A note from WVLDI President Dr. Stacy Pritt: The WVLDI is excited to have Dr. Emily Feyes join us as a volunteer and guest blogger. In a continuing effort to equip members of the veterinary community with leadership skills, Dr. Feyes has provided us with an outstanding book review on an outstanding book. We hope that the you are as moved by the concepts in this book as we are.
We have included an Amazon affiliate link to the book and WVLDI, a 503c non-profit organization, will earn a small portion of the proceeds from purchases to further our fundraising efforts. WVLDI is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
As a clinical practitioner, I have faced the reality that there is no such thing as perfection in medicine. Patients will sometimes die despite ‘doing everything right’. Diagnoses will be missed and mistakes will be made. We are all human. Unfortunately, there are many others in this field like myself who tie their self worth into the outcomes of their cases. This has been seen most glaringly in the high incidence of suicide within our profession. Veterinarians oftentimes suffer in silence because of the shame we associate with the many ‘failures’ that are unavoidable in veterinary medicine. As a community, we need to come together to support one another and address this shame head on. This is, of course, easier said than done. We need guidance in addressing the unspoken pain that can accompany the day-to-day struggles of a veterinarian, which is why I would suggest reading Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown, a researcher in shame and vulnerability. The explanation of shame presented in this book brings a greater understanding to its role in our lives, which allows for a better understanding of how to confront it head on.
Throughout Dr. Brown’s book, the message is clear: overcoming shame and embracing vulnerability and imperfection is the key to daring greatly. We must be able to accept the possibility of failure if we are going to do great things. As a profession, we are a group of perfectionists. When our humanity comes through and things go wrong, we struggle with the shame that accompanies this imperfection. This isolates us and our disconnection from those around us grows. Dr. Brown discusses how perfectionism is a perceived form of armor against shame but in reality is unattainable, making shame inevitable. To truly fight shame we need to stop trying to shield ourselves from it. We must recognize it, understand it, and utilize the tools Dr. Brown describes in this book to develop shame resilience – the ability to say, ‘This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not the values that drive me.’”
As veterinarians, we need to recognize that we are not perfect, we all make mistakes, and we are not our mistakes. Our failures do not define us and by failing we are not unworthy of love and connection. We need to develop compassion for ourselves and for others. One of the most important ways to develop shame resilience is to bring our shame into the light. Dr. Brown notes that sometimes the first and greatest dare is asking for support. By sharing our shame and imperfection with others, we open ourselves up to empathy, which Dr. Brown describes as the ‘antidote to shame’. As a community we need to share our stories of loss and disappointment because, contrary to what we often think, we are not alone. Our classmates, mentors, professors, etc. have likely had a similar experience and can help guide us through it. Shame resilience involves recognizing that our failure does not directly correlate to our self worth making asking for help less of a risk of more shame and humiliation. By connecting with those around us we can forgive ourselves for our imperfections and combat the feelings of unworthiness that can lead us down a more dangerous path.
I would highly recommend this book to my colleagues as a way to start the conversation in our community about how we should be addressing the shame and disconnection many of us feel as a result of not being perfect. I believe that the greatest value in Daring Greatly is the message that shame is unavoidable and a part of the human experience. By recognizing this and developing the tools to overcome it, which are discussed throughout the book, we can prevent shame from controlling our actions and thoughts. In the veterinary community we can utilize these tools to come together to rebuild the expectations of ourselves as a doctors in a more realistic way and we can use them to improve our overall wellness. We can be courageous enough to put ourselves out into the world and dare greatly because we know that when we fail, there will be others around us waiting to pick us back up and cheer us through to our next great success.
About the author:
Dr. Emily Feyes is a small animal practitioner who graduated in 2009 from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Feyes currently lives in Chicago, Il with her husband, Mike, her daughter, Katelyn, and their dog, Zoe Rae. Dr. Feyes is passionate about promoting the importance of women in veterinary leadership and focusing on overall wellness in the lives of veterinarians.