Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Heyy yall!! Welcome back to my blog (: I just completed my first week of medical school... and WHEW. I really am not even exactly sure what I'm about to write, but I guess I'll just let the words flow & see where it takes me...


During orientation last week, a major issue the professors kept trying to prepare us for was this idea of the "imposter syndrome". For those who have never heard this term used before, google defines it as "a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud." As we were discussing this issue, I honestly wasn't too worried about actually experiencing it... Like, I knew I was meant to be here. I just completed my masters program that was basically first year medical school... I GOT THIS. Or so I thought, lolzzz.


Welp, all that confidence literally lasted up until last Sunday night before we started classes. My family left Saturday night, so Sunday was my first day in my new apartment, at my new school, on my own... and I felt good. I felt ready. A group-me had already been created with me and all the other minority students, and we had already planned to meet up that night at the library to divide into study groups, discuss different resources to use, and just overall be ahead of the game. I was excited, honestly. Everything seemed like it was just off to a great start. However, when I got to the meeting, all of those good feelings went out the window. All of the other students were so nice and friendly, but I kind of felt like the outsider since they already knew each other, because all of them had done the Med Prep program that SIU offers (minus me and one other girl). Med Prep is a two year post bacc program, that's designed to 'provide assistance to educationally and/or economically disadvantaged students, preparing them to achieve success in the health professions.' Although they were extremely welcoming, all of my peers had been here for two years already, were familiar with the professors and the curriculum, and I felt SUPER BEHIND. I remember in the meeting everybody just started throwing out different stuff-- "Read Marks for Biochem, try Costanzo for physiology, Armando Hasudungan has great videos"... and whole time I'm like, what?? I felt like a fish out of water. How do I find these books? Armando WHO? How do y'all already know all this? Like whaaat?... I just felt, overwhelmed, in over my head. It was at that point that I started wondering, 'what did I just get myself into? I am not ready for this at allllll.' While I was grateful to have people around me who were willing to share all of their knowledge & resources, it didn't help the fact that I felt like I was starting way behind all of my classmates. Idk. It was just overwhelming. I asked a lot of questions though, and by the end of the meeting I think I was on the same page as them, maybe? Lol. So I went home, overwhelmed yes, but still feeling ready to conquer the week. I made my to-do lists for every day, filled out my google calendar with my schedule for the week, set my alarms, and went to bed early ready to get to it the next morning.


Monday morning started with an entire class meeting, and then we went on to our tutor groups. One of the main reasons I decided to come to SIU is because they have a different learning style than most other institutions. SIU uses problem based learning, or PBL. Basically, the students divide into 'tutor groups', we are given a new case each week, and it is up to us to ask the right questions, perform the rights tests, and learn all the information necessary to diagnose our patient. While getting the diagnosis is important, the main goal of tutor group is for you to learn the concepts that underly each area that you're learning about. For example, our first case was about sickle cell... so instead of just knowing about sickle cell, we need to (on our own) learn all about the basics-- what is a red blood cell, what is hemoglobin, how does a red blood cell become 'sickle', what are the major organs involved, what is the anatomy & physiology of those organs, etc etc. Its difficult because you have to be able to figure out what is important background information to know, and make sure that you're studying it deep enough on your own. I do like it better because its much more engaging than just sitting in a lecture, however, it is harder because it is self-guided learning. In tutor group, we do have a 'tutor' who is a professor that has been asked to guide our group and make sure we're on the right track with our learning. The tutors are not supposed to talk TOO much, but they are there just in case we need help or start going down the wrong path.


When I got to my tutor group, I was excited because I had already become pretty cool with one of the girls in my group, Catherine. Catherine is a first year repeat, so she already knows exactly how this all works, and because she's so amazing, she is always giving the rest of us advice and keys to success. When my tutor leader arrived, he had a VERY STRONG ACCENT. I suffer from hearing loss in my right ear, so its a little more difficult for me than most people to understand accents, and this has always been a problem of mine with foreign professors. Just my luck, right? And of course, I got a tutor leader who decided to basically lecture the entire time... I could barely understand anything. I felt like it was such a waste of my 3 hours, and now I was going to be behind even more because I had no idea what he was talking about, UGH!! Why did I have to get assigned to THIS group? Right after class I called my mom on the verge of tears because I just felt in over my head. Writing this right now, it feels really silly that I legit was about to cry over this... but, I fr just was feeling overwhelmed y'all. And I'm a little sensitive, so just bear with me lmao. Anyways, my mom knows that I always struggle with this, so she told me to just ask if I can switch groups. DUH, easy solution right? Wrong lol. I emailed the academic coordinators, went in to meet with them, and they suggested I just talk to my tutor leader, and work it out that way. So, I then emailed my tutor leader and let him know my issue, and waited on a response. I never got one btw, but that's fine lmao.


