How do you build resilience and boundaries in medicine without becoming prickly to others?
Maybe you don’t. Let me explain.
It seems paradoxical for women in medicine because if we create a boundary, it is viewed as something that needs to be managed, shifted, or adapted to others’ expectations. And as a result, women in medicine are often maligned as these boundaries are essential.
I love looking to nature for inspiration. Hence my cactus pic. Cactus can survive in remarkably intense conditions. And they do so by some exciting adaptations. Not the least of which is thick skin.
While living in the desert these last 15 years, I have observed all kinds of cactuses: small ones, large ones, green ones, blue ones, sharp ones, thin ones, and round ones. Prickly and not so prickly. And yet, there are some core elements in common. They can survive the pressure of the ridiculous heat of the desert and endure conditions that would be unsurvivable for other plants.
We are provided with extreme circumstances through the journey in medicine, from lack of sleep to being present with others in their most harrowing moments of suffering. Some of the coping skills that we develop are essential for longevity in our careers, especially for women who often juggle various needs on their emotional and physical bandwidth.
It is a sign of intense courage to see, cultivate, and know what maintains resilience in ourselves and others instead of judging them for what they need to keep their own balance.
Just as the cactus is different, each clinician has a mechanism of adapting to the stress of being in medicine. Each person cultivates adaptive tools that give them a sense of ease and peace at the end of the day so that they can keep going. And we are not responsible for managing how others feel about that. We will never be able to please everyone. And frankly, even if we could, it would be exhausting.
Take a moment today to reach out to someone who has good balance in medicine. Ask them how they did it. And honor/acknowledge their efforts. Learn from them and add new skills on how to navigate it. There is no glory in dying on the hill of trying to please everyone.
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