It felt weird being back in class again. Professional programs get to go back earlier than the rest of university, so today I returned to the relatively quiet U of A campus.

Something about being back made me think of imposter syndrome. Another topic from my self-study module. Imposter syndrome is when people constantly feel like a fraud, no matter what their achievements might be. Health care professionals are particularly prone to this.

I suspect it is because we work and play in a very intellectual, high-stakes world, and we compare ourselves to our peers. Quite a lot of people who work in health care are clever, or can at least exude the appearance of cleverness. However, individuals know exactly how good their knowledge and skills are, so that when they compare against the facades of colleagues, the self and the other don’t measure up. We feel like we are not really smart, but that we have somehow tricked other people into believing that we are.

Maybe it was just being back in the sterile environment of medicine that reminded me of this. Even though I’ve just had a lovely two weeks relaxing and avoiding medicine, it feels like it hasn’t happened. Now, all I can think of is the long run to the end of this semester, with a giant exam waiting on the finish line.

Perhaps it seems odd that people who regularly pass exams and who indeed are consulted for our specialized knowledge don’t think we are all that clever. It is what it is: foolish. However, the real niggle of imposter syndrome is that it creates a fear that, eventually, someone will notice, or we will fail so obviously that everyone will know really how good we aren’t.

This is why I want to commit to what I think is really important: art and philosophy and stuff, but not the stuff that med students stereotypically care about. Marks, shadowing, electives, et cetera, et cetera, etc. It is my hope that if I practice more at just being human, I’ll think about how I measure up as a person, rather than as a future physician, specifically.

With luck, the one just might ensure the other.


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