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Topic: Personality or anxiety?

5 posts, 0 answered
  1. Amy6
    Amy6 avatar
    2 posts
    26 June 2019


    I've never really done this before but I needed to get my thoughts out of me head.

    Over the last few months I've really been feeling like a fraud and feeling inadequate at work.

    To give you a bit of context, I graduated med school last year and I'm currently doing my internship. I got a job at my first preference. So far I've had the best rotations and the nicest registrars. But I'm still struggling. I constantly feel like everybody hates me despite no one doing anything actively bad.

    My registrars appear lovely, but they almost never speak to me unless they have to and rarely make eye contact. They speak to the other intern and resident. There's a lot of banter between them but I'm often quiet in the background and wishing I can fade away and be unnoticed. I'm shy and awkward. I'm terrified of making conversation. I'm worried of making mistakes. I'm afraid to ask questions because it'll show how incompetent I am. All in all I'm very lonely at work. I want to learn. I am interested in what I do. But I find it hard to show this. I avoid taking opportunities because of the fear of making a mistake, or being judged, or looking stupid. I come across as indifferent and incompetent. Everyday at work is a state of constant anxiety: Am I going to be late to work, have I ordered all the tests, did I forget something, this patient is sick what do I do, I'm supposed to know how to do this but I have no idea, I'm scared of asking my registrar, what are my registrars going to think of me, the surgeon told me off for shaking when I was told to hold something still she probably hates me, no one wants me at work because I only make things worse, I had the simplest job but I stuffed that up too, I shouldn't try to do this because I'll just make it worse, how am I going to find a referee for next year when everyone hates me, how do I apply for a job next year when I don't even believe in myself, and the list goes on.

    At what point do you say medicine isn't for me because I'm just too incompetent and will never be good enough, that I won't survive in this career where you are constantly judged and expected to be perfect.

    At what point is it anxiety and at what point is it a personality trait? Where is the distinction between being shy and awkward and introverted and being anxious? At what point do you stop blaming anxiety and admit to yourself that you are a shit person?

    2 people found this helpful
  2. romantic_thi3f
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    romantic_thi3f avatar
    396 posts
    27 June 2019 in reply to Amy6

    Hi Amy6,

    Welcome to the forums and thanks for your post. I'm really sorry that you're struggling so much at your internship.

    I think the difference between having anxiety and it being a personality trait is the way that we feel about it. Are we constantly wired and overthinking and in a state of panic? Or is it more of a tendency to feel anxious at times? Is it something that we're completely ashamed of? Or do we feel like it's just part of who we are and how we are wired? I have an anxiety disorder that I have to manage, but I also consider myself a generally anxious person. Being an anxious person or having anxiety doesn't make me (or you) a shirt person.

    Based on your post, I feel like most of what you're going through is anxiety.

    I think from reading your post that while everything you're going through sounds awful, it also sounds completely normal. You've been totally shoved into this environment where things are expected of you and you're expected to behave in a certain way - only that wasn't part of training.

    A lot of people who are in your position have experienced what's called 'imposter syndrome', which is this pattern where we doubt our accomplishments and successes and question things, being afraid that we'll be exposed as a freud, or not good enough. Based on your post, I wonder if this is happening to you too.

    I believe that you can survive in your career and be good enough, because of the fact it causes you anxiety and you want to be so good at it. When I think of bad doctors, I think of people who don't think about their patients, don't care about ordering all the tests, or don't care about making things right. Your care and concern is a strength; I think it's just about managing some of that so that you are able to feel worthy enough in your position. I also think that it's a skill, as the more that you're able to navigate the system and the workload (like maybe being able to talk to a patient even if you have no clue what to do next) as well as making so many mistakes, you'll be able to grow and learn.

    This has been a bit of a long post but I hope that some of it helps,

    3 people found this helpful
  3. bluehorseshoes
    bluehorseshoes avatar
    2 posts
    27 June 2019 in reply to Amy6

    Good on you Amy for getting that out. I’ve done exactly the same thing and it’s good. It helps to process how you feel. You are definitely not shi-r-t, because we’re all in the same boat trying to make sense of our jobs. I’ve found it useful put it into context when I’m feeling like you. I hope you can feel less alone after reading this and Romantic’s advice.

