The quest for self-worth

It's been a week of happiness despite my obsessive thoughts about my disabilities. I'm still struggling to come to terms with the concept that I am unable to cognitively process information at rate and level that is expected.

On Wednesday I had a formal assessment to decide what assistance I need for the phd. The assessor said "how have you done so much without any help, a doctor and PhD.! is there anything more amazing?!". Despite his lovely compliment I still feel ashamed that I need extra support. I know this is irrational and I should not be beating myself up for having a disability which is out of my control, but I just want to be able to do everything I want and not have 'limits to my capabilities'. I know it has nothing to do with intelligence but an irrational part of my brain still thinks this means I am 'stupid'.

This week I also received one of the BIGGEST complements of my life. I participated in a group discussion at a Junior Cancer Investigator conference. We had to develop a hypothetical clinical trial. I felt overwhelmed and intimidated. Most other investigators are undertaking laboratory PhD and have a better grasp of pharmokinetics and drug dose escalations. On top of this I kept think 'wtf am I even doing here? I'm not good enough, I can't even write, speak or construct sentences '. Despite this, I attempted a few suggestions. Afterwards the person chairing the session singled me out and said "you are brilliant, and amazing.!" I was frank- "really? I didn't feel it, I was recently diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia". Her response- "well all the better.! It's given you an AMAZING advantage". I googled her name. She is a professor of experimental cancer therapies at the University of Oxford.! I can not believe that an Oxford Prof thought I was amazing.! Im flattered never the less, but secretly know this is a prime example of the 'art of blagging'.

One of the consultants at work contacted me to arrange a one to one teaching session (called a case-based discussion) to discuss a patient I had seen in clinic.

I was a bit apprehensive, as usually trainees have to ask for case-based discussions (as consultants are so busy) and consultants only ask when something was done incorrectly. When I attended the meeting she informed me that she organised the session as she was happy with the way I managed the case.! She said I highlighted issues others hadn't been aware of and because of this, the patient is now getting the right care. She told me that my knowledge in this area was better then hers.! It was an educational and interesting discussion. When we finished I thanked her for taking time out of her busy schedule to teach me. I was touched she went to so much effort. Consultants in the NHS really do have an immense, never ending, and stressful work load. Her response? "No, thank you for teaching me something new". Wow. Firstly- that she appreciated my opinion as a trainee. Apparently I gave 'valuable input' and secondly that she actually said that to a trainee. Amazing, inspiring and touched. I left with a huge smile.

I recognise that my confidence and self-worth is terrible. I always feel like I am a failure, never good enough and seek validation from others through my academic and clinical work. Even when praise is given I can't accept it. When friends, family, colleagues give me compliments I immediately dismiss it as 'they are just being polite/ feel they have to give a complement/not wanting to be rude because they know me'. The assessor and professor had never met me before. They did not need to give me a compliment. Even though I do not believe or agree with what they said, I cannot ignore the fact that they would not have said that if they didn't believe it. 

I have come to the realisation that people respond to the way you portray yourself. For example take identical twins with the same skills and intelligence. One twin is shy, nervous and lacks confidence, the other oozes confidence, is happy and has charming social skills. The first twin would be perceived to be of lower caliber when compared to her more confident twin. Sad but true. I acknowledge that my poor self esteem and worth is something I need to improve. People will think I lack potential if I believe I lack potentialI have therefore decided tackle this head on by:

1) Having cognitive behavioural therapy to modify my thoughts. I had a discussion with a therapist on the phone to explore the best option. I disclosed information that I have not done with anyone else. She said that it is 'very apparent' that my poor self worth is the crux of my depression and anxiety and this is to be expected after domestic abuse. The trauma would have chipped away at my self esteem and worth over time.

2) I feel I don't have academic worth, as I haven't done anything independently. I'm going to try prove myself wrong by undertaking and publishing research in my own time. If I achieve this then hopefully I will accept I can do more. Watch this space.! 

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