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Perfectionism is not a blueprint for success

August 11, 2018

 

 

I love listening to podcasts on long drives. The other day, I listened to an episode about a woman who was a perfectionist, but nothing in her life was perfect. She couldn't seem to make any headway or progress in her career, and she was overwhelmed and stressed! "Hmph! That's ironic and self-defeating," I thought. Her perfectionism came from fear of failure, but success does not come without trying. She shared her story about how she had finally come to the conclusion that perfectionism is not a blueprint for success and that failure is not to be feared. As a matter of fact, perfectionism can stifle success; yes, even as a pre-med!

 

Pre-meds often experience success very early on in life. Maybe you were the top of your pre-school class. Perhaps, you won academic awards in elementary school and high school. You've never so much as failed even one test or heard one discouraging word in 18 years of life. You're known as "the smart one" by friends and family. You are literally perfect; or so you think! I know I did!

 

Think you're "the ish"? Think again!

 

The rude awakening that many pre-meds get in college can be a huge blow to the ego. Being pre-med can be overwhelming and stressful. The people around you can be very discouraging. Most drastic is the realization that you might not be the smartest person in the room anymore. You might have experienced your first low grade or even failed an exam or class. Your picture of perfection is slowly morphing into an unrecognizable version of yourself. You start to wonder if success is in your future. "Am I cut out to be a doctor?"

 

Not to worry... This uneasy, unfamiliar new reality of imperfection is actually what you need to be successful. My next sentence might be a bit controversial, but I think it's worth writing. It's very likely that your success as a child was a result of basic intelligence and following the rules. You were rewarded for paying attention in class as much as a kid could and doing your homework. Sure, you did well on tests, but let's face it; it wasn't rocket science (except for that day in HS physics class)! Success in college and in life looks entirely different from your younger glory days.

 

How Success Really Looks

 

Success often looks like this - try, fail, try again, fail again, try again, fail again, repeat... SUCCESS! Now, please don't misinterpret this post to think that I am saying that pre-meds should strive to fail classes or bomb the MCAT. That would be ridiculous! My point is that success doesn't come without trying and that failure does not necessarily stifle success. 

 

I often talk about strategies that can make pre-meds successful. Well, trying is one of them. If you're putting off meeting with a mentor because you're not perfectly where you want to be... Or you're avoiding taking organic chemistry because you don't think you'd be good at it... Or you keep putting off taking MCAT practice exams because you're afraid of a low score.... Then, your real failure is not in trying. The only way to know if you are cut out to be doctor is to try - despite your fears. Remember, you don't have  to be perfect; you just have to be strategic.

 

Are you a perfectionist? How is it holding you back? For strategies that you should be doing to increase your chances of getting into medical school, pick up my free cheatsheet: 5 Strategies you're currently NOT using to get into medical school!

 

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