Sunday, November 6, 2011

Impostor syndrome

impostor
noun fraud, cheat, fake, impersonator, rogue, deceiver, sham, pretender, hypocrite, charlatan, quack, trickster, knave (archaic), phoney or phony (informal) He was an imposter who masqueraded as a doctor.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon among medical students.   A malignant idea that you aren't actually smart enough to be a medical student, don't have what it takes to be a doctor, and were just accepted to medical school because someone accidentally confused your file with someone else.  

I struggled a lot with impostor syndrome when I was struggling through gross anatomy my first year, and again when I was retaking step 1.  It currently seems that surgery is bringing on another flair up.  Left unchecked, it can be a crippling condition and self fulfilling prophecy.

The acute onset began during an M&M presentation I had to do on friday.  I stumbled over my words.  Unable to present an orderly case and lacking the clinical terminology I have been taught to use.  It was a fine presentation but very elementary in nature.  Sure, I'm a medical student, of course my presentations wont be as crafted as my superiors.  However, I was sub-par to my contempariers in presentation style.  This event coming on the heals of receiving my mediocre pediatric shelf exam score, and immediately prior to not knowing the answer to the ONLY question I was asked by my attending that day just left me feeling defeated. Acute events of impostor syndrome lead me into a tail spin of desperation: just skidding by on my rotations, not matching for residency, culminating in unemployment and failure. Destructive thinking.

Hopefully this week I'll prove my knowledge and abilities, both to my attendings and to myself.  I sure as hell could use a confidence boost right about now. 

1 comment:

Solitary Diner said...

You definitely aren't alone in feeling this way. I'm more than a year into residency, and I still have frequent moments where I don't feel smart/competent/experienced/knowledgeable enough. My advice is to just focus on staying calm and doing the best that you can, regardless of how you feel you are doing compared to everyone else. How you are doing right now, when you're still very early in your training, isn't nearly as important as what you're doing to be better in the future. As for residency spots, in my experience it's hard work and a good attitude that determine where a person matches more than anything else.