Dare to Dream Physician Podcast

Ep 17: Respecting the Power of the Mind with Dr. Liz Aguirre

September 02, 2021 Episode 17
Dare to Dream Physician Podcast
Ep 17: Respecting the Power of the Mind with Dr. Liz Aguirre
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, you will hear part 1 of a conversation with Dr. Liz Aguirre, who practiced as a hospitalist for 10 years before transitioning to a non-clinical position and now also making an impact as a professional speaker on health and wellness.

Dr. Aguirre shares:

  • Her journey of growing up in poverty, going from junior college to university to medical school.

  • What is imposter syndrome and how she keeps going in spite of it.

  • The importance of protecting the mind from others who may not see the possibilities.

  • How physicians can give themselves permission to prioritize their own health and wellness.

…and so much more, you don’t want to miss a minute!

Resources for Dr Liz Aguirre:

Liz Aguirre, MD, Professional Speaker at https://www.lizaguirremd.com

Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life, by Jill Bolte Taylor at https://www.amazon.com/Whole-Brain-Living-Anatomy-Characters/dp/1401961983

Course on Meditation for Doctors with CME credit (use code DARETODREAM10 for 10% Discount) at  https://www.theresttechnique.com/courses/meditation-for-doctors-a-guide-to-the-rest-technique

Dare to Dream Physician Resources:

Dare to Dream Physician, Life Planning for Physicians https://daretodreamphysician.com

Dare to Dream Physician on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/daretodreamphysician/

@DreamPhysician on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dreamphysician/

There's exciting news at the Dare to Dream Physician! For those of you who wish to get clarity on your own "why", and get energized as you explore, envision, and create your dream life, I am taking on a limited number of one-on-one clients for Life Planning! To get the complete details, visit my website at Dare to Dream Physician https://daretodreamphysician.com

Note this document may have human or computer-generated errors in transcription. Refer to the audio file for the actual conversation.


Dr. Aguirre, Guest
Dr. Gray, Host


Dr. Gray  00:00

This is the Dare to Dream Physician podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Weili Gray. Many physicians today are feeling overwhelmed and unfulfilled living a busy life based on someone else's terms and expectations. My mission is to help physicians figure out what they really want out of life, and how to make their dream life come true sooner than they ever imagined. My fellow physicians, your time to live, your only life is now. Become a Dare to Dream physician. Great things are going to happen. Make sure you hit subscribe and share this podcast with another physician you care about. 


Dr. Gray  00:48

Welcome back to another episode of The Dare to Dream Physician Podcast. I am so excited today to have our guest. Her name is Dr. Liz Aguirre. And she has worked as a hospitalist for 10 years and has transitioned in the last couple of years to a non clinical role. She is also a professional speaker on health and wellness. I am so excited to have her on because she has such a captivating story. Plus, did you hear the part that she's a professional speaker, she is a fantastic speaker. So I cannot wait to to just have a chat with her. It's gonna be so good.


Dr. Aguirre  01:34

Thank you so much for having me today. I'm so excited to be able to talk. And yeah, I love that the thought of what you've created here at Dare to Dream and just being able to spread that message to so many people and understand the reality of what is possible.


Dr. Gray  01:50

You're so welcome. We had a pre chat prior to recording where I got to learn a little bit more about you. I can't wait to hear more and to share with our listeners. The first thing that I like to hear is just a little bit more about your background and your story and how you became a physician. 


