Self sabotage consists of the negative behaviors and habits that people engage in when they feel an unconscious ambivalence about achieving their goals. “It’s very easy to become attached to our dreams, because dreams are perfect,” states Andrea Woolf, a personal success coach who has run workshops for our pre-med clients. “As the prospect of actually living the dream—and the possibility of disillusionment—comes closer, it’s very common for pre-meds to retreat into procrastination.”
Many of our clients live in a three-to-five day bubble of awareness because much of college life is built around last-minute preparation, i.e., writing a term paper the night before it’s due, cramming for tests. Unless you extend your time awareness, you will struggle with your med school application process. Make sure you know when you are applying and how much time you will need to prepare everything. You need to be thinking six months ahead.
Your commitment to your medical school education starts with your commitment to the application process as well as to your support team—the formal mentors and informal advisors who have promised to guide you with your application. Often, when a pre-med enrolls with us, they feel a wave of relief (“Somebody’s finally going to help me!”) and believe that they now have permission to procrastinate. You may have the very best intentions, but balancing school, a job and family obligations can make it easy to put off the work you need to do on your med school application. Avoid this problem by sticking firmly to all deadlines.
When Problems Arise
As you get closer to your MCAT or AMCAS submission date, you experience heightened anxiety. Words like “I’m never going to get in. I’m a terrible candidate” ring in your head.
It’s important to understand the emotional risk associated with applying to medical school. When you suddenly realize that you are finally going to be allowing med schools to scrutinize and evaluate your life and accomplishments, you unconsciously sabotage your application. You may skip a meeting with people who have promised to help you, “forget” a deadline or simply wait until the last minute to complete an application assignment. Stay vigilant; even though you may feel like you won’t be accepted, keep working on your materials. You will feel much better after you have applied!
Examples of Sabotage: Fake Delays
As your personal deadline for submitting your primary application nears, it’s common to re-read your AMCAS application compulsively, changing a few words and trying to get the “perfect” personal statement. “I’ll just work on this one more day” turns into two months of worry and uncertainty. Because med schools use a rolling admissions process, the obsessive desire to tweak your AMCAS application actually reduces your chances of getting accepted.
“Let’s face it, the physical act of sending an application to med school is scary,” says Don Osborne, president of INQUARTA. “Let that be okay. Anticipate that the fears will come up, and do not let them interfere with your goal. Stay on task, stay proactive with your counselor and editor, and meet your deadlines.”
Examples of Sabotage: Catastrophe
You don’t like your MCAT score, you bomb on a mid-term, you break up with your squeeze, your sister asks for help with her wedding plans, etc. These life events can create enough chaos that you put off working on your med school application indefinitely (“It’s just too much! I can’t deal with my application right now!”) There’s no question that setbacks and responsibilities to loved ones sometimes necessitate that you postpone your med school dreams for a year or more—but often, it’s just external drama. In your heart, you know the difference between the two.
Examples of Sabotage: Passivity
To “go passive” means to skip meetings with pre-med advisors, default on self-imposed writing assignment, decide to “take a break” or any other act of avoidance that delays your application. Watch for the signs of these mental gremlins.
The only problem that your support team cannot solve is the one they don’t know about. If you find yourself frustrated by the quality of the support you’re getting, it’s frequently because of your unconscious expectations that are not being fulfilled.
Don’t expect your support team to read your mind. Talk openly with your editor and pre-med counselor about your expectations. Concerns of this nature can usually be solved with one phone call. Be comfortable with your requests. When you commit to fully listening to yourself, you rediscover your dedication to living your passion for medicine,” adds Woolf. “Once you do that, you discover the energy to discard your resignation, procrastination, and limiting beliefs, and to replace ‘one day’ or ‘some day’ with ‘now!’”
Self sabotage in the med school admissions process is much more common than you might expect. Don’t make these same mistakes. Stay proactive and you’ll do fantastic!
INQUARTA is built around a close, personal relationship with our pre-med clients.