Last updated: November 2022

I’ve been thinking a lot about imposter syndrome lately. Maybe (probably) because I’m applying for residency right now. Residency is the field training you do after graduating from medical school so you can actually practice medicine even though you’re called a doctor once you graduate.

Basically, this thing called the Match – some computer algorithm – decides if you get into a residency program at all, let alone the one you want or where you want to be. And if you don’t match, you don’t have a job.

Not good enough

Can you imagine?! The average medical student graduates with about 200k in debt and not all of them match into residency. That’s a horror we don’t want to think about. But the anxiety is all in the anticipation. It’s so easy to not feel good enough.

Yes, I made it this far despite barriers most cannot even fathom. And yes, I have so much to be proud of. Still, I look at my average test scores and wonder if they’re good enough. I try not to compare myself to others but medical training is set up to feel so much like a never-ending contest. Who will make it to the finish line and the start of the next race? It never ends.

Feeling imposter syndrome as a warrior

Sometimes I feel like an imposter with sickle cell too. When I was younger and would have sudden pain crises after being perfectly fine playing, people would say I was pretending. There was never a way to prove it to them, but if they truly knew me then they would know that I would never fake this pain.

As I got older and had less pain while meeting others with the worst consequences of this disease, I felt almost as if my pain was inadequate compared to theirs. But of course, everyone experiences pain differently and that doesn’t make anyone’s experience less valid.

Survivor's guilt

I think that’s where the survivor’s guilt comes in. I’ve been so blessed that even though I have sickle cell anemia, I don't have it so badly that I can't be as successful as I am. I worry that I’m not doing enough for the community. How can I give back more and more of myself, but not so much as to lose myself? I find myself comparing myself, yet again, to other sickle cell warriors. I admire all that they do, even while experiencing worse pain than me, and start to feel like I’m not doing enough.

Even though I’m young and medical school is a pretty good excuse to be busy, I can’t help but feel that way. I look to the amazing sickle cell warriors I’ve gotten to know as they run podcasts and YouTube pages, write children’s books, or create entire nonprofits dedicated to uplifting and advancing the community. I am simply in awe. How do they do it all? While working full time, being parents, and even through sickle cell crises.

Expectations

As I grow as an advocate and leader, I hope I can keep up with everyone’s expectations. But I guess that’s the point. All I can do is my best and believe that is more than enough.

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