Dr. Aguirre  02:08

Yeah,yeah. It's so funny. One thing I didn't tell you is I was talking to my sister-in-law the other day. And she gave like a little synopsis about my background. And she said, Liz one day, I really think your story needs to be told about how you grew up, where you came from, what you have overcome how what seemed like a incredibly impossible feat like to go to medical school of all things. When you grew up in this really poor town and had no resources and nobody to help you. And you overcame and and did it. And then you just had one struggle after another and she summarized it in such a way. And she said, You just need to tell that story one day. And when she was talking about this, it was literally giving me the chills hearing the story. And then I was like, Oh my gosh, she's talking about me. That's my story. So I grew up in a really small town. And we did grew up really poor. There were years in our life where we didn't have running water, no electricity. And I remember, I remember from a young age, one of the free resources, I had to meet with books and being able to get books from the library. And I remember the day that our electricity was turned off, and I couldn't read at night. And that was such a big deal. So I just share a little bit about that story. Because it was such an embarrassing part of my history for so long. I would never let anybody know that we had that kind of childhood. And in the small town I grew up in, a lot of people knew this, that if you went to a grew up in a small town, everybody's business. But once I was able to leave and get out of that, that was something that nobody would know about me that was just not not something that I would ever share. And now come full circle, where I share it with pride because it just goes to show the power of the mind and what you put your mind to on what you're capable of is all based on what you believe you can do. And so for me, my story had very, very humble beginnings and looking back now I just can't even I can't even imagine that. But at the time, it came from a very, very deep place of hurt. And just that thought that no matter what I do, I will never give up. Because I never want my family to struggle in the way that I did when I was growing up. So that was the very start of just a commitment to working hard for, what at the time, I didn't even know was was possible, but just working hard for what I had committed to pursuing. 


Dr. Gray  05:08

Wow, wow. 


Dr. Aguirre  05:10

And so whenever I was in high school, and I was applying for scholarships and those kind of things, I remember I have I actually applied for some scholarships to some colleges, and I got the scholarships. But what I didn't know is you actually had to apply to college. I didn't know that. That was, that was something nobody told me. I didn't get that part. Or if they did, I missed that memo. So I ended up going to a junior college and getting some scholarships that I could use there. I had a lot of bumps along the way, and just learning as I went. And when I faced one obstacle, then I'd say, okay, what's my next step? Because this path isn't working for me. So then I would just recreate a new path and figure out there's always an answer, there's always a way there. It's just a lot of times the difference between success and not succeeding is when people get to that stop sign in the road, taking it and saying, okay, there's a stop sign that says do not pass versus there's a stop sign here, let me see where the next path is, after this stop sign, right? So I went to junior college for a couple of years, then I transferred to a university, and I never knew actually what I wanted to do, I never started out thinking, I'm gonna go to medical school, I thought, okay, I want to be a physical therapist, that was my first thought, because I have a brother who has cerebral palsy, and he doesn't walk or talk. And he was a big part of our childhood and our exposure to the medical community. And so I started doing a lot of work in physical therapy of volunteerism, working at facilities like my brother would go to. Then I thought, Hmm, maybe I want to do a little bit more than that. Maybe I want to go into nursing. So then I thought I was going to go to nursing school. And then I thought ewww, but I really could connect with patience and be more meaningful if I was actually able to see them and diagnose them and treat them and I started getting really interested in that. So then I started working as a unit clerk in a hospital on the weekends. So I started doing that. And then for the first time, I started thinking, oh, maybe I can do something like that. But I still didn't have the confidence, being perfectly honest, did not have the confidence at all to say that I could go to medical school. And my dad, he actually kept telling me, you should go to medical school. And I said, No, Dad, you're just saying that because you're my dad. And of course, you're gonna believe inme. So I actually thought I'll go to PA school. That's what I'm going to do. So I was fully committed to going to PA school. And then I just had that one little crazy thought. And that one little thought was, what if I actually could do medical school? Just but what if there's a possibility there. A lot of people go to medical school, why not me, I've already come all this way. I've met all the prerequisites. Maybe I should just apply and see what happened. And I remember suggesting it to a friend one time, I was an undergrad at that time, I was walking on campus, I still remember exactly where I was when I was walking on campus. And that person that I had told that to was talking to a group of people and said, Can you believe that this thinks she's going to go to medical school. That's that moment where your heart starts racing and you have the lump in your throat. And then you start to feel that imposter syndrome. And you think, Oh my gosh, I knew it was a bad idea. I just knew it was. And I remember just feeling completely crushed. Because here I was telling this person, you know, something that I was already very insecure and nervous about. And then she went on and was telling other people about it. And everybody can appreciate and remember your days in college and you know what you experience, but years, years, years later, fast forward to where I am now, the big message that I give people is you got to remember that you have different types of friends. You have friends that are going to support you and be your cheerleader and root for you and cheer you on and say yeah, you absolutely can do that. And yeah, you would be great at that. And then you have the naysayers and the naysayers, they don't necessarily mean to put you down or be negative. It's just they don't have that belief of what is possible even for themselves. And so when you say something that is just crazy, and you're like ohh I am thinking about doing this, that is so far removed from what in their mind, they think is possible, that, they're going to cost you like, whoo, I don't know what you should do that, don't you think that's risky? Or man that sounds like that would cost a lot of money to get that off the ground. And so it's something that now I can see retrospectively. Okay, that person was just in the naysayer group. But back then, it was so impactful when I said, I will, I will never tell another person that I'm going to apply to medical school. And if they tell me if they asked me, Hey, are you really thinking about it? I'll say, Yeah, no, I was, there's just a fleeting thought, I don't know if I'm really going to, and all the while I was working on it in the background, and I decided, Okay, I'm gonna prove that person wrong, not because I have anything to prove to them. But because I really want to do this. And I already been able to do all the other things that nobody thought I could, so why not this. And, and that was really the start of that journey. And at that point, I put my head down. And I was really working hard. I was working in a research lab, I was working at the hospital on weekends, I was going to school full time. And I was doing all the things that I felt that I needed to do. And along the way, asking anybody who was ahead of me, Well, what did you do for this? or What did you do for that? And so, that's how the journey went. I think that along the line, I just really had to have a thick skin and not look for the external validation from other people. Because when I was looking for it and didn't get it, then it really made it harder for me to keep pushing forward.


