Imposter Syndrome & Medical School

The most common description I heard of medical school prior to starting was some variation of “It’s like drinking from a firehose. But also you’re on fire. And everything is on fire.”

If you’re about to start medical school and are anything like I was, you’re having heart palpitations right now after reading that. While medical school has certainly included some of the most difficult parts of my life, it has also prompted the most personal growth, and has been far and away the most fun I’ve ever had. The transition is rough, but my goal here is to at least help somebody else out there starting medical school feel less alone in the struggle, or maybe even help them see a way out.

To go back to that very vivid description of medical school I began this article with, I will give an example of an “everything is on fire” period that I had. My program starts the M1 year with a focused human cadaveric dissection course. I was in way over my head before my anatomy professor clicked to the second slide of back muscles on his powerpoint, and that feeling stuck with me for… truly, most of that first semester Feeling lost, I looked to my peers to try to figure out where I was compared to them.

It became this exhausting combination of imposter syndrome and comparing myself to others. Through medical school I have seen that this is a common experience, though it is well-documented how much more susceptible women are to imposter syndrome.

The thought pattern went like this for me:

  1. I was new to medical school, I wasn’t confident that I belonged here and could do it. All those times people warned me it was like drinking from a firehose had made me concerned.