Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Enough already.

They called her name and everyone jumped to their feet. The applause was thunderous. All of those synchronous hands clapping so loudly that it almost drowned it out.


She rose from her seat carefully. Halfway stunned and halfway excited. Someone beside her patted her on the shoulder.  A close friend wrapped her in an affectionate headlock and said in that way that only a true friend can:

"SO proud of you, dude."

Those words from that friend were so sure and affirming. It made her feel like a winner. Like all of this was something that she actually might be worthy of and had earned. But then, there it was again. That tiny naysayer in her ear.

"It's only because you're likable, you know. Nice. Friendly. That's why. There are others who are so much smarter, you know. So much better than you."

That's what that voice was saying. Like it couldn't let her be fully happy about this accomplishment. Or at least think for even two seconds that she was deserving.

When she walked to the podium they handed her a plaque. That made it even more real. She stood there staring at the pressed wooden board with the engraved metal plate.

1999 - 2000

Just below that was her name. Her name. Out of all those people. Her name.Someone turned her shoulders toward a camera and nudged her in between the Chairman and the Program Director.

"Smile everyone . . ."

The photographer pulled her face away from the viewfinder and cocked her head sideways. "Come on, a real smile, doctor!" So she went ahead and smiled. Big and wide and happy and proud. And that felt good.

But then, just like that, there it was again.

"You're actually just more easy to remember than anything else. If you weren't of color and female, they'd not even remember who you were, you know. You do know that don't you? I mean, don't get me wrong. You're pretty good and all. But man, you better hope they don't find out that you're not nearly as great as they all think you are."

And just like that, a wrinkle of worry rippled across her brow again. She fought against it as she returned to her table. Eyes landing on person after person who smiled up at her with twinkling eyes and congratulatory gestures. All the while, fighting an internal war between perception and some distorted idea of reality. What was true?

A chief residency and a couple of years later, she was back in a similar place. This time at a new hospital with new faces and new experiences.  Second year on faculty, standing in the back of a conference room with half of a mouthful of a turkey sandwich, her name got called again.

Wait, huh?

And just like that, she could feel that tiny war trying to start once again. That relentless battle against any and every accolade, compliment, or triumph.

Again. Again? Damn.

Later that evening, she was home alone staring at herself in the bathroom mirror. She felt those words rising up to pick her apart.

"It's all a popularity contest, you know. All of it. It has little to do with your real impact as a teacher or anything like that. It's all popularity."

And she stood there looking back at her reflection and felt tears stinging in her eyes. But no, these tears were not tears of defeat. They were the kind that form when someone is loading up ammo and preparing to fight against an enemy. A giant Goliath.

This time she fought back. Not with audible words or swinging fists, but still, she fought with her conscious thoughts.

"I'm proud of myself."

"You're not what they think."

"I am not what they think. I am more than that."

"It's a popularity contest."

"Maybe something I have done has been popular with a learner."

"It's because you're black and female."

"It's in spite of that."

"So many other people are smarter and better than you."

"There is only one me."

"You aren't so perfect."

"I am quite imperfect. And I'm okay with that."

"You're not all that."

"I am enough."

The real fight started then. And it continues.

Yes it does.

image credit

A few years ago, I sat in a room with one of our female chief residents. The day she was asked to be chief, it was a no-brainer to everyone. .  . . except her. The first time I heard her say that with a chuckle to a group, it was met with an immediate barrage of counter-comments. But me, I put it on a post-it note in my head for later. This day during her chief year when I sat in that room with her was that "later."

On this day, I could tell that she was flying on one wing. I asked her what was wrong and she shrugged. So I asked her again, this time in a quiet room.

"I just don't feel as great as everyone thinks I am," she whispered through muffled sobs. "It's like all of it is some kind of fluke. . . some kind of facade, you know? I keep waiting for someone to come along and discover the truth."

"And what is the truth?" I asked.

"The truth? The truth is that people just like me for whatever reason. But otherwise I'm not at all what they think."

"No, you aren't what they think. You're more than they think."

"It's really just a popularity contest."

