Self-awareness and courage. Out of all the information and knowledge you gain during medical school, from a personal development standpoint, I would say that self-awareness and consistent courage are what make the difference between a good student and an excellent student. As a third-year medical student, I can confidently say that beginning medical school with these traits and continuing to keep these traits close during medical school will take you far in your journey and beyond.
During my third year of medical school was when I questioned my self-awareness. The third year is the year when you start making important decisions that will shape your life. In my opinion, it is the year of medical school that feels a bit more serious and scarier. On top of my professional stressors, I also had personal stressors that I realized robbed me of many potentially awesome experiences. This year, I realized I still had a lot of self-exploration to undergo. While I am currently learning some hard truths about myself, I am hopeful because I know I still have the power to change. Living is easier and liberating when you have a good idea of who you are. When you can comfortably be yourself, you are inclined to be courageous and do what you are called to do.
I encourage others to identify what may be holding them back from being the best versions of themselves and to reasonably challenge those issues. Safely and reasonably go against those challenges one by one. If you identified an issue of a fear of public speaking, for example, make a promise to yourself to say one thing during a class discussion one day. Or, if you identified an issue of social anxiety, make a promise to yourself to try a new experience with a classmate, friend, or by yourself every month. And as always, seek help from mental health services at your school or a trusted source. Challenges need not stop you from living your life to the fullest; with a lot of self-awareness, courage, and a positive mindset, change is possible.
Self-discovery is an ongoing process that will protect you from unnecessary pain and heartache down the line. It is a dynamic process that evolves as you change and develop; I guarantee it. By checking in with yourself and constantly practicing self-awareness, you will be able to enjoy your journey that much more. You will be able to genuinely and fully connect with others which is imperative to medical school success. Whether you believe it or not, understanding yourself makes all the difference.
Self-awareness and courage are soft skills I have yet to hear anyone mention are keys to maneuvering through medical school. It is imperative to become familiar with these qualities and to keep them close so that you can have a meaningful, productive, and successful medical school experience. Self-awareness and courage should be prerequisites for a journey of constant adjustments and changes that medical education brings, and for life, for that matter.
Kaelor Gordon is a medical student.