Back in January, I went to a regional conference in Albany held by the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). The whole weekend was filled with inspiring female physician role models who offered guidance and words of wisdom. During one of our sessions, there was a concept discussed by one of the speakers known as “Career obesity.” Understanding its meaning and discussing it in a large group forced me to reflect a lot on my own choices and the direction I hope to head in the future. For this reason I’m sharing it here, in the hopes that you all can decide whether or not to “slim down” on your own career goals.
Career obesity is a catchy way of implying that you’re taking on too much. You don’t know when to turn down an opportunity- how to say no. This is frequently associated with the notion that saying “no“ automatically places you into a category of doom for future aspirations and partnerships. There is an underlying fear that passing up on an opportunity for leadership implies that you aren’t interested in working hard and moving up. Or, worse, (as in my case) that you aren’t living up to your own standards for yourself.
I have always been one to take on a million responsibilities. I love being busy- too busy- and am not a huge fan of vegetative down time. This year I’ve hit my peak. I’m on maximum overload- bursting at the seams. We can start with the fact that I study 10-12 hours most days of the week. I also commute 1.5 hours five of those days. Outside of this I find time to participate on the executive board for AMWA at my school, start an a cappella group, work as an admissions student liason, work out, maintain my blog, cook, and have time for my boyfriend, friends, and family. This semester I added in a very small statistics job for anatomy research along with additional studying for boards. My friends at school often ask me how I do it. How do I manage to fit everything in?
The truth is, I don’t. There are not enough hours in the day, especially when I absolutely need to be sleeping for 8 of them. There are certain areas of my life that get sacrificed on a daily basis. My blog, for one, has severely lacked my attention. I feel like I’m constantly balancing on an upside down Bosu and tipping slightly in every direction to stay upright. I realized that I am, in fact, career obese.
Well, not in the literal sense. After all, I’m technically only a student and haven’t even come close to my career yet. But this is one of my inherent characteristics, and I don’t want to lose sight of the people who are important to me. Studying can’t always come first, just as my career can’t always come first. Even though I might want to take one million opportunities, the truth is that I can’t. Sometimes I have to say no, and it’s OK to say no. Prioritize! Pick the things that are most important.
Another great piece of advice along these lines was how to turn down an opportunity. It can often be helpful to recommend someone else in your place. This shows that you are willing to help without seeming lazy or uninterested. This can only get easier as you meet more people and become more settled in your field. It’s definitely a strategy I’ll keep in mind!
What this boils down to, for me, is taking care of myself. I want to have time for everything, but I also need to keep my sanity. It’s important to be realistic about how much I’m capable of achieving at once without making sacrifices. And, let’s be honest, medicine is a field that is all about sacrifices. I’m willing to work hard. I want to achieve great things. But I don’t want these ambitions to chip away at other areas of my life. So it’s time to slim down!! My goal for the upcoming years is to maintain a “healthy career weight” so that I can keep the necessary balance in my life.
Do you think you suffer from career obesity? How do you deal with fitting everything in??