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  • Writer's picturemichelledangmd

Empowerment Comes From Within

So I probably spend way more time than I should on social media, but maybe because of the pandemic I've been able to interact in so many groups online that have provided support during this time. Some of my favorite groups have been the ones for female physicians. This got me thinking of experiences I have had throughout my education, training, and career where women seemingly push other women down. I've had first-hand experiences myself and have heard of my friends having similar experiences.

I was struggling in my training. I had just had a baby that year. I had no energy or time to study. I turned to a female attending for support but was told that she was able to do it during a time and culture where there were even fewer female attendings, so I should be able to do it and do it well. There was no reason for me to be struggling - I just wasn't studying hard enough. I felt ashamed of my struggles, ashamed that I had asked for help, and ashamed that I just could not do it all. She turned to walk away, and I asked her for a hug. Physical touch is my love language and funny, I asked her for a hug because I viewed her like a mother figure and was looking for her to tell me that I wasn't stupid, that residency is hard, and that it would be okay. She hugged me but quickly walked out of the room while I stood there crying.

She probably won't remember that moment, but I always did, even over a decade later. Maybe in her own way she was giving me "tough love" much like a parent does sometimes to a child. Maybe she was still fighting an uphill battle in a male dominated field. Whatever the case may have been, and whatever battle she may have been fighting, it was her battle and not mine. I can't know what she was feeling or what her intentions were at the time.

I have to remember that not everyone will support me, not everyone will like me, and not everyone will value what I do. My point in all of this is: empowerment comes from within.

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