Tuesday was our very first clinical session, and I WAS NERVOUSSS. This week, we learned all about taking a patient's history, all the questions to ask, and topics to cover for a complete history. The goal being to learn how to diagnose a patient, simply by asking the right questions. While I had never scribed before, it seemed like EVERYONE else in my class had, and already knew exactly how to take a patient history. In addition to just remembering the questions to ask, we also had to remember the key findings in certain conditions, so that we could ask the right questions, to get us to the correct diagnosis. It was just alottttt. But anyways, I practiced, went in, and did it... and it honestly turned out fine lol. I had to keep reminding myself it was just the first one, and that it was not supposed to be perfect. Honestly, it was easy to just talk to the patient and learn more about her and her chief complaint. THIS was why I wanted to be a doctor. I actually just love people-- I love hearing their stories, and I love helping however I can. THIS felt like something I could do. Although I forgot to ask some key questions, and I honestly had no idea what the diagnosis could be... I felt good that I had made my patient feel comfortable enough to open up to me, and I knew this is something I would get better at in time. I got this.


That night I went home to study, and when I sat down to start, I realized I had NO IDEA where to even begin. That "overwhelming, I'm in over head" feeling hit me all over again, and this time... like a bag a bricks to my face. I texted my girl Catherine because I knew she could guide me in the right direction, and literally as soon as I texted her she called me. She said that its crazy how God works because she was literally just reading my first blog, and was about to call me and just let me know how amazing it was. She said it was super inspirational, that I could really reach people with that, and that I need to keep it up. She also was talking about how I'm meant to be here, and THAT is what made me cry... because I didn't feel it any more. I felt like I was swimming in the ocean, with the shore no where in sight. She calmed me down a lot though. She told me the best way to approach it is to start with the big stuff and then work my way to the details... OK, good plan, that works. I did some good studying after that, and then I went to bed ready to conquer tomorrow. I got this.


Wednesday morning, I went back to tutor group, and although my leader never responded to my email, I know he saw it because he asked me to sit next to him, and kept asking me "Did you hear me?" after every little statement lmao. TBH, half the time I still didn't understand him, but I had gotten comfortable enough with my group that when I didn't understand him, I just asked them to repeat what he said. Today, I noticed that I wasn't the only one confused though... everybody kind of was. While it still seemed like I understood him a little less than them, it was definitely times that they also were like "What did he say?", and idk... I guess I took comfort in not being alone lol. My group and I really started getting to know each other, and it was easy to witness everyone's different learning styles. We worked really well together! I low-key just love my group, even though I can't understand my teacher half the time lol. After school was over, I had my first meeting with my study group and IT WENT GREAT. We went over a lot of topics-- I taught people stuff, and they taught me stuff-- and I just overall really felt like I was doing some good learning. I was readyyyyyy. After we left study group, I went to the library to check out some textbooks, went to Starbucks and got a lil refresher to keep me alert, and was on my way to go back and study. I was about to be SOOO PRODUCTIVE..... and then BOOM. I crashed the car. F M L.


Y'all don't know this, but I am probably the world's worst driver. Like, not even being funny. This is legit like my 7th car issue this year-- from getting the car booted, then towed, like 5 speeding tickets, a cell phone ticket, driving the car into a pole in the parking garage, etc etc. ALL IN 2019. Like naw fr, I suck. And why its soooo crazy is my dad's exact words when he left were, "You are not on the insurance. I'm gonna add you Monday or Tuesday, so PLEASE, don't have any accidents before then. Drive carefully, pay close attention, etc etc." .........I made it to literally Wednesday. Wow. (And no, I still wasn't on the insurance so yeah). Basically, see what had happened was... Carbondale streets are weird af. Its a lot of random one ways, and you gotta go all the way around the block to come back the other way... idk how to describe it, its just weird. So I'm driving, and I just didn't register that I was on a one way street. I was in the right lane, but it was no other cars around, so I thought that the left lane next to me was traffic coming from the opposite direction. I went to make a left turn (looking in front of me, seeing it was clear), and turned right into this guy who was coming from behind me... yeah, very very stupid I know. Did I mention I'm the world's worst driver? My mother's daughter, for sure!! Anyways, it was sooo scary because it just all happened so fast. One minute I'm on my way to have the most productive studying day ever, the next I'm literally looking death in the eyes. All I remember seeing is the red truck I hit literally skidding uncontrollably, I screamed, and I instantly knew my life was o v e r. I just still cannot believe I did that bro. Of course I did, just wow. So boom whatever now I'm crying in the club lmao, literally bawling my eyes out trying to talk to the police officer. I call my dad, and he was PISSED. Like, I knew he was gonna be mad, but this was different. He actually yelled at me🥺... he NEVER yells at me😭 He told me he don't wanna hear no tears because that was just stupid, and this is getting ridiculous. His exact words, "Janet... you didn't even make it a week." Womp, womp, womppppp. Yeah, so I couldn't stop crying, and my night was just over after that. I didn't do a thing school related. I had finally thought I had figured this school thing out... and that car accident just threw me all the way off.


