I have been encountering a lot of negativity from family/associates regarding my decision to pursue medical school education. Anyone have any advise on how to deal with this and still remain optimistic and focused ?
It depends on how close the negativity is. What I mean by that is if it’s family from afar then…hang up. If it’s from nearby friends/family who you see daily, then I would say get a stiff upper lip and soldier on. Family is going to judge based on your past. If you’ve never accomplished anything, at least according to their measure of accomplishment, then they don’t see you doing this.
There are a few way to look at it. They either have your best interest in mind. That’s easy, because a good sit down talk with loads of action on your part should turn them around. If they are being negative because that is how they view the world then there’s nothing you can do. Even once you become a physician there’ll be something else you can’t do. “Sure your a doctor but look how long it took you…” There will always be something. Finally there are those who believe that negative reinforcement will propel you forward. I have this one in spades. This is the confusing one. They want what’s best but they put you down in order that you get so mad that you’ll prove them wrong. When you do prove them wrong you actually didn’t because they were actually cheering you on only not.
I obviously don’t have the answer. I don’t get negativity anymore. It’s funny because the only place I encounter negativity is SDN, I guess they would call it “reality”.
Summing up this long pointless post…
-if you can walk away from the negativity then walk
-if you can ignore the negativity then ignore it
-if you can listen to it and not have it affect you then listen
-if you can’t do any of these then “be like water”. If they say you can’t just go with the flow.
-counter alot of the negativity with tons of positivity. Books, CD, faith, meeting with a friend for encouragement…or my favorite…get so lost in your studies that you don’t have time to think about anything else.
Ohhh! I did do this and it helped. A family member began to talk about how I wasn’t going to become a doctor, so I just said “Yeah, you’re probablity right…but in chemistry we learned about…and then…and that means…” They shut up and I realized I knew the concept I was talking about… I did this a few more times and they got the hint. I have never heard a peep about not making it from them anymore. Perhaps they don’t want anymore science lectures. Maybe that’ll work?
Thank you. I appreciate your advice.
I have just had experiences where people are all to quick to remind you how “challenging” medical school will be and how "extremely competitive admission into an allopathic program will be…all things that Iam well aware of but these things seem to give some sense of satisfaction to a few to repeat over and over and over again. Thanks again for the advice!!
In that situation, I think I would just say “yes, I know that - I’ve done a lot research on this and given a lot of thought. I know what the odds are, but I also know that I won’t be happy unless I give it a try.”
Sometimes that is enough to shut people up. I think that some of the repeating over and over how difficult something is is done to make people feel better about themselves because THEY wouldn’t have the courage to do it.
Often, people being negative towards you has little to do with you; it’s more because of their insecurities. Maybe they neglected to chase their dreams, or maybe they just didn’t succeed; maybe it’s just their outlook on life.
I’ve found that negativity only reaches me when it reflects my own insecurity. If I’m comfortable and confident, I’m not so concerned about they who say nay.
Of course, that’s all easy to say, and we all need support. I guess my advice is more philisophical, while Crooz and Emergency are making useful suggestions for actual courses of action. And if all else fails, Crooz is right about the effects of science lectures
- BIGHEART Said:
Yeah, ignore them. Most people who are afraid of doing something or don't think they're capable of doing something try to convince others who want to do that that it's folly and hopeless.
If you want to do something, the only opinion that has any value is yours!
Ciceroâ€™s Six Mistakes of Man.
- The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others.
- The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
- Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
- Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
- Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying.
- Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.
listen to the advice… i can’t add much more, but to say, “stay focused and envision the finish line”…
One thing I have found that works to defuse negative people is to agree with them (about something they are saying), and/or to use reflective language.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but what good is arguing going to do? it won’t change their minds, and it will raise your blood pressure. what they are telling you might stem from their jealousy, their own lack of confidence, etc, etc. you will make your own decisions, and do what is right for you. and you probably won’t change them.
maybe you could try something like this:
Mean Person: “You know there’s no way you’ll ever be a doctor. You are too stupid (clumsy, lazy, whatever mean thing they might say).”
You: “It sounds like you think this will be a hard path. I agree - it is very challenging. But I’m going to try my best, because that is all I can do.”
You are “agreeing” with them, and letting them know you heard them - defusing two of the main problems of dealing with negative people. Since you agreed with them, they can’t become defensive, and since you demonstrated that you heard them, they can’t accuse you of not listening.
