To the physician who didn’t match: You are not forgotten


Match day. Many of you are rejoicing in the outcomes, while many of you might be experiencing these “other” emotions. They might sound like rejection, shame, hopelessness, despair, disappointment, anger, exhaustion, or self-doubt.

The wounds from this year’s match might still be fresh, and I do not want to thrust any toxic positivity on you. It’s okay if you are feeling awful right now; it’s natural. Give yourself time to process these emotions. While the world might have moved on, I see you, my friend, and this article is to support and validate you.

As you process your feelings, I am suggesting the following five steps you can try to take when you are ready. The intention is to help you move from the feelings you are experiencing right now towards what is next. Try these thoughts on like you would try on a pair of clothes and see if you like them, with openness and curiosity.

Try on a neutral lens. What if this was not a failure or a rejection but just an “event” in your greater life and professional trajectory? What if you didn’t look at it positively or negatively? What if you looked at it as a neutral occurrence?

Let go of the resistance. What if everything happened exactly how it was meant to be? You tried your best and showed up however best you could, and the results came at this point in your life, as they should have. Instead of resisting that you didn’t match, or you didn’t match at your first choice, or that you didn’t couples match, what if you looked at this entire result as something that happened exactly how it was supposed to be? Resisting an event that happens will not change the actual event. It will only magnify the suffering surrounding it. And it is hard to take any meaningful action from a space of pain and suffering.

You are not a failure, and you are not broken. The rejection, shame, sadness, and anger you are experiencing are intense. I want to separate the outcomes of match day from your identity and existence as a human. You are the same bright, young physician you were before match week happened. The match results are not to be confused with who you are as a human and a doctor.

No failing, just learning. Stop saying the “F” word. What if today I told you there was no such thing as failing? That every outcome was just another opportunity to learn. So now that you look at the match results as just an event that happened in your life and it does not mean that you are a failure, can you ask yourself where is the learning opportunity here? What could I potentially change or tweak? Separating your identity as a human from an event that happened can allow you to create objectivity and learning. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Stop beating yourself up. Imagine this—if your friend who “messed up the match” came to you and they were being hard on themselves—how would you talk to them? I am sure you wouldn’t be criticizing them. I am sure you would show them compassion. Can you try to talk to yourself how you would talk to that friend? No matter what happens in life and the outside world, it is critical to always have your own back. Research has shown that self-compassion is not just motivating but also allows you to quit procrastinating. It increases your self-confidence. Stop using the match results as evidence to berate yourself, as evidence to self-flagellate. What if you decided to be kind to yourself like you would to a friend or loved one?

I will leave you with these two great quotes, my endless belief that you will persevere, no matter what, and that you are irrefutably worthy.

“Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.”
– Sumner Redstone

“Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you don’t belong, because you will always find it. Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you’re not enough, because you’ll always find it. Our worth and our belonging are not negotiated with other people; we carry those inside of our hearts.”
– Brené Brown

Amna Shabbir is an internal medicine physician.


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