There are a few words and phrases that I do not use.
The large majority of them include offensive slang, derogatory names, words and phrases that simply bring down the conversation that I am having to the lowest levels of respectability.
But there is one word that is innocuous and hides in plain sight which dismisses, diminishes and reduces whatever it is connected to.
And that word is “just”.
A couple of years ago I stopped using the word “just”.
Before Jordan Peterson enlightened the world with his Twelve rules for life, one of which is to “Be precise in your speech”, I had started to become more precise and clear in the language that I used in conversation and within my writing.
Perhaps it had something to do with my work with a vulnerable population of patients who needed me to use clear language and speak with absolute truth, but more than that I became aware of the true meaning of using the word “just”.
I stopped using the word “just” because it diminished and reduced everything I connected it to within a sentence or in conversation.
I stopped using the word “just” because it screamed of desperation and neediness.
I stopped using the word “just” because it underlined the passive aggression embedded within it that I was too afraid to express in the fear that I would be exposed, found out or ridiculed for my stance.
I became precise in how I talked because I became aware of how my words framed my thinking and thus action.
When I became aware of the limiting beliefs in my life and the false stories that I was telling myself, I started to observe the language that I was using and the effect and results that they were having on my life.
Here are a few familiar examples that we may be aware of:
“I really bad at managing my money”
“That always happens to me”
“Things are never going to change”
“I don’t like exercising,”
“I’m such a klutz”
“I really bad at dermatology and diagnosing skin diseases” (General Practice example)
Do these negative frameworks of conversation sound familiar?
Guess what happens to the person who tells themselves and others that they are “really bad” at managing their money?
Their conscious mind, being the conductor and captain of their life ship, directs the subconscious to start putting into action, “being really bad at managing money”.
One thing that you may not know is how much influence your subconscious thinking has in ruling and running your life. It is the operating system that keeps you from harm and allows you to live to the level of your self-belief and self-doubt.
If you believe that you are “really bad at managing money” your subconscious will drive your actions to make this true in your life. And if you are ever ripped off, lose money or waste it, this will serve to reinforce your limiting belief.
You’ll confirm and tell yourself, “see I told you that I was really bad at managing my money,” and thus the negative cycle continues.
So how does this relate to using the word “just”, the #justagp narrative and to wider General Practice?
Shooting ourselves in the foot
If the word “just” is a staple part of your lexicon, it tells of a deeper truth.
This is because embedded within the word “just” is insecurity, a lack of self-belief and a diminished ability to self-reference (that is to know who are and not need others to define or approve of you).
Whoa! Isn’t that a little too heavy Jonathan?
Well yes and no.
No, because sometimes we have a set of sayings or behaviours that aren’t helpful and do not serve us well until someone shines a light on what we are actually doing and saying — only then can we change how we use language and use it more skillfully.
Yes, because you may be perfectly happy with your choice of language but what I am writing here is not personal to you but rather something that was life-changing to me — the lurking presence of insecurity.
But if you’ve examined your language and have continued to use the word “just” in how you speak to your spouse, your children, your patients and your friends, please let me respectfully provide you with some perspective.
“Just” how bad is it?
“Just” is a word that is used from a place of insecurity because we are unsure about what we are asserting and what we are asking for.
“Just” is not a precise word but rather one that gives away all your power in the conversation, in your writing and in what you stand for.
“Just” screams of desperation, a last-ditch effort at saving what you are connecting it to.
Look at these examples to see what I mean:
“I am just like that” — using excuses and not taking responsibility like an adult.
“Why won’t you just listen to me ?”— a person losing their power and making a plea out of desperation.
“I am just at Intern” — passing off responsibility, unwilling to participate and again not stepping up to be an adult.
“I am just asking you to consider it” — neediness and desperation again, a person at the end of their line of options and making a plea.
“Why won’t you just listen to me?” — desperation, again a person at the end of their rope, frustrated in losing their power.
“Just” is imprecise, because it shows that we are not being clear about what we want and thus asking for or that we are too afraid to ask for it!
