I certified my rank order list (ROL), but …
What if I messed up?
What if I don’t match?
What if my list doesn’t get processed?
What if I should have ranked programs in a different order?
What if, what if, what if …
These thoughts, and their associated feelings, are 100 percent normal. Please re-read that last sentence.
You are no longer in control of one of the biggest decisions of your life and your human nature is kicking in to try to protect you from this unique and frightening experience. With these thoughts, your brain is searching for an opportunity to regain the control you lost as soon as you hit submit — cue worrying. By worrying about different (highly unlikely) situations, your brain tricks you into thinking you are still in control of the outcome. Unfortunately, this “control” is only a figment of your imagination and, if given free reign, this imagination will cost you significant emotional energy and rob you of a celebration you’ve spent the last four-plus years earning.
The cost of these thoughts, and resulting feelings, lies in the amount of power you give them. For some, there’s a tendency to obsess over the suggestions our mind presents us and snowball them into a series of hypothetical disasters that may result. For others, there’s a tendency to suppress the feelings, distract ourselves from them, and pretend they don’t exist ultimately allowing them to wreak havoc undercover. (Perhaps manifesting as hesitation in planning a virtual Match Day celebration because, you know, what if you don’t match?).
The first step in stripping power from these thoughts and feelings is acknowledging the discomfort. Thank your brain for trying to protect you by way of presenting these thoughts and feelings during these uncertain times. After you acknowledge its presence, name the feeling that comes with the thought. Is it fear? Is it disappointment? Naming an uncomfortable feeling makes it easier to process. After acknowledging the feeling and giving it a name, sit with it. Invite the feeling to the table and ask what it’s there to teach you. Is it signaling an opportunity to try trusting yourself for the first time? Is it showing you just how much being in this position means to you? What’s there for you to learn?
After you’ve sat with the feeling and extracted the lesson it is there to teach you, kindly dismiss the feeling. Don’t let the thought or feeling drive the car. Visualize picking up the thought and feeling and placing it in the backseat. The thought and feeling will still be along for the ride (again, this is totally normal) but, having been acknowledged, named, and addressed, it will no longer be in a position where it has the power to guide your direction, thoughts nor actions.
With more space in the driver’s seat, you have the perfect opportunity to welcome joy, excitement, and peace. What if you replaced those terrifying thoughts with:
What if I match (at my dream program)?
What if I ordered my list perfectly?
What if it all works out?
You will never again be in a position where you could match at X, Y, or Z program. This moment right here, right now is a once in a lifetime chance to feel. The incredible possibilities ahead of you are once-in-a-lifetime chances to be excited about. Give yourself permission to celebrate this moment and admire just how far you’ve come! So now, my question to you: How are you going to look back on these next two weeks? Will they be some of the most beautiful days of your life or will you allow worry to steal this celebration from you?
Alexis Holmes is a medical student.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com