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Why I Feel Unworthy of My Amazing Medical Team

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It breaks my heart when I read stories of people who have fought with doctors for the respect and consideration they deserve. People who have struggled for so long to receive even a diagnosis, better yet treatment. Despite having a few stories of such things myself (don’t we all), I’m fortunate to be able to say my doctors are incredible, kind, compassionate people – and very good at what they do. So good, in fact, they’ve been named as the city’s “Top Doctors” in their respective fields – for many years now. I had no idea until I saw the awards on the wall of one’s office and came to find out they were all listed, and not just once. I was impressed, though not exactly surprised. I was proud of their accomplishments, and I knew that, to me personally, I certainly think they are the best.


So why on earth did I suddenly feel completely undeserving of these guys’ time and attention? Nothing changed, they are the same doctors they were before I found out about the awards and accolades. But now I viewed them as something else – something a person like me doesn’t deserve. Because now they were officially good. How does someone like me end up with doctors like that?

Make no mistake – these are in-network, on-call, stethoscope-loving, scrub-wearing, Ford truck-driving, sports-watching, Target-shopping, middle class suburban Texas physicians. No fancy offices, no high dollar cars and no outrageous bills. Nice, normal, down-to-earth, everyday people. They just happen to be the “award-winning” kind. And it makes me feel like I don’t belong there. Like I don’t deserve them. It brings out the insecurities I try so hard to hide and ignore. Of course I want great doctors. But more than that, I want to believe I am worthy of that care.

Blame it on any number of things. Depression telling me I’m unlovable, anxiety telling me I’m not good enough, childhood trauma telling me everyone is out to get me and that everything must be earned, including basic care. Or maybe it is just a simple lack of self-worth. It’s hard enough seeing five star ratings, diplomas from prestigious medical schools and residency programs at top-ranked hospitals on their résumés. So add to that a six-month waiting list, if they are taking new patients at all, and suddenly my medical team starts looking just too good for me. They laugh it off, but I take it to heart. These are people who should be treating real problems, serious problems, not my whining silly complaints.

What right do I have to call my psychiatrist at 11:00 p.m. because I’m suicidal? I should suck it up and stop bothering him with my problems. What right do I have to email my cardiologist yet again because my heart is racing yet again and I need him to increase my medication yet again? I should stop annoying him with my benign heart condition and just get on with life. I can apply this absurd logic to them all – neurologists, PAs, dentists, endodontists, everyone. Everyone whose job it is to help people, I feel unworthy of.

So is it really about the awards? No, not at all actually. It’s about help – needing it, wanting it and deserving it. I know I need it. But I don’t want it because I don’t think I deserve it. I didn’t mention the full force of my toothache until late one night when it was so bad it needed a root canal. I didn’t seek a specialist for my heart until I collapsed at work with no explanation. And I didn’t mention to my psychiatrist that I was suicidal until it was almost too late.

I know I’m not alone. I’m not the only person who feels undeserving – of anything. And you don’t have to have “award-winning” doctors to feel that way. It’s not the awards I feel I don’t deserve – it’s their immense talent, non-judgmental kindness and unwavering dedication. It’s the positive qualities about them as people, not just professionals, that I feel I’m not valuable enough for.

How can we change our own perception of self-worth? What can we do to keep it from holding us back from the care we need and deserve?

In the end, we all have a little bit (or a lot) of perfectionism in us. It doesn’t always manifest in the most obvious ways though. If I was perfect, by whatever definition, would I feel worthy then? I have no idea, because perfection is impossible – but that doesn’t stop me from feeling the need to try to be perfect. Would I feel better if my doctors were rude, dismissive and ignorant? No, I’d probably be dead.

So I guess my only choice is to keep them – and learn to look past the on-paper qualifications, so I can remember these are doctors who truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Even mine.

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Thinkstock photo via Hemera Technologies.

Originally published: August 26, 2017
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