Dr. Gray  11:36

Hmmm. Yeah, well, I love that story. And the first part that you shared, where you mentioned that you grew up in an environment that maybe perhaps other people who usually go to college, and will consider medical school didn't grow up in and how that for a long time was something you were hiding from the world and how eventually, you came to another perspective now that it's a source of pride, I would love to hear your thoughts on why that was, you know, why was it intuitive for you to have the instinct to hide that from the world? And how did you finally figure out that, wait, I don't have to hide this from the world anymore. It's part of who I am. And I'm actually really proud of it.


Dr. Aguirre  12:16

Yeah, I actually think it has a lot to do with imposter syndrome. And that is something that I have had to overcome over and over and over again in my life. And why I came full circle, and I'm able to share that now is now the realization that imposter syndrome never goes away. It's always there. So for every new step I took, I was facing imposter syndrome all over again. And so what I mean by imposter syndrome, for the listeners who are not as familiar, for me personally, it means that I was at a place in my life where trying to achieve something my mind was telling me, you don't belong here, you're not qualified for this. You don't deserve this. And so when I was first going to college, and I went to college, I was really just thinking back to the fact that nobody where I grew up really went to college. There was maybe one or two people who went to college, but that was the extent of it. So I went into college thinking I'm not qualified to be here, I went to a very, very poor public school, that was really not very good. In fact, my senior year, my high school almost got shut down, because the state requires 50% accredited teachers. And we didn't have that. So we had to get more teachers with an accredited teacher certification for the high school to stay open. And I remember hearing that and thinking, well, that's crazy. But it didn't occur to me that until later, when I was trying to get into college that wooooo, maybe I shouldn't be here because I didn't even get the basics. I didn't even get what it needs to be here. And I am having to work really, really hard at a junior college. And so that that followed me everywhere. When I finally got into medical school and all the people who were saying, Oh, she thinks she's going to go to medical school. I won't say all the people but that's what your mind goes to. You cling on to the one thing that that one person said. And then your mind starts telling you you're not qualified. So then I got into medical school and I remember thinking, what happens if they find out that I really am not as good as all the other people here. If you've been to medical school, so there are so many diverse backgrounds and so many talents amongst physicians. I was people who were in the Olympics and others who had a career as a successful pieanist or were an attorney before they decided to go to medical school. And I have all those kinds of people in my medical school class and it made me feel very insecure. But I was like, I'm already here, I'm going to keep going. And they literally have to kick me out kicking and screaming, before I leave here, I'm not leaving.


