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BURNOUT BUSTERS PART 2: Beware the Stories You Tell

Storytelling is one of the most powerful forces in our lives, and medicine is replete with it.

Every patient has a story. We, as physicians and medical students, become the authors of their story. We listen to our patients (history-taking) and write their story down (charting), translating it into our language (medical lingo) and story structure (SOAP notes). We publish their story (by signing/locking), and it becomes a classified legal document that relatively few people will read, thanks to privacy laws (HIPAA). We devote inordinate amounts of time to these stories. But, what about your story? Where does it fit into this? Each of us has a story of our own, too. Even physicians and medical students.

Everyone does, really, because humans are wired for storytelling. (The other item is love, but that's for another post.)

The stories we tell ourselves— that we believe about ourselves and our world—inspire us, shape us, create our reality.

They call us to action. They inform every aspect of our lives. If you believe you are a kind and generous person, capable of impacting the world in phenomenal ways, you'll behave accordingly. If, however, you believe you are unworthy of respect, unforgivable and not enough in some way, this too will impact how you show up in your life.

Choose the stories you tell yourself carefully.

Why? Because not only do stories shape the our lives, but the stories we tell about others shape their lives too.

Tell stories with love. Choose the most compassionate and kindest stories about yourself and others. Understand that if you've only ever heard one disparaging story about yourself or another person or group of people, you don't have all the facts. Don't make that one story your definitive and final version.

We are more than one story. We are more than the sum of our stories.

You are more than your medical school grades. More than your USMLE Step 1 score. More than that one mistake, that one attending's opinion of you. You are MORE.

We all carry more goodness, light and love within us than we know.

Reject the negative stories others tell about you, that you've internalized about yourself.

Reclaim your power to tell your own story. Give the same courtesy to others. They have the right to tell their own.

Release the judgment you carry towards others, and all the unflattering stories you cling to.

You only do this because it makes you feel better about the "not-enough" stories you tell about yourself.

We're all in this together. We're not here on earth to battle each other. Stop battling your patients, your colleagues, your family, your partner, your kids, your employer.

Battling others burns us out.

If you're gridlocked in combat with another, stop. Pause. Breathe. Swallow your pride. Take a step back and recognize you may not have the full story. It may help to hear their side. Listening to another point of view does not make them right and you wrong. Listening is not a weakness but a strength. It takes great courage to listen to and consider an opposing view. It takes even greater strength to reconsider yours.

No one needs to win or lose. You don't have to make them look wrong for you to be right.

Consider agreeing to disagree and disengaging. If they will not disengage, release them with love and light.

You always have a choice.

Choose to reconnect with love and your true self. Don't let constant conflict change who you are. Choose peace and love, and feel life seep back into your bones.

Let your stories be infused with love, hope and room for humanity and transformation. Why? Because these are the best stories.

Remember: your story is not over.

It's not done being told. No matter what you've experienced, it's not too late. How do I know? You're still breathing.

Live, fully alive. Reclaim your story, release judgment and shine.


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