Being Okay With Being “Okay”

The past few months, I’ve been studying for boards, and it hasn’t been my favorite thing. I’m not the best when it comes to studying for big tests, as I tend to take on the attitude of “There is so much information that I can’t possibly remember it all.” In the past, this would drive me to study to the point of insanity, but in the past 5 (ish) years, I’ve been really working on being okay with being “just okay.” Regular. Average. Unimpressive.

Obviously my desire/goal is to be the best doctor I possibly can. But part of doing that requires self-care, recognizing my own limits, and making sure that my heart is in the right place. Being ‘exceptional’ for the sole purpose of achievement is actually pretty shallow, and won’t make me a better healthcare provider. In school, one of the best lessons I’ve learned is that patients generally know their own bodies better than I do, and so my #1 job is actually to listen rather than tell. But I digress…

As I’ve been trying to battle the stress and maintain some sort of balance amid all my studying, I’ve been reflecting on the changes in my attitude toward achievement, work/life balance, and self-perception over the years. I haven’t been feeling 100% lately, and reflecting on the things that have helped me grow and change in positive ways points me in the right direction. For today’s post, I wanted to share a few of them:

1. My Thoughts Aren’t Always Accurate

Looking back on times of my life when I felt unhappy with my appearance, dissatisfied with my performance, or otherwise ashamed/frustrated/etc. with part of myself, I realize now that my perceptions at that time weren’t accurate. I often was doing way more than I was giving myself credit for, failing to offer myself grace amid the circumstances at that time, or just plain wrong. (Key example: thinking I was fat when I was unhealthfully thin.)

So in my studying, when I fear that I’m not doing enough, frustrated with my performance, etc., I try to remind myself that my work is probably sufficient, at worst. My goal is to pass my boards. Doubling the minimum passing score is still only passing.

2. Failure Isn’t the Worse Possible Outcome

It would not be ideal. And it would definitely be expensive if I had to re-take the test. But it would not be the end of the world.

I’ve failed a lot of times in my life, and even after all that, I’m still pretty satisfied with the person I am. And at the end of the day, I’m not even the one ultimately in charge of the outcome. 100%, I believe that God already has the next 5 months, 5 years, and 5 centuries figured out, and nothing I do (or fail to do) can change that.

The first time I applied to medical school, I didn’t get in. The first book I wrote was never published (and not for lack of trying). I once recorded my own album…and nobody ever listens to it. Even me. (No, you cannot listen to it, either.) It’s not that I wasn’t a satisfactory med school applicant, because my writing lacked potential, or even because I didn’t know anything about music. It’s because success doesn’t always happen on the first try. Or sometimes, because God has other plans.

I’m 99% sure that the reason I didn’t get into medical school on my first try was because I went about it the wrong way. I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t talk to other medical school applicants about their experiences. I had no clue what medical schools were looking for. Because of this, I made quite a few mistakes in my application process, the most notable being that I only applied to one school. If any of you reading this have dreams of working in medicine, you likely already know (better than I did) that the norm is to apply to ten, fifteen, or even twenty schools.

I won’t lie — that rejection was devastating. My entire ten year plan was riding on an acceptance letter that I didn’t receive. In moments of disappointment, it’s easy to resign ourselves into thinking that our dreams don’t align with God’s plans, and that we should give up and wait for destiny to figure itself out. But that’s not how God works, it’s not how life works, and it’s not what hard work looks like. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who helped me learn those difficult lessons.

If you don’t know the rest of my story, I’ll fill you in briefly: I re-took the MCAT, rewrote my applications, reapplied to medical school (nay, medical schools), got in to all of them and was even offered a full-ride scholarship to Indiana University School of Medicine. Then, I turned down all my offers and chose to attend a chiropractic school instead so that I could study functional medicine. The result? Incredible.

The past four years have been even more amazing than I ever could have dreamed, and I’ve never looked back.

In addition to studying the #1 subject about which I’m most passionate, I started a nutrition business, met and married my husband, and signed a publishing contract for a book designed to help women heal their relationship with food and their bodies. Those experiences are some of the things I’m most thankful to God for, and they never would have been possible had I seen that first medical school rejection as a sign of failure and given up.

3. Doing Is More Important Than Being

Hold on…I promise that statement isn’t as heretical as it sounds.

What I mean is that the words I use to describe myself (or rather, the words I would like to live up to using) are extremely unimportant. Who cares if “people” think I’m pretty, accomplished, interesting, thin, etc. Their perceptions have way more to do with them and who they are than they do with me. Aside from my responsibility before God to treat others with love, kindness, and respect, they way I “appear” to other people is completely insignificant.

The things that matter in life have nothing to do with appearances and everything to do with experiences — doing. Spending time with my husband. Serving others. Participating in church. Acting on my passions. Creating. Enjoying. Living.

A full life is characterized by the things I’m able to do. Not the things I think I am (or would like to be.)

What do you think?


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