Dr. Gray  15:14

I think it's so fascinating. And I love that you're taking our listeners and I inside your head, because on one hand, your brain is saying, okay, you don't really belong here. Nobody who grew up in the same town that you did, actually makes it into medical school. But on the other hand, you're saying, I'm gonna keep going, I want to do this. And if there's a possibility that maybe I could, then I will. So it's like, you have two voices, one voice, you knew you're different, you can be different. It's possible that it's worth trying, and that drove a lot of your actions. But then there's this other part of you, that is saying these doubts, and I think it's so fascinating. And one more thing, I just want to add that, as you're saying this, it makes me and I always believed in the power of words, right words are powerful words can make a huge difference in a person's identity and in the stories we tell ourselves. But as you're saying this, it just makes me want to put out more positive words and more positive messages in the world, though, that just one takeaway I already have from listening to you.


Dr. Aguirre  16:18

What's interesting, because what you just said was, we have these different voices in our head. There's a book that I just started reading by Jill Bolte Taylor, and it's called the whole brain living. And in that book, she talks about the different characters in our head. And she talks about four different characters, she actually has a TED talk that she recorded after she had a hemorrhagic stroke, basically. And she's a neuro anatomist at Harvard by training. And so she talks about these different characters and character one is she calls her a hell on wheels, her the character's name is Helen. And Helen is like, very strong and assertive and very organized, and I need to do this and that. And then character two is the one that tries to protect you, and no one will do that. Or if somebody says something negative to you, you're like, immediately receding, and just feeling insecure. It's so fascinating when I started understanding that through her writings, and through hearing her talk, because we are constantly going to have that struggle. Very, very successful people in the world continue to have that struggle. And for people like me, who had an very intense struggle early on, that for me, it manifests as imposter syndrome. And I'm constantly having those characters in my head challenge me and say, no, maybe you shouldn't be doing this. And we really have to be aware of those thoughts. And understand that those thoughts are what's going to make us feel a certain way and make us limit at ourselves if we allow them.


Dr. Gray  18:01

Hmm. Yeah. Do you think that since this sounds like a very common human experience and a human tendency, do you think that there was anything positive that comes from having this doubtful voice?


Dr. Aguirre  18:16

Yeah, yeah, that's a good question. It's so interesting, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, everything. So it's hard to see the positive in things like that at the time. But I believe that there is potential positive. So the potential positive is maybe you didn't act or pursue something at that time. But later you did. And you were more equipped to handle it, because of what you saw during that time, where you were just dragging your feet or not moving forward. So I don't think any of our experiences or any of our life is wasted opportunity to learn something. But at the same token, we can stay stuck in that slot for a very, very long time. Because our thoughts are based on our experiences, right? We get stuck in these thought loops of No, you can't do that, or No, you shouldn't do that. And this is why, right? And sometimes we don't even realize it, we don't realize that those limiting thoughts are in our head. So I won't say that there's not positive. For me, it's hard to see the positive. I don't think I'm at that place yet where I can completely see the positive in it. But I also am a firm believer that we're exactly where we should be, doing exactly what we're meant to do. And sometimes the timing we don't understand, and maybe there is some positive in that right. 


Dr. Gray  19:52

Hmm.Yeah. And the part where you talked about how your dad was the one who said hey, Liz, apply for medical school, what about that? And, and how that planted that possibility for you. Again, it makes me think about the power of Yes, there are gonna be naysayers, but just the power of having people in your life who sees the possibilities. And I think that's part of what this podcast is about, sort of why I keep putting out content on this podcast is I think we need to have more voices in the world, especially for physicians, because we know that physicians are struggling right now our generation of physicians are struggling. And I just want people to hear on a regular basis that there are possibilities that they're not stuck, that maybe it seems like things are impossible, or that things will never get better. But anything is possible. And as long as we're living and breathing, anything is possible. And so I love how your story really reflects that.