Thursday morning, I went to get a rental car and they wouldn't let me (since I wasn't on the insurance)... so I rode with my friend Tare to school, and my other friend Stacey brought me home. My mom, Jennifer, and my cousin Marquis drove out here that night, so that my mom could rent me a car in the morning. And guess what I did, AGAIN? Not study. I stayed up super late talking to Jennifer, so the next day I was extremely tired all over again... Got to school, went through my day, and guess what I did when I got home? Went to sleep. No studying. Its like I knew I had already felt behind, and now I was falling more behind, but I just couldn't even bring myself to do anything. Idk. I'm not perfect y'all, and I'm not gonna pretend to be on this blog. I have a lot of bad habits (cough cough, procrastination) that have really ALWAYS been a problem that I'm truly working on. I mentioned in my last blog that I went through a serious phase of depression, and while I am definitely much better than I was, healing is a process. I went to bed Friday night with this great plan to wake up Saturday morning, start studying, and use my entire day wisely. However, when I woke up Saturday morning, I saw something that really triggered me, and brought me right back to those same depressed feelings I thought I had gotten over... I ended up spending the entire day in bed. I just couldn't even make myself get up, fr. Its like in my mind I KNEW that I had stuff to do, and that I would hate myself if I didn't do it... but I just couldn't get up, and at the time, laying there felt like all I could do. So that's what I did.


As the night went on, I finally got up around 8pm and decided to get my stuff together. I could NOT do this right now. God has blessed me so much- allowing me to even get into medical school, surviving a car accident that could have went REALLY bad, blessing me with parents who drive 4 hours just to make sure I have a car... like, I'm so blessed, and I was WASTING my blessings. I got up, made a new to do list, and got to work... My friend Tare also invited me to go to church Sunday morning at 9am, so that was a good plan to make sure I'm up early in the morning, and ready to work.


Sunday-- TODAY: I woke up at 6am with a great plan for the day, ready to get back on my grind. I listened to a sermon called "Radical Expectations" by Sarah Jakes Roberts while I was getting dressed (s/o to my bff Parker for always sending me exactly what I need to hear)... and the sermon literally SPOKE to me. At one point, she was talking about how she started getting overwhelmed, bogged down by the details, thinking "I'm in over my head, I don't know if I can do this"... but then she had a meeting that reminded her how far she could go. It reminded her of the vision, and when she was reminded of the vision, that changed her momentum to keep going. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I FELT. I had been questioning if I can even do this, but I just needed to be reminded of the vision... of how far I can go! Where I see my life going, what I want to do, and who I want to be...


I watched another sermon from her last week where she said, "You cannot be who you were, and who you are becoming at the same time." And THAT is my motto for this week. Yeah, I've been through some tough times, yeah I still have bad days, yeah I still have some really bad habits I need to break... but the woman I'm becoming is able to overcome ALL of that. I'm stepping into my destiny, and I cannot bring along the baggage of my past life with me. All of those "influences" that I notice holding me back... its time to get rid of them, and STEP INTO WHO I AM BECOMING. So I did what I do best... made a list. A list of everything I want to stop doing this week, and a list of everything I want to make sure I do. So yeah. I guess my message this week is that the journey is not easy, and its not perfect at all... but when you know where you want to go, you keep WORKING until you get there. No matter what.


Also, we did a poll after the first week to see how everyone was feeling, and I guess its good to say I'm not alone in my sentiments. You never really are!


So... today has been cool. Church was amazing, and honestly, writing these blogs, I inspire myself a little bit. I'm excited to see the woman I am in 4 years when I'm graduating, and I'm gonna be so happy to look back and see how much I've grown. Its a process for sure, but I do belong here. I'm not an imposter. Yeah, it may be overwhelming now, but that's because I'm in a transition phase. It was never meant to be easy. The biggest growth comes from the toughest situations.


Something my dad always tells me is that, "Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right either way," (let that sink in)... But as for me... I CAN. I got this. No matter what life throws at me, I'm gone keep pushing, and I hope y'all do the same. We got thissss.


Love y'all!! Thanks for tuning into my blog! Until next week (:


-Janet Maia💕


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