78: What Happens If I'm Worried About Failing?

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Session 78

This week, our poster is worried about that little voice in his head that is telling him he may fail at this whole "med school" thing. Listen to my response.

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[01:08] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

"I've taken Ryan's advice to heart and believe that a backup plan will hurt my chances."

*Listen to The Premed Years Podcast Episode 213 where I talked about not having a plan B. Some people agreed with it and others but if you have a backup plan of being a nurse, PA, or NP, the psychology is that you are less likely to achieve your goal of becoming a physician because you're able to have that safety valve there.

"Not begrudgingly either, I was already convinced of this myself before I heard him say it several months ago so it was great to hear my instincts confirmed. As a 35-year-old nontraditional, convinced that I'm called to serve others as a physician. I eat, sleep, and breathe this journey every second of every day. Yet there are those moments when the still small voice of doubt whispers in my ear a little louder than usual. What if I fail?"

"This is a second trip through undergrad to earn my prereqs and at the end of the summer semester, my federal student loan eligibility will be cut off factoring in that they've reached the cap. I've needed to give up my full-time job so I can go to school full time as well as shadow, volunteer, and scribe and then supporting myself almost entirely on private loans. I have a solid two years remaining before I can take the MCAT and by the time I enter med school, I will be on the hook for $100,000 in additional private loan debt to cover tuition and living expenses before I even start medical school.

I have no qualms whatsoever about taking on this step because I know this is what I'm supposed to do. But the naysayer voice within that says I can't do this, that tells me just to give up after another sleepless night, simply will not stop asking what if I fail? I exercise regularly trying to limit caffeine and eat healthy. I was a personal trainer for years so I do all that I can to alleviate stress. What other suggestions do you have to shut up this voice?"

Here are my thoughts: [03:57] What If I Fail?

That inner voice inside you is your guiding light. It's most likely your limbic system saying, "Stop, this is scary. We don't want to do this." Unfortunately, it's not very smart for the age we live in today.

That little voice in the back of your head used to be able to tell us, don't go out there. There's a saber-toothed tiger out there that's going to eat you. That was a great little voice to have in the back of your head a hundred thousand years ago. But in today's day and age, that little voice in your head always rears up when you're on the verge of something great or in the face of something tough. It's never there when you're sitting on the couch playing video games or when you're ordering pizza on the phone or when life is easy. It's always there when life is hard, when you're making decisions that have the potential to affect you and everybody else in your life as well as your future.

If your little voice is popping up and saying what if you fail, it means you're doing the right thing because it should be hard. That same question, "What if I fail?" can be asked by every student and it has nothing to do with you being a nontrad or all the loans you have. That voice is normal and everybody asks that everyday. Personally, when I release a new podcast and I have four already. What if I fail? What if this new one isn't popular? What if it's not good? This tells me to push forward.

[06:13] How You Define Failure

In your case, "what if I fail?" should be telling you to keep going. As you're going on your premed journey, define failure. Failure, to me, is giving up.

To you this could mean applying to medical school a couple of times and not getting in or going to a Caribbean medical school. But failure, to me, is just giving up even though you know this is still your dream and even if in two years down the line, you still wanted to become a doctor but you can't take it anymore. That, to me, is failure.

Failure is not a rejection from medical school. I was rejected from medical school and it wasn't failure. I was just told not yet.

[07:05] Change That Voice

Instead, change that saying of "What if I fail?" to "What if I succeed?" What would that look like? That would be awesome, wouldn't it? That you're in medical school and you're a medical student. Listen to that voice in your head because when it talks and speaks up, that means you're doing something right. So don't be afraid of it.

I know this is a very different show than usual but I like the psychology of thinking. A good writer, Seth Godin, talks about lizard brain which is that little voice in your head, the deepest and oldest part of our brain that told us to stay away from saber-toothed tigers and that's what's telling you "What if I fail?"

[08:05] Loans and Timeline

On a side note, be very careful with private student loans because they are much, much, much more strict than the federal student loans.

I also want to question what's taking you so long? Giving up a full-time job to shadow and everything else and it's still going to take two more years? This timeline seems to be off. I recommend you reach out to somebody or to an advisor. Shoot me an email. But I really think your timeline seems off in this whole thing. Lastly, to your question of "what if I fail?" it depends on what your definition of failure is.

[09:10] Final Thoughts

Join the collaborative community at OldPreMeds.org and ask a question. If you don't already, subscribe in your favorite podcast app. I actually created a video to show you how to do this. Check it out on www.medicalschoolhq.net/howtosubscribe


The Premed Years Podcast Episode 213: Stop Looking for a Backup Plan, It's Hurting Your Chances


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