Dr. Aguirre  20:56

Yeah, for the physician audience, I really do think that there is one very, very important point here to make. For physicians, we feel that we need permission. And a lot of physicians are like me, not me, I do what I want, right. And then there's other physicians that are in this current environment that feel like they have no control over practicing the way they want to practice or having the hours they want to have or spending a certain amount of time with patients. We all feel that we don't have control, right? And we also feel the need for permission. Because guess what, we had to have permission to get into medical school, I had to apply and someone had to say, yes, we had to have permission to go to residency, we had to get permission to work at this hospital because I had to interview and they had to accept me. So we're constantly looking for that permission and that validation. But my message is give yourself permission. And this is what I'm starting to tell physicians, as I talk about health and wellness and their journeys in burnout, because we are constantly putting everybody else before ourselves. We're saying we have to do this job. And we have to take care of our patients, and I have to spend time with my family, even though I'm exhausted, I'm going to give whatever little energy I have left to my kids. And then the last person who we put as a priority is ourselves. And so I think giving ourselves permission to prioritize ourselves and our health and our well being is incredibly important. But the only way you're going to be able to do that. The only way is if you're surrounding yourself with the people who believe that's possible, and are going to support you and cheer you on as you're making those decisions. Because if you're around your same friends who have the same limiting beliefs, you're not going to see the possibility, you're not going to see that it is possible for you to do whatever it is you want to do. Because we have we're stuck in those same limiting beliefs and same mindset. I mean, you've probably heard before you are the five people that you surround yourself with. And that is so so true. Because my possibilities and what I feel is possible for myself, has expanded vastly. When I started seeking out and finding like minded individuals, I started speaking professionally about health and wellness. I've always been a great speaker. I've always given presentations at my job. I've always connected with my audiences. But I never felt that it was possible for me to start my own speaking business, and become a professional speaker, until I started putting myself in that circle of people who also believed in that possibility. That's when I started to excel. That's when I started being able to dream bigger. But always keeping in mind, you're going to have those naysayers and you're going to have that support group. That's okay. I'm not telling you not to be friends with those people. I'm just saying be aware of it. And keep those naysayers on the left hand and those cheerleaders in your right hand and choose who you're going to share those ideas and those dreams with, because not everybody is going to be a supporter. And you definitely don't want to put yourself in that position where you're hearing that negative possibility instead of the positive aspects and the positive cheerleaders who can help you get there.


Dr. Gray  24:45

Hmmm. Yeah, yeah, I definitely resonate with what you're saying. For example, you were saying that that you always knew that you were a good speaker and that this is something that you're going professionally to speak. And it may be that our listeners, they don't know of like a lot of people our identity is we're physicians, we know how to see patients or do this specialty that we're trained in. But we may not be aware of our other skills and talents. That for me was certainly true up until maybe eight months ago, I really didn't even remember what sort of hobbies I had before I went to medical school. Things became a blur, and it was all about survival mode. First, it was surviving all those exams in medical school, surviving all those hours of studying, and then it became surviving the hours and the material we had to go through during internship and residency. And then there was a transition to becoming an attending to and surviving that. And then usually around the same time is when physicians also start families and then surviving that transition in life. What you're saying is, one is self care, self compassion. But the other part that you shared is, well think about what really what talents that you have. And it could be part of what you do as a physician, it doesn't have to be speaking or something else outside of medicine, but what are the talents that you have, and really embracing those, then surround yourself with other people who believe in the possibilities because you want to, you want to protect your mind, and I think it's okay to have some healthy dose, to be able to listen to some of the skepticism and listen to feedback and grow thick skin, because anybody that becomes successful is going to have naysayers, right? So to celebrate that in a way, but also protecting your mind and knowing to surround yourself with with people who are also supportive.


