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Are you a perfectionist?

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

There are lots to be said about medical students and doctors and whether we are perfectionists or not, people also talk about all of us having some traits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At MR Revision you may have gathered, that we really value personal development and in addition to this, reflection is important. That is why we have this section of the website.

Over this last week,we were having a peruse on twitter and we came across Claire Gerada’s article on Unhealthy perfectionism and being handed her old medical school report card. She mentioned that she had worked quite hard at medical school but on receiving her report card it told a different kind of story. Essentially the two didn’t match up.Have a look at the article for your reference.(

When we read this article it struck a cord with us. In August 2019, we will be exactly 4 years post medical school and it’s funny you never really forget what it feels like to study so hard , you feel like your life depends on it. The thing that hurts the most is that feeling of dissatisfaction that you get, when you have genuinely put your best into a piece of work and your grade says a different story. The other thing that makes you feel even worse is reading the markers comments and sometimes they have a way of getting to you and you keep them in your head on replay. Then comes the next essay and you are a little bit terrified of what the outcome might be. It is almost as if the new essay marker knows what the previous person thought of your work. However logically they actually don’t.

The question is, how do we move forward from this cycle fo self criticisim? How do we practice medicine without being crippled by our shortcomings?. We don’t have the answer to that now but we think it is something worth thinking about.

A little bit of perfectionism is good, but there is something called overkill, the drive to always be number one. The drive to always be on top sometimes becomes so great you turn on yourself. You say that people are putting pressure on you i.e your family and friends expect so much from your and are proud of what you are doing. However often times, we forget that we are the biggest source of pressure. We pile it on ourselves trying to be superhuman and trying to prove to everyone that we are ok.

Here at MR Revision, the way we see things is that you can only do your best. Your best means planning ahead of time, making timetables, working and collaborating with others to share the load. By collaborations, we mean making study groups, this provides a safe forum to learn and if you have made the right kind of study group, you can even say when you are struggling.

At times in order to feel better , you just need some acknowledgement from your colleagues that you are all feeling a bit scared and rubbish about the upcoming exam, but as a collective you will get through. It sounds a bit fluffy but there is something a little bit reassuring about knowing that you are not the only one in headless chicken mode.

In all things remember you cannot always be perfect. Everyone struggles sometimes and these are the times to talk to friends, clinical tutors etc. The quicker you wave the flag to say that your struggling , the quicker you can get help.

People have varied experiences of asking for support in medical school. But we have seen too many people disappear from medical school mid term, mid year. Months later and in some cases, years later you find out that people were struggling but because they never said and help came too late. From what were hear through the grapevine, medical schools are trying harder to support students and promote mindfulness.

In conclusion, firstly remember you are human. Secondly remember we all have limits, the GMC talks about this in detail - specifically talking about knowing the limits of your competence. People interpret this in different ways. However the way we see it, is that if you don’t know something, no matter how silly, you should ask what it means, or find out how it works . Otherwise you will never know. The same goes for your every day life as a junior doctor. We have lost count of the number of times we have been in teaching sessions and the Consultant says something and everyone nods and smiles. Then the Consultant asks the room to define what it means and then discovers that no one actually knows. The question is, why did no one ask. It is because no one wanted to look silly / loose face/appear not perfect / appear to be lacking in knowledge.

As always, its food for thought.

Feedback is always welcome, so be sure to drop us a line.

From the MR Revision team.

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