    A friend, now successfully practicing medicine, told me how stressed he was at the beginning, worrying about making mistakes that he couldn’t sleep at night. His friends would even find him asleep in the bathroom at work.

    The coworkers who don’t speak much are often dealing with their own problems and haven’t even realised the impact they’re having. Although it’s hard not to take personally, I often remind myself of the challenges others have (scrolling through forum topics) and see how this would effect how they interact because they’re preoccupied. This impacts you because you are a sensitive, caring person. And those qualities will serve you well in medicine to help those who need it most.

    When I started my job I was terrified of mistakes. Every night I cried from stress and memory of stupid things I did. I almost quit. Almost. I’m so glad I didn’t because I now think the people before me, in that job, in that industry, who’ve done dumb things at work – even dumber than any silly thing I’ve done. And it's ok. I think of mistakes that have shocked me – I know people who’ve gotten into punch ups because of gossiping, and some who’ve been fired for stealing. Then there are those who make mistakes on a grand scale and face international humiliation – sportspeople in the news accused of misrepresenting their team because of controversial public comments, politicians who get caught saying disgusting things about women or having affairs in the oval office!.... Now I’ve made mistakes at work, things that I remember and still feel ashamed of, but I’ve never done anything like that.

  4. bluehorseshoes
    bluehorseshoes avatar
    2 posts
    27 June 2019 in reply to Amy6

    Please be kinder to yourself. You aren’t first and will certainly not be the last intern to be petrified of stuffing up, of not knowing the answer, of forgetting a test. That’s why you haven’t gone from graduation to being a fully fledged doctor. Now is the primetime for making mistakes. That’s why ballerinas practice for hundreds of hours behind closed doors. Underneath their glittering costumes they’re covered in bruises from the falls they made before.

    Talking with your GP might be a good. Maybe make a longer appointment so you don’t feel rushed – they’re heard it before – and they’ll likely know precisely about the stress you’re feeling. Sometimes admitting our vulnerabilities can forge a connection. If you told one person at work that you’ve been feeling really stressed lately, maybe they would say Oh and walk away or they may reveal advice or their own struggles…

    Try to take so time to do things that ‘spark joy’. I’ll listen to my favourite funny podcast, massage my hands with an expensive cream, sit in the sun. Maybe give yourself more time to adjust and learn, before evaluating things.

    So much can change between now and next year,


  5. Amy6
    Amy6 avatar
    2 posts
    29 June 2019

    Thank you romantic_thi3f and bluehorseshoes for your kind responses.

    I think I do have a tendency to overthink things, even the smallest things that are said or subtle changes in body language which can lead to negative thoughts and anxiety. But I am also ashamed of this. I'm ashamed of feeling so anxious and ashamed of being so introverted and unable to just be "normal" or interact normally/casually with other people without sounding awkward. Its a part of who I am, but I'm embarrassed of who I am. I think I struggle a lot with what people think of me/perceive me as. Often I'll avoid making work phone calls/speaking to patients in front of my registrars because I'm afraid of what they'll think of me/judge how I work and interact. I feel much more comfortable speaking to patients and interacting with people without being watched.

    The imposter syndrome is also definitely something I struggle with. Despite passing med school with grades well above average, I often feel like there's been a mistake and I'm embarrassed that people are going to questions how I ever made it through since I'm absolutely clueless all the time.

    Its kind to suggest that my care and concern is a strength. I do try to be compassionate with all my patients and honest that this is my first year as a doctor and therefore I don't always know the answers.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences bluehorseshoes. I do also wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things I forgot to do, feeling ashamed of every minor mistake I made and thinking about how I should've approached something in a better way. But it does help to put things in perspective and realise that things could be much worse.

    I find it hard to speak to people I know because I'm worried about being judged and perceived as being silly, especially since I'm fortunate to have such a manageable workload and a supportive environment compared to lots of other people I've heard of. That's why its so much easier to be anonymous online. Thanks for your supportive words :)