I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my feminine outfits lately. The reason is because I recently Marie Kondo’d my closet and got rid of all the things I didn’t use or love.

What Happened When I Took a Hard Look In My Closet

I took a long look in my closet, then I grabbed all my ill-fitting blouses from decades ago, t-shirts that were worn out, and dresses no longer my style, and tossed them into a large donation pile. 

Then I got to my stack of scrub shirts and pants. These had been my uniform for the 15 years I worked in the Emergency Department. I hesitated to toss them as I had identified strongly with #ScrubLife

Putting on scrubs used to make me feel like a hero, much like I imagined superheroes felt when they put on their cape. Maybe I would need them one day, I thought, even though it’d been more than a year since I stepped inside an ER. The thought of perhaps one day doing Locums Tenens had been keeping me stuck for quite some time. 

Since I pivoted to telemedicine, I no longer had to lead the scrub life. When I first transitioned to seeing patients online, I wore scrubs because it was part of what allowed me to step into my Emergency Doc alter ego for so many years. But within a few months, as I reflected and began to reconnect with the woman I had been before working in the Emergency Department, I became averse to wearing scrubs while seeing patients virtually. That’s because I no longer felt scrubs reflected who I was and the way my identity shifted in my new practice setting.

I Realized My Own Personal Identity Had Been Lost to Scrubs

After 15 years of wearing scrubs to work in the Emergency Department, I realized how much I had lost. I lost not only my personal sense of style, but my own identity. The scrubs took away my femininity, which had seemed “a weakness” in the male-dominated world of medicine. While scrubs were practical and forgiving of extra pounds, to me the solid blue scrubs had become boring and made me feel “blah.”

Moreover, wearing scrubs made me blend in and hide my individuality. (Medicine has a way of taking that away from most people.) The uniform also gave me an excuse to not have to pay attention to clothing trends or even my own personal sense of style. Wearing plain scrubs was a reflection of how I had stopped considering who I was and what I wanted in life. I had become numb to my hopes and aspirations and even how I wanted to dress as a form of self-expression.  

Finally, I looked at the pile of scrubs and asked myself the 2 screening questions used to tackle the clutter in my closet: “Am I using these?”, and “Do they bring me joy?” The answer was “No” on both counts.

In fact, the pile of unused scrubs brought me guilt and kept me living in the past. They kept me from closing the door on the #ScrubLife chapter of my life. So I grabbed a large shopping bag and swiftly stuffed all the scrubs in, and threw the bag in the donation pile. It felt liberating to make a decision and finally let go of the thing that seemed representative of that chapter of my life.

I Decided To Embrace My Own Unique Sense of Style Again

I no longer needed to hide in my scrubs. I could express my individuality in my attire. I could wear colorful floral blouses and skirts beneath my white coat. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken care of a patient while wearing a skirt and fully embracing my femininity. 

I could wear my favorite dangly earrings again during virtual visits. I could even have a vase full of peonies from my garden sitting on my desk to brighten up my day.  All of this was me. All of this was okay. And finally, I could now bring all of myself to my work as a physician. 

Owning My Feminine Authenticity as a Woman Doctor

I found myself in my closet. Clearing out the clutter forced me to shed some of the artifacts of my old life, and it was life-affirming. It reminded me of the woman that I was before I became a doctor; the one who had her own unique sense of style; the one who would meet with her girlfriends and hear them say, “Archana, I love your outfit. It’s so you!”

Sister Doc, if you want help reconnecting with your original, authentic self, join us on the waitlist for our next Physician Wellness and Empowerment program where we will empower you to shed identities that no longer serve you, and help you return to your own authenticity.

Archana Shrestha, MD is a physician, life coach, speaker and entrepreneur in Chicago. She is the Cofounder and Chief Wellness Officer at Women in White Coats and co-author of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” book series. Learn more about her by going to MightyMomMD.com. She can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD.

If you aren’t sure how to connect with sister docs outside of your hospital or clinic, Women in White Coats is a great place to start. We have a private Facebook group for sister docs that we’d love to invite you to join. You can come to ask questions, find support, learn about our wellness program, and so much more. Click here to join our Facebook group. Can’t wait to see you there!