It’s hard, and it might make you throw up in your mouth a little at first - but it’s worked for me.
- BIGHEART Said:
I have just had experiences where people are all to quick to remind you how "challenging" medical school will be and how "extremely competitive admission into an allopathic program will be....all things that Iam well aware of but these things seem to give some sense of satisfaction to a few to repeat over and over and over again. Thanks again for the advice!!
Just keep telling yourself (and others): in ten years I'll be 35/45/55/etc.--and I can be a physician--or I can just be ten years older. Which do I prefer?
- slb Said:
Possessing a somewhat passive/aggressive personality myself, I have used this sort of response a lot. "You're absolutely right! I am a sicko with desperately futile ambitions. We'll both have a good chuckle as I face-plant the pavement, then I'll go find something equally ridiculous to try." Then, I dig in my heels and resolve to make sure my detractors are denied the entertainment of watching me fail.
In a way, I suppose this is an application of the 'negativity as reinforcement' approach. At the same time, I've learned what an unfulfilling mechanism this is for me. I've used it enough to know that no matter how beautifuly I succeed, most people just tend to shrug, and say, "Okay. So what?" Through my own experience, I've learned that my primary motivations have to be mostly internal in order to gain much satisfaction from achievement. Those things I have done for the acclaim of others always seem to come to fruition with a "balance due" somehow attached. The old adage, "The best things in life are free" to me, means that the best things in life are free of "karmic" or "spiritual" cost. Things I do only for the resulting personal satisfaction are valued, and those that also bring satisfaction to others are greatly prized. I try to keep this in mind as I face adversity & detractors, and it usually keeps me on track.
Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to do it in a self-deprecating or passive-agressive way, though that works for some people. You don’t have to agree with them that you will fail… because you don’t believe that, I hope! Just agree with something. If they are saying it’s hard, you can agree with that, because it is. You don’t have to say, “You are right - I suck!” But something like, “It sounds like you think I’m going to have a hard time with this. It is a difficult undertaking, I have to agree with you there,” or whatever, means that a) you aren’t arguing and b) you’re not getting sucked into their negativity, either. I’ve found that the only way I can keep myself above it is not to let them push me into fighting. That was my point - to give you a way to end the discussion without ending up embroiled in a pointless argument. Hope it works for you…
I don’t get embroiled in pointless arguments anymore. I just get them started and then walk away smiling.
Another appraoch is to look at them like they’re crazy and not utter a word.
When my brother-in-law (who likes to act like he knows everything) commented that he’d heard that it was really hard for someone my age to be considered, I simply replied,
“Well, I intend to submit a very impressive application.” (with an air of finality in my voice)
I guess I said it in a snotty enough way that he couldn’t even try to argue with me. If it’s your mom or a sibling who’s known you since you were a complete screw-up, this retort might not work… they’d be able to tell you all the ways in which your application would NOT be impressive! But it did work well for me and of course I had the last laugh because I did get in.
I approached variations on this problem (and my own inner dialog on the topic) by emphasizing that I was taking the pre-requisite courses because I wanted to learn science for its own sake, and that I hoped that at the end of the process I would feel the same way about medicine. But if I didn’t I would still have gained by understanding how the world works in a way that I did not before taking the prerequisite courses; and by proving to myself that I could do something (i.e., do well in science courses) that I previously thought was impossible.
The negativity on SDN stems from the high amount of young applicants who think they know it all plus a few disgruntled physicians and allied health members. There are many OPM members that post on SDN and vice versa, and I think those people tend to have a very realistic outlook on what it takes to become a physician. NJBMD always comes to mind when I think about that - she does not sugar coat anything, but gives praise where it’s due.
I do appreciate SDN for providing opinions from a lot of different backgrounds rather than everyone painting a shining picture for me.
In my life, I typically encounter negativity from an aunt who is jealous of anyone and everything, and from my mother who was a non-trad in med school and knows how hard it can be.
My mother gets why I’m doing it though so after a few discussions in the beginning of my journey she is now pretty proud.
As for periodic comments from people who I’ve just met or old acquaintences I run into - most people joke about being a career student, but I’m happy and that’s all that matters. I am self-conscious to a degree, but I’ve learned to ignore people who don’t have a clue.
I look at it this way, life is short, and if this is what will fulfill you and make you happy then its important to you, I know for me I have to do it I love medicine. I think just tell them it’s something you have to do, it makes you happy.