"Maybe your work product has been popular with our learners."

"But I'm not everything that. . . ."

"You are enough."  

That is quite close to exactly what I said that day. I must have struck a nerve because she just wept and wept.

Those answers came fast because they had become a part of my own war cry. But they can evoke some tears because it stirs up something inside of you when you decide that you're going to believe them.

Initially I worried about sharing that story. The part about me, the part about that chief resident . . all of it. As for the me-part, I felt nervous about revealing that amount of insecurity. But part of me believes that I'm not alone in feeling this way sometimes, so I know that by admitting to it, it helps me--and perhaps someone else--move past it. As for the her-part, I feared she or someone else would know who it was. But then I realized that nearly every female former chief resident I've known or woman for that matter who's reading this has probably felt some version of this. The other thing is that this has not only happened to me one time with one female chief resident. So really? It could have been anyone. Hell, it could have been me.

At one point it was me.

But, for the most part, it's not me any more. Nope.

Lord knows that I'm not perfect. I can be a bit feisty. I procrastinate like crazy. 99.9% of my schedule, my life, and my everything can only be explained by me despite how much administrative and BHE support I have. But you know what? Despite all that, I'm alright with me.

I try hard to do things with intention. Far more than I did or even knew how to do way back as a resident. Now I know more than just those negative things. I know that I'm a creative thinker. I'm a good communicator and I'm good with people. I genuinely care about the people in my life and try to show them I do through my actions. But mostly that's no longer me because I fight. I fight to channel that nervous little middle-schooler inside of me that once coached herself to believe that something she had to offer was special. Uniquely special. And then, with all my might, I try to bring the best version of me available.

And only I can do that.


I read a note from a young female medical student advisee last week. It was so kind and heartfelt that it instantly made me cry something eerily close to the ugly cry. I was so moved. This one person had carefully outlined what she personally felt about the impact I'd had on her. No. It didn't involve anyone else. Just this one student and her own experience and impression. That's it. The part that made me cry was how specific it was; somebody got it. Somebody got what I was trying to do.

Yes! I am enough! Man. That note helped me to fight some more against that pesky enemy. I am enough. Me works. Me is okay.

So (along with some profuse gratitude) I responded to her kind words with a few of my own:

"Remember that you are the only you the world has and you've worked hard to be where you are. I'm so proud of you, and you deserve all that has come your way.You are wonderful and special and enough. I am better for knowing you. Hold on tight--the best is yet to come."


No. This isn't only applicable to female physicians or chief residents or medical students. This is a word for every single woman, mother, sister, daughter, wife, friend, girlfriend, ex-wife, teen, or person who has heard that heinous little enemy within spewing those venomous words of self hatred and self loathing in her ear. And sure, such things happen to men, too, but for whatever reason there is some way that women are uniquely wired to tear themselves apart when no one is looking. So yes, my sisters. This is a word for all of y'all. And me, too.

So I say to you what I say to myself in the mirror nearly every single day: 

"Enough already. Enough. Already."

Then, with bare-knuckled intention and butterflies in my stomach, I fight. Dammit, I fight.

And you know what? These days I'm winning.

Happy Tuesday-almost-Wednesday. Maybe it's time to retake the "NO SELF HATERATION PLEDGE" again as a reminder not to hate on ourselves and to leave all hating to the professional haters out there. Matter of fact, I think I'll jump on it in May. Or at least a part of May. Who's in?

Oh! And with that suggestion, of course I must play the "NO SELF HATE" anthem. Remember this? Love. This. Song. It is SO going to be playing on my mental iPod all week. (If you see me and I look like I have extra swag, that's why.)


  1. YES! I am more than enough!! Thanks for the word, doc!

  2. Being good with people is huge - and leads to popularity. (take it from someone who is neither - brains - being good at something is only part of being successful)

    The best doctor (GP) we ever had was not a brilliant diagnostician. He often hadn't a clue what was up. But he CARED. He worked ridiculous hours - his waiting room packed (and he would tell us to sneak in the back door to avoid them) - he worked half the year for free because the system wouldn't allow him to bill any more. And he made house calls.

