What Veterinary School Teaches You That is Completely Wrong! and a Book Giveaway

by Rebecca on October 11, 2015

authentic is After just getting back from hearing Brene Brown speak, I am overwhelmed with all the insight she has given me about my life and the struggles we all have. There are so many great ideas I have taken from her and use every day. You can see her fantastic TED talks here and here.

I just started re-reading one of her earlier works “ The Gifts of Imperfection”. In it Brown describes ten guideposts that are essential for whole-hearted living. Now before you think I am getting all “woo woo”, I want to point out that Brown has a PhD in social work and her writing is based on grounded theory research. She is not a pop psychologist or someone who writes books based on her “hunches”- all of her work is backed by hard data.

The first Guidepost is about Cultivating Authenticity-letting go of what people think.

Brown describes authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.

“Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and

Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough.”

The first time I read the book a few years ago I glossed over most of this but as I started reading this again it blew me away-especially the first part of what it means to be authentic:

Cultivating the courage to be imperfect

Setting boundaries

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable

 What Brown is saying is that in order to be authentic we have to able to do all three of these things. Honestly, I am horrible at all three and spent my years training to become a veterinary surgeon working on how to do less of these.

We are surrounding by veterinarians at teaching hospitals who we think are perfect or at least know a heck of a lot more than we think we ever will. The teaching hospital is not a place where you will see senior clinicians or even house officers admitting that they don’t know everything and don’t have all the answers. These are the people modeling to us how we are supposed to act when we become veterinarians and that model is seriously flawed.

I don’t know about you but veterinary school as well as my internship and my residency training was about the EXACT opposite of these three statements. 

Why does this matter? According to Brown, people who do not live authentically may experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.

It is no wonder we have a profession filled with people suffering from compassion fatigue as well as one of the highest suicide rates among professionals.

I want to remind you all of Brown’s theories and teachings are grounded in research so it is factual.

So then how do we reconcile being authentic and being a veterinarian?

First, we must realize that this is a huge shortcoming in the veterinary medical training (and probably human medical training as well). This isn’t the fault of the clinicians in the teaching hospitals as much as it is a flaw in the training of anyone in a professional medical program. But until there is a dialogue opened about this, nothing will change.

Second, we must embrace the fact that we will never be perfect, that we need boundaries and that we need at least a few people in our lives who we can share our struggles and our challenges with in a safe place.

Third, we must acknowledge that this is a process- more like a marathon than a sprint. These are not changes we can make overnight and for most of us this will be a journey we are on for the rest of our careers. We must learn to embrace the process of growing to become more authentic people.

It can be a challenge to find people in the same struggle as you who are willing to be open and honest about their struggles and that is one of the main reasons I started CatalystVETS because I did not have a group of people I could “get real” with.

 So what about you, are you like me? Do you struggle with imperfection, setting boundaries and being vulnerable? I would love to hear your thoughts! Please put yourself out there and let’s start a conversation. 

Thanks for all the great comments – Rebekah and Elliott your names were selected to win a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection. Our team has reached out for your contact information. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Audra Alley October 11, 2015 at 8:06 pm

I think this is why so many of us procrastinate. Knowing we can’t quite get it perfect we just put it off till tomorrow. Letting go of that need to be perfect allows us to stop procrastinating and get things done. Imagine how nice it would be to live without the extra weight of all those things we “should” be doing!


Rebekah Brown October 12, 2015 at 6:31 am

Hi Rebecca,

I haven’t commented for a while, although I do read every post. I’m so envious of you hearing Brene Brown! Daring Greatly has had a significant effect on my life. I read ‘The gift of imperfection’ ages ago but you’ve inspired me to reserve it from the library to read again. I definitely find it hard to admit when things are hard. My other half is (in my opinion) even worse at it than I am, which adds to my challenge. One of my children has recently been diagnosed with what used to be known as Asperger’s syndrome, which has been very challenging even though we’re all lucky that it is relatively mild and I’ve known deep down since he was very young that he had many of the characteristics . It’s being able to talk to others that has really helped my anxiety about it and that involves admitting my fears for him and for how I will cope when we hit the inevitably challenging patches in the future.
I agree completely that veterinary and medical training makes you far more likely to hide your vulnerabilities than admit them. This thinking has a big impact on the culture of not admitting errors which pervades both professions and extends into personal lives.
I’m trying to learn these lessons but it will definitely be a life-long journey for me.

Thanks for the great post and reminder of the importance of being open. It’s great to know that I’m not the only one trying to allow myself to be more vulnerable. I know it makes life so much easier when I can do it.


Rebecca October 12, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Great to hear from you Rebekah- it has been awhile :). Thanks so much for commenting and yes I think that those of us who are brave enough to admit it-we all have these challenges!


Elliott October 12, 2015 at 11:01 am

I haven’t read any of her books yet, but it sounds they would be really helpful. I’ve definitely struggled with these same issues. I think the addition of children to our family has forced the realization and acceptance that I can’t be all things to all people, but I’m very much a work in process.


Rebecca October 12, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Yes Elliott- kids have a way of doing it to you! Just nice to know we are all in the same boat! Thanks for commenting and hope things are well in San Diego!


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