Failing Forward

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There is a great # going on instagram right now called #failforwardcampaign. Reading about the obstacles other strong women have overcome really got me thinking about myself. What does it mean to fail forwards? To me, it means taking the worst moments, events, and mistakes in your life and using them as a catalyst to change for the better. We are not defined by our failures, but how we respond to them in the face of adversity. I culled through my own life and these are some of the moments that stood out to me.
1. Growing up, no one but my immediate family believed I would become a physician. I spent so much time believing them that I put limits on myself and never really gave anything 100%. I couldn’t shake the notion I might be what everyone thought I was- flighty, inconsequential, and average. I rarely even talked about wanting to be a doctor, even though I knew since I was 5 years old that’s what I wanted to me. I think that when we buy into other people’s negative perceptions of us, it has a scary ability to change the course of our own lives. It wasn’t until I was on my own in college I found my belief in myself and really came into my own. I believed that I was smart enough, strong enough, and that being a doctor was well within my grasp.

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2. Until getting to med school. Yikes. I nearly failed out of medical school. I hated med school so much. The first two years were torture. I was crippled by severe anxiety and rarely left my house. I would only go to school for tests, and was withdrawn and isolated from my classmates. I felt like I was letting down everyone who believed in me and fulfilling the predictions of all those who said all along that I could never do it. It was on of the lowest points in my life. I ended up taking an entire year off and then choosing to repeat my second year of school. It was only after I got away from medicine I realized how much I loved it and that it was the core of me.

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3. I let a physical injury set me back in all areas of my life. In residency I suffered a terrible knee injury that required multiple surgeries. I was despondent and gave up trying to ever get better. It would take me several years of chronic debilitating pain and my weight ballooning to 275 pounds for me to change. I stopped letting my injury and pain be the whole of who I was. I think it’s so easy when you have chronic pain to let that be the only thing that defines you, so that everything in your life revolves around the pain. I pushed through the pain and slowly got better with regular exercise and weight loss. I’ve lost so much of the weight that was physically a barrier to my health and happiness. I did not cure my pain, but I have found ways to minimize it and make it into an afterthought instead of the main event in my life.

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When I was living through each of the moment above, I was miserable. It is only now in hindsight that I can see how clearly those events shaped who I am today. Has it been a smooth easy ride? No! Would I be the same person I am now if it was? No! Going through these struggles has given me the fortitude to overcome the challenges life has will continue to throw at me.

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