This week’s US medical licensing exam/step 1 studying has been quite the drag. I’m slowly making progress though!
One difficulty I’ve encountered is self confidence .
More often than not, I’ll do practice questions, get a bunch wrong (which is only normal for everyone as they make their way through the material), then automatically make the conclusion that I must be really stupid to be getting all these questions wrong.
My brain is so harsh on myself that in fact, even when I do answer questions correct and concepts start clicking, instead of being happy about it, my first thought is usually “WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO GET THIS? what were you even doing during the entire school year?! WHY ARE YOU SO stupid???”
Other negative thoughts that flood my brain:
- Why am I not able to study for 12 hours straight? Other people can do it. Right now, I’m only studying about 6-7 hours/day
- Am I good enough to be a doctor?
- Why are you so stupid?
- This is not supposed to be that hard, so why are you struggling so much?
Of course, not only are these thoughts COMPLETELY FALSE, they aren’t constructive to my studying whatsoever!
But the problem is, I KNOW exactly what I’m supposed to think, but there’s still a large discrepancy between how I’m supposed to think vs. how I actually feel. Because I don’t think I am good enough.
IT’S HARD not to feel like a piece of shit when the practice questions are written as such: “a 77 year old patient comes in with high CO2 levels so you give him oxygen, THEN HE GOES INTO RESPIRATORY FAILURE AND DIES. What caused his death?”
…..what? but it’s only logical to give him oxygen when he has low levels of it! Gahhhhhh! (the answer: if the patient has had high CO2 chronically, their brain is desensitized and the only driving force for the breathing center is the high CO2; quickly loading O2 will remove the stimulus for the breathing center. THUS, O2 needs to be administered SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY)
However, even when the questions don’t end with patients dying, such as “a patient comes in with a pneumonia. The sputum stain shows XYZ. What antibiotics should you prescribe?” The fact that the question is posed in a straight forward manner makes me feel like I SHOULD know the answer. Though I realize if it’s a simple “did you memorize your antibiotics or not,” it says absolutely nothing about my intelligence..but I still can’t help but feel STUPID for missing an easy question.
So, what do I need to change?
1. Realize that I am good enough. If I wasn’t, the med school would not have accepted me. And if I wasn’t good enough to be a doctor, they wouldn’t put someone else’s lives in my hands if they didn’t think I was equipped with the skills to treat them.
2. I wanted the huge sense of reward from treating patients. But, of course large reward only comes from large responsibility.
3. I am not the only person who is struggling. Studying for the licensing exam is HARD and everyone else also has a hard time.
4. I should turn my fear of the tremendous responsibility into motivation.
5. Don’t minimize my progress and focus on the positives.
6. Remember that all things require WORK. I can’t just jump from point A to D automatically without the steps in between.
7. Getting questions wrong is normal. It’s called LEARNING.
8. I am not stupid.
I will try to fake it until I make it…