Dr. Aguirre  26:43

So I have a big smile on my face. As you can see, I'm hearing you say this, because this is one of my biggest fears that prevented me from speaking for so long. And so first, I want to backtrack and just say something really quick. You said for a long time, you didn't know where your talents were. And clarify, I knew that I was a strong speaker, but never in my wildest dreams, would I think speaking could be a business, never. So sometimes your talent, your skills, your hobbies, the things that are right in front of your face, you take for granted. And you do not even realize that that is your thing. I never, ever thought speaking would be my thing, not for a moment. And then fast forward. Here I am. And I'll be honest with you, the first few times I spoke, and I said I am going to be a health and wellness speaker, I'm going to talk about the body, the mind the spirit, specifically talk about how mindset influences all of this. I was so scared to do it. Because I had one person who said, Don't you think that's a little woowoo? I don't think you should talk about that this time, I think you need to tone it down a little bit for this audience. And it really scarred me and it set me back a long time. So again, it's because she she just wasn't in that thought. She didn't get it. She was the naysayer in that time. So it's very, very important to recognize that you are not going to fit with every single person. We're all unique. We're all different. We all believe different things based on our experiences. So not everybody is going to agree with you. And you're right. When you have those negative remarks, that negative feedback, that is something unique that you have to embrace. You ask yourself, okay, is there any validity to this? In other words, is there anything that I could do different that I believe I should do different? Not because you're trying to appease a certain audience, you need to be your genuine self. But because I truly feel that was a learning and growth opportunity for me. So I really haven't spoken to a group where I've actually received the negative feedback. And I'm really nervous about that. Because that just means I'm not big enough yet. Right? When there starts to be those negative comments, then I know I'm big enough. then I know I've made it, but I haven't gotten there yet. And that's not because they don't exist. It's just because I haven't had those people verbalize it yet, but they're there. I know they are. Because not everybody's gonna agree with us. That's just not human nature, right? We're not robots. So we're all programmed differently. We really are. But the point to be made here though, is when people are trying to figure out, do I have anything to offer? Yeah, you do. Everybody has something to offer because you're you and there's only one you. But sometimes it's in plain sight and we don't even recognize it.


Dr. Gray  30:05

Hmm. Yeah, that is part of the purpose of this podcast is to make space for people to every week as they listen in, for them to just think about what's important to them, and what are they good at? And what do they really want to do? Because like you're saying, there is a lot of external expectations about what we should do. And it's not that we don't have to consider those expectations. But the part where you said being your genuine self that is also very powerful. How do you do that, by the way? So as you're going through, and there are going to be people who may be discouraged you or the naysayers, how do you know that while taking some of that as feedback to also just stay genuine to yourself? How does one do that?


Dr. Aguirre  30:55

So part of the reason I talk about body, mind and spirit is because I really have come to a new place in my journey. So I took a meditation course. And I will tell you, a lot does come to me and meditation. There really does. It's so hard to explain. But when you feel it in your core, and you feel it, right. It's hard to allow the naysayers in to try to push you in a different direction or to criticize you because in your heart of hearts, in your spirit in your soul, you can feel it. You know, you're doing the right thing. You know that if I were to listen to them, it would prevent me from following my true passion, my true path. And this is so new to me, because I've been trying for years to meditate, and I do mean years.


Dr. Gray  32:07

Wow, I am loving this conversation with Dr. Liz Aguirre. She shared so many insights with me that I decided to break down our interview into three episodes, so make sure you hit subscribe and come back next Thursday for part two, where she dives into her journey with meditation from starting as someone who could not even get into meditation for two minutes to now successfully using meditation as part of her daily routine. And just found it to be the secret for maintaining her authenticity and confidence. You can find Dr. Liz on her website Liz Aguirre MD.com. I'll link that in the show notes as well. And if your group or organization is looking for a wellness speaker, I would absolutely recommend Dr. Aguirre. Go to her website right now and get the information to connect with her. She can either speak in person or in a virtual forum. As for an update on the Dare to Dream Physician podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in each week and for your support. Last week, we crossed 1500 downloads. We also hit the three month mark from the launch of this podcast. And I'm so grateful for the privilege of creating this space in the podcast sphere. For all of you. Please spread the word on this podcast. Leave us a five star review on your podcast app, share the episode on social media, tell your friends about it. Because it's never too early for physicians to figure out what they really want out of life and to start living their dream life now rather than 20 years from now. As always, you can reach out to me through my website to say hi or to give me feedback, or suggest any podcast topics that you may want to hear more about. Thanks for listening. Make sure you hit subscribe so you don't miss another episode. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend and give us a five star review so we can help more physicians dare to dream and create their most abundant lives. There is also exciting news at the Dare to Dream Physician. For those of you who wish to get clarity on your own why and get energized as you explore, envision and create your dream life. I am so excited to announce that I'm taking on unlimited number of one on one clients for life planning to get the complete details and sign up for an expiration meeting. Go to my website Dare to Dream Physician.com I really look forward to working with you. And it would be such an honor and privilege for me to be able to help you create your life plan. I truly believe that life planning will transform your life and will give you that energy to pursue your dream life sooner than you ever imagine. See you next week.


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