I try to take great care in using labels to describe people, even in my own mind. Whether positive or negative, self or externally imposed, they constrain, bind and inhibit human behavior. If you doubt that statement, watch the Youtube video embedded below for a heartfelt indictment of “pretty.”
Yet somehow, despite intellectual knowledge and a defiant post I wrote some time ago, the Imposter Syndrome has continued to whisper the word “quitter” in my ear.
It’s a toxic message when the words aren’t flowing, and it poisons what might otherwise be refreshing, necessary breaks from writing with self-doubt. As you can imagine, in this context, “quitter” could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But this last week, in the spirit of sitting down with my beasticle, I took a real look at that label. Where did it come from? Did it even apply?
This is what I discovered:
Despite a body of evidence to the contrary, there’s one central image at the heart of this voice: me, broken down and exhausted from medical practice.
In the tape I play in my head, it doesn’t matter that I recovered, went on to do valuable hope work as a physician, then left as an act of self-care. It doesn’t matter that I needed to go to that place before I could find courage and integrity; or that I’ve come to think of that time as a crucible. Like a horror writer’s photo album, my mind has chosen to enshrine only the Before I Got Hope image and my decision to leave medicine over a year later.
And yet, did I really leave?
That question arose out of the blue yesterday and its answers caused me to laugh and laugh. Unfortunately, I was in the public library at the time. Heads popped out of the carrels and might have made for a fun game of Literary Whack-a-Mole. 🙂
See, despite my inner dialogue, I haven’t quit medicine. Not even close. I may not longer hold an official position in my province’s roster, or receive financial compensation, but I:
- Continue to receive and read journals, glorying when I can skip the boring bits.
- Serve as an informal consultant to family members and friends about their own medical dilemmas.
- Brainstorm with other writers to create the perfect health problem in their characters to facilitate their plots.
- Write posts like this one, with an orientation towards health and hope.
- Run into former patients. Only last month I got to introduce Frank to a former patient and her daughters, both of whom I delivered.
Heck, even yesterday, when Molly had an anatomy test and was anxious about her performance, I could seize her by the shoulders, look her in the eye, and with a certainty born of actual knowledge, say, “If there’s anyone on this planet who can do this, it’s you, if you want it.”
So, if you have a label that’s spinning around in your cranium and giving you grief, sit down with it. Is what you’re believing true? Or have you bought the indictment without weighing all the evidence? And if you found this post helpful and want tutoring on how to question your thoughts, please check out the best resource I know: Byron Katie’s The Work.
Now how about you? If you’ve wrestled with a label, what skills/tools/mindset have you employed to overcome it? And will you forgive me these recently-earnest posts, and trust that Goofy Jan is quiescent, not vanquished?