    There wasn't even standing room at his funeral.

  3. This was very helpful this morning!

  4. Thank you so much for putting this down in words. As a female scientist, I feel exactly the same way every day, every time I open my mouth. How did you overcome that reaction and learn to accept that you are enough?

  5. Books have been written on why accomplished women feel that they are not enough. Where this started, I don't know, but our generation has the power to stop it. Because no one looks at their child and thinks they are not enough.

  6. "I am woman, hear me roar!" Always playing on my mental ipod. Powerful post.

  7. I am with you. I am in for May.
    And beyond.

  8. Jameil -- Yay, Yay, Yay!

    Jeannie -- That doctor sounds like he was amazing. Thanks for sharing that.

    Bumble Bee -- Hey baby sis! XOXO right back at you.

    Katie -- It's a conscious work in progress. I fight. I fight until it becomes a habit. And I don't drop my guard.

    Denise -- Good point. Something about being a girl in this world seems to engender that. But you're right--if this generation fights, they can overcome it.

    Tounces -- That's a good track for your mental iPod, Mom!

    Lisa -- Yay! Glad you're with me. Now and beyond.

  9. I don't know that I've struggled much with not feeling deserving of the successes I've had thus far in my life. But what I DO struggle with pretty regularly is being cool when my skills/ knowledge are constantly questioned in ways that those around me don't seem to experience.

    Most of the time, I feel it's the "female thang" especially when I'm dealing with someone from a different culture, but other times it's clearly the "female thang", combined with the "Black thang".

  10. This should be required reading for all women! I don't know why it starts or when but too many of us suffer not from delusions of grandeur but rather delusions of inadequacy. And, dammit, it's just not true. The gifts we,as women, bring to the table are big and wide and immeasurable. They and we are ENOUGH. I am grateful for your efforts and applaud your tenacity...
    Coach B

  11. I'm about to catch a shout!! Love this KD- you are indeed MORE than enough. So glad to call you friend.

  12. KimKim, thank you for this story on today! I needed to read this TODAY! <>

  13. Beautiful...let's all take your fighting words to heart. "I am quite imperfect. And I'm okay with that." and "I am enough." Thanks for this, Dr. M.


  14. Thanks so much Dr. M! You are a role model/hero to so many of us - thanks for empowering yourself and teaching us by example to do the same.

  15. If you question whether you're enough, I'm fucked. (Excuse the f word.) Joanne

  16. Apop -- You are fortunate to be in the minority that doesn't have to fight that pesky voice. Good for you!!

    Coach B/Grammy -- I am so thankful for you! Your smiling face is one of my favorite sights at Fernbank. You're amazing. This is why your daughter is so awesome and strong.

    T -- Thank YOU for reading.

    Boo -- Hey mama!! You are one of my she-roes, but you already knew that! Thanks for the uplifting words. I love you, girl.

    TY -- TAMMY!! Hey chica!!!

    Lena -- Enough. Already.

    A Rose -- That is such a sweet thing to say. Much love to you.

    Anonymous Joanne -- OM (f-word) G!! You just made me LOL for real!!! Ha ha ha ha!!!! You are already totally awesome. . . and never anonymous with me! ;)

  17. I still feel like I'm bamboozling everybody... But I'm working on truly believing that I am enough. Every day is a work in progress.

  18. From the Deck of the Poop:
    Dr. KD, this is another piece! Just a word; women do not have a corner on this market. Speaking from personal experience, I had the same little (you graduated from little ole Tuskegee and you are not good enough to be where you are) demons. When I got into that top floor corner office and sat looking out the window at the planes land, I said to myself; you are good enough and you probably worked harder at it than most of your predecessors. So my dear Dr. KD, you are more than good enough... from where I sit. As Tina Turner would say "Simply the best, better than all the rest"
    Love from Poopdeck..

  19. DItto what Joanne said, including the "f" word! She made me laugh out loud. You, on the other hand, made me cry because you touched a tender spot. I will reflect on this some more and get back atcha....

  20. I'd like to tape that note to the inside of my head. Thank you!!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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