Written by Maddy Zastrow
Almost done with her first year of dental school, Maddy is a member of the Baby Blue Class of ‘22. She is a current ASDA Predental Associate and in charge of awareness and outreach for SCDA
Wow! Almost one year into dental school and I really cannot believe how fast time does fly. When I offered to write a post, I had so many ideas but concluded that the message I am going to share has been one of the biggest challenges, yet rewarding feelings during this first year of dental school.
All of us have accomplished many great things leading up to dental school. We got good grades, volunteered, were leaders among our classes, played collegiate sports, etc. For many of us, these things came with ease. I am not saying hard work didn’t go into these things, but more that these tasks we excelled in were part of our strengths and came naturally. The weaknesses, at least for me, got pushed under the rug and I was able to get by without needing to work on them; weaknesses including public speaking, making small talk, remembering names, working in groups, managing stress, etc. But, what I have come to learn over this past year is that all of these things, and many others, are essential to becoming successful.
So, my message to all is:
START BECOMING COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE!
Dental school, while it is very doable, throws you into many situations that will have you saying to yourself :“Well, we will see how this goes.” That is just the nature of learning. You may feel untrained in a lot of these situations, but you learn a lot by making mistakes and finding out what doesn’t work more than seeing what does work.
Here are my tips to start becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable:
The first step is always the hardest. The first thing for me that comes to mind is learning to drill in Preservation and Restoration (fondly nicknamed “pres-res”). I was so nervous to make a mistake drilling, that I remember it would take me ten minutes to just start. Once I started going, many of those anxious feelings went away and it would turn out fine.
Remind yourself that you made the decision. You are already committed and there is no going back.
2. Push yourself past your comfort zone
Many times, you are going to be saying “I’ve never done this before” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Just pretend to be confident and fake it till you make it. It is a scary feeling, but I promise you that when it is over you will be saying “It wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
An example that comes to mind is public speaking. I am not a fan of doing it, but I will only get better at it if I push myself to do it.
3. Embrace the bad situations
If the situation is bad, just deal with it. There will be times where you think things can’t get worse and they do. Embrace the situation, laugh at how ridiculous the situation is (if appropriate) and become mentally and physically stronger from it.
4. Surround yourself with friends who are going through the same things you are
Having a support team that knows what you are going through really helps. Vent to them, ask them for help and also be there for them.
5. Take every new opportunity and learn from it
You are not going to be perfect at everything and that is okay. Strive for excellence rather than perfection. Learn from every situation and take what you learn and apply it to another situation. You are in school to learn and the people around you know that. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you will become more successful from your mistakes.
Growth happens when you leave your comfort zone, and dental school can be one big zone of discomfort. Learn from it, grow from it, and don’t forget that you have a community of support going through this process with you.