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Ending Unhealthy Competition: Holding Space and Encouraging Your Peers

by Gabriela Tamara Suggs

On the journey to becoming a practicing physician, premedical students, student doctors, and residents alike are all faced with competition-focused hurdles at advancing milestones. A finite number of positions are available within a medical school or residency program. Instead of following the traditionally competitive culture that highlights personal achievement, women stand to further the advancement of healthcare when we uplift one another every step of the way. 

Chances are, at one point or another, we have all felt the sensations that accompany unhealthy competition. Comparison, for example, is often called the thief of joy and is readily abundant and available to anyone in our digital age. Redirecting our propensity for unhealthy competition, like that stemming from comparison, is something that we can practice at any stage in our careers. There are several ways in which we can do this, but my personal favorite is holding space for my peers and colleagues. 

At its core, holding space is embodied by practicing inclusion. Holding space for others can be fostered by encouraging our peers to speak up and share their unique perspectives and ideas, while also making room for them to do so. By holding space for others, we can effectively create an environment in which everyone has a voice that is not only supported but also amplified by the common good. By eliminating the need to compete and instead holding space for our peers to flourish, we foster a collaborative environment that in turn, lends to better outcomes and solutions in healthcare and beyond.

Here are some ways in which you can practice holding space for others:

  • Educate yourself on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).
    • Take a look at Dr. Dafina Lazarus Stewart’s (professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University) key questions: Diversity asks who’s in the room. Inclusion asks if everyone’s ideas are being heard, and equity asks who is trying to get into the room but is unable. 
  • Be an observant ally who is able to recognize and address imbalances.
    • Part of holding space is recognizing where it is necessary and beneficial to do so.  
  • Collaborate: team up for research, outreach programs, or special projects.
    • Take holding space to the next level, embolden your peers, and work together to further your reach.
  • Practice active listening, positivity, and respect.
    • Not everyone’s opinions or ideas may coincide, but they still have worth. 
  • Make competition work for you. 
    • Turn the need for competition inward to challenge your own self-growth. 
  • Join an AMWA committee.
    • What you have to offer is unique, valid, and important. Find space, create space. 


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