It’s OK to want a life you like just for your own sake. I’m a firm believer that when you have your life right, it improves the experience of those with whom you interact. Your patients will notice. Your partner will appreciate it. Your kids will feel it.
However, you don’t have to use others as your excuse for doing right by yourself. The sooner you get comfortable being good to yourself for no other reason than you are a human who wants fulfillment and satisfaction, the easier all the rest of it gets.
So Many Justifications
I have spent a lot of my adult life being expected to justify why I want to like my life. Because I am a woman and a physician, with all the preconceived notions those identities carry, people tend to be perplexed by my responses to the following questions.
Are you going to a conference while you are visiting Australia? No. I have no desire to ruin a perfectly lovely trip to the other side of the world with CME.
Are you taking 3 months away from work to recover from a physical illness or take care of family? Nah. I’m burnt out. I can either continue grinding myself into the ground or resume some semblance of baseline peace in order to keep going.
Are you leaving clinical medicine to have more time and energy for a family? Nope. I’ve never actually been that pressed to partner or procreate. If that happens, it’s cool. My primary goal with this transition is to be comfortable in my own skin every day for most of the day. Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to achieve that as a clinician.
Why All the Shame?
Our society doesn’t really allow people to say these kinds of things without shame. We particularly give major side eye to single, childless women like myself who dare to verbalize their intention to design lives they like as single, childless women. I am blessed with remarkably low transcription of whatever gene makes us care a lot about other people’s opinions. Thus, I feel it is my duty to say this for whomever out there needs to hear it today. It’s OK to want to like your life just for your own sake. As a matter of fact, I think you need to start there.
Ironically, my ability to do the “more” everyone expects in my personal and professional life only comes when I’ve prioritized my own sense of peace and satisfaction. When I honor my own priorities without guilt, it allows me to respect the priorities of others and to develop relationships that serve us both. I can be genuinely delightful and altruistic instead of feeling put upon and falsely pleasant while productive. While the outcome may look the same to those viewing it from the outside, authenticity in the process of designing a successful life is what makes it sustainable.
Whether you’re a veteran physician mom of multiple grade schoolers or an unattached 1st year attending, I invite you to do the following. Consider how well your life reflects what you want it to be and give yourself permission to change what is necessary to make it more so. Once you get your mind on board, it’s easier to follow what your spirit knows you need to be whole and well.
Jattu Senesie MD is a board-certified ob/gyn turned physician satisfaction specialist, speaker and coach for early career physicians. You can connect with her and her message on her website essenceofstrength.com and on Instagram @dressenceofstrength.
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