Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome

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Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome

Session 78

Everyone experiences imposter syndrome as a premed, medical student, and resident physician. Today, I share how to deal with these feelings on the premed path.

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For more help on your medical school application, check out The Premed Years Podcast.

[00:17] Question of the Day

“I’m an incoming senior at Emory University. I’m premed. And my question for you today is how do you deal with imposter syndrome? 

I’m involved in quite a bit, my university and but everybody’s experiences are so different. 

They’re so diverse, and sometimes it feels like what you’re doing isn’t enough compared to other amazing students.”

[00:43]  Stop Comparing Yourself with Everyone

I think that’s the keyword that used our student, Jeffrey, right there at the end is “compared to.” And there’s a famous Oprah quote that I’ve been using a lot lately. “Put on your blinders and run your own race.”

'If you compare yourself along this journey to everyone else, you are going to feel inadequate the whole way.'Click To Tweet

When you are applying to medical school, everyone else is applying as well. You are theoretically competing against them. 

But I say it all the time. Try to look at the stats, when you look at the numbers, you see who’s applying to medical school, you see who’s getting in who’s not getting in.

The students who aren’t getting in are not getting in because of very big red flags in their application. Their MCAT score is terrible. Their GPA is terrible. They have no clinical experience, or they’re horrible interviewers.

And there’s a subset of those who aren’t getting in that they have a good enough GPA good enough MCAT score, their interview was good enough. But maybe they applied to the wrong schools, and so they didn’t get in because of that.

If you are going through this process, comparing yourself to everyone else, you are going to get distracted from your core mission. And it’s being the best that you can be every single day, being better than yourself today than you were yesterday. That is your only goal in this process.

When you’re taking your test, you want to beat your last test. You don’t want to beat your classmates’ because getting an A doesn’t affect you getting an A as well. And I know lots of people are going to comment that classes are curved and schools are curved and so it does affect them. But it doesn’t. If you score 100%, you’re going to get 100%. It’s just the way it is.

[02:39] Impostor Syndrome

“The impostor syndrome is real. It never goes away.”Click To Tweet

Wait till you are a first-year medical student and you’re sitting with people who are like former professional athletes and other amazing people that have done amazing things.

Now, you’re taking care of patients. And you’d still think you’re not smart enough to do this. Look at these amazing physicians and interns and residents. They know every single prescription out there. They don’t even have to look it up. You’re stupid. This just never ever ends.

At some point, you just have to realize that it’s okay to have those thoughts. But also fight back those thoughts with thoughts that you’re supposed to be here. You’ve worked your butt off to be here. And you prove every single day that you’re meant to be here.

[04:20] Changing Study Style and Study Plan

Jeffrey talks about declining grades. He started his junior year off his first semester with three science classes when every semester before, he had never taken more than one. Then it also ended up being the three hardest classes.

So he says his GPA took a little bit of a dip. He was able to bring it up a little bit this past semester, but it’s not where he would like it to be. That being said, he is optimistic for junior year as he’s going to be taking a couple more of those upper-level sciences. He has a better study plan and a better study schedule. 

[06:01] Clinical Experience and MCAT

He also just recently started getting some clinical experience. He’s an incoming fourth-year senior and he’s going to take a gap year. So he’s studying for the MCAT right now and taking it on August 30.

This would be a little bit late for this application process. He hasn’t taken biochem yet, but their chemistry curriculum is a little structured in a way where they’re actually learning biochem for fourth year of fourth semester of chemistry, as opposed to organic and they learn all of organic in one semester. The school actually thinks this is innovative, but he thinks this is a terrible policy.

He thinks he has strong enough biochemistry background to where he can take the MCAT and do okay. He took his first practice full-length last week and a got great score, not bad for a first.

Additionally, he has already actually received a job offer as a clinical researcher. It’s for a clinical study in Houston. But he also likes to diversify his experiences a bit and experience another city for his gap year.

The clinical research position is in Houston, specifically, the Texas Medical Center. And it’s affiliated with the medical school to actually do the government school. So there’s actually no bad option.

[09:12] Jumping Between Experiences

Our student has found himself stuck working in a lab for more than a year. For his first year of research, it’s primarily because of location. And for this past year, I’ve been doing research with a lab, he found it as a toxic environment and he doesn’t think the lab is a great fit for him.

He didn’t feel like the people in that lab mesh well with his personality and his work ethic. This next year, he’s starting in a new lab. So it’s just jumping around in experiences. And then the experience before all both of those was just a summary search position and did great work.

Ultimately, what’s gonna happen when you have that sort of record is you’re going to have to explain what’s going on, of why you left the lab after a year. They’re going to want if they fired you.

And so really what’s gonna happen is you’re just going to have to explain like you just did it with me.  Avoid talking about why they sucked and it was a toxic environment because then you’re placing blame. 

“Just find ways to explain the transitions and that's where you take ownership, whether it just wasn't a good fit, whether you had a better opportunity somewhere else.”Click To Tweet

There are lots of ways to explain why you needed to change anything in your application. You just need to be able to explain why. What is the potential red flag? And if you can explain it and you’re not blaming someone else, that’s exactly where you want to go with the application with and with your interviews, etc.


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