Failure a thousand times over

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve failed at stuff in my life. The number is too high to count. I fail on a daily basis and the difference between me pre and post medicine is that now I realise just how important it is to fail. While I might get things wrong on a daily basis, while I need ongoing gentle correction in so many ways, it’s put into perspective by all the really sick people out there.

They’d love the opportunity to fail. They’d love the luxury of talking themselves out of a run. They’d love to have the right list of differentials for seizure. They wish they could eat till they felt sick or get a sunburn and beat themselves up over not wearing sunscreen. They’d love to fail an exam. They’d love to not feel like they were good enough but to take a deep breath and try anyway. Or even not try.

I used to be so hard on myself. So hard. I was never good enough. I was never enough. Never cool enough, thin enough, pretty enough. I wanted everyone to like me. And for a while I tried and for a while I thought I was succeeding, only to be cut down a thousand times over by someone who for whatever reason decided they didn’t like me. And in hindsight if you’d asked me what I had in common with them, the answer would have been nothing. But the problem with not liking yourself and investing your self worth in the opinion of others is that you lose yourself. You lose who you are. By becoming thin, pretty, and cool enough, your identity dissolves. Sure the crowd may like you, but who are the crowd and who are you? A faceless,shifting ideal.

I met a young woman a while ago at work. She was white blonde, fake tanned, thin, and dressed expensively. I would have thought she was cool once. She sat there and told me she starved herself and was getting her boobs done soon. That she went to the same clubs every week. She seemed so sad as she said it. I wanted to tell her that she didn’t need her boobs done, that she was a normal colour underneath that, that with her natural hair and skin, that she was enough. But that’s not my job. My job is to fix the medical problem. Which was unrelated.

When you fit right in, I don’t know who you are. I’m not sure you know who you are either. She seemed so sad.

We need to be brave enough to say that as we are, we are enough. With our kinked hair, landscape of skin, and dress sense governed by where we are, not what we read, with our own curious interests, we are enough.

And were I to ever meet you, I would accept you as you are, for who you are. Because you, as you are, are enough. Be brave enough to face it, and you’ll find out who you really are, and maybe the cool, thin, and pretty thing just won’t matter and wont hurt you anymore.

Back on the subject of failure – remember my Happiness Project?  It all fell apart with the start of a new rotation and my Mum coming to visit.  Last thing on my mind.  And where once I might have beat myself up, now I have to laugh.  I laugh at myself because how many thousands of projects have I started and never finished?  Too many to count.  And I have to feel grateful because so many people are stuck in some bed somewhere, attached to a drip and god knows what else, wishing that they too could print out a chart of resolutions and spectacularly fail in 3 days, laugh, then try again.

One comment

  1. I stumbled upon your blog from the vogue forums, and I just wanted to say that I find you very inspiring, especially because I would like to study medicine postgrad at some point in the future. This post really spoke to me, I feel this way a lot and it is comforting to know that ‘being perfect at everything’ is not a prerequisite in succeeding in medicine, and in life,

    Thanks for writing,


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