“Just” is an insecure word because it conveys that we do not believe that we are good enough or enough to present ourselves to the world and to ask for what we truly want.
To look at why “just” is a word that we must avoid, we need to stop and reflect on what lies deeper — only then will we have the impetus and fuel to a change.
Feelings, as we know, are subjective and thus arise out of assumptions that we make about the world that we live in.
Feelings of inferiority within medicine arise entirely out of comparing ourselves with other colleagues, with other practice’s, other institution’s and finally other specialities.
Feelings of inferiority, in general, arise out of comparing ourselves with our peers and making a value judgement about ourselves.
These feelings lead us to believe that we (as doctors, GP’s and people) are not enough, not good enough and not able to get what we want.
When we start to believe these judgements about ourselves (subjective assumptions that we’ve made) and start telling an inferior story about our lives, this is when it becomes an inferiority complex! (The courage to be disliked — Kishimi & Koga pg 58)
The #justagp narrative is one such movement in inferiority.
It started because of a familiar conversation that GP’s, students and junior doctors encounter which is “are you going to become a specialist or just a GP?” or “are you a specialist or just a GP” and the various other permutations of this conversation.
“Just” in this context is being used by unskilled and unqualified people to label General Practice as being diminutive and less than the comparison, and as GP’s we know this to be untrue.
The term “just a GP” and its associated narrative is offensive.
This is because it is not who we are as a speciality and if we continue to use it to describe our work, or when things do not go our way or when we are disrespected, what we are doing is reinforcing in our subconscious minds that “yes, we are not good enough”, we are feeding an inferiority complex.
More than that and the biggest reason why I stopped using the word “just” and the term “just a GP” was because it gave my power away to unskilled, uncaring and unqualified people.
It is saying “yes you are right, I am just a GP. What do I know?”
Even though we may NOT think that our language is utterly imprecise and unhelpful if we are ever going show up to the medical world secure and self-referenced.
Side note — No significant and enduring contribution to medicine can EVER be made from a place of insecurity and inferiority.
As a GP, I know that I am valuable. My generalist skills, my diagnostic ability in the face of uncertainty, my communication expertise (never to use the phrase “poor historian”) and my procedural abilities are excellent. I will never diminish General Practice as I strongly believe that it is the absolute wisdom of medicine.
But if we continue to be “just GP’s” we will become the most insecure speciality in Medicine.
In the original and seemingly innocent conversation, members of the public and juniors doctors did not have a clear picture of what a General Practitioner looked like.
In their mind there existed a hierarchy of medicine of which GP’s sat down at the bottom and therefore, could be diminished and dismissed by using the word “just”.
As a rural GP, I know this not to be true. Of course, it isn’t!
This is because I know that I am more than enough to sit at the value table alongside my medical and surgical specialist colleagues in a horizontal medical playing field.
See, the one thing I know about working in Regional and Rural Medicine is that I am absolutely respected for my specialised and generalist skills as a GP in Palliative Care, Pain Medicine and Anaesthesia. But this respect begins with how I talk to myself and about myself.
Also, respect flow two ways, it is reflected first in my humility and understanding where my limits lie but most importantly deeply embedded in what I CAN do to help my patients. Secondly, respect flows from my wise medical and surgical specialists colleagues, who understand what practising community medicine entails and where THEIR expertise finish and where MINE begin.
So, to use the word “just” to describe and act as an associated totem for what I do, is a value judgement on my abilities and a conscious message that I am sending to my subconscious — that I am NOT good enough to sit at the horizontal value table of medicine.
This leads to an inferiority complex, silo’s within medicine and to constant bickering and in-fighting and the Medical blame game — sound familiar?
Why I stopped saying and using the word “just”
Whilst I once proudly placed this hashtag on my tweets and social media posts, I started to question it when I began to really appreciate my value and contribution as a Rural GP to my profession, my speciality and to my community.
But more than that in the last many years, I stopped using the word “just” because of its ability to minimise and diminish whatever I was saying and whatever I linked to it. When I examined my language, it was chilling and dripping with insecurity.
“I’m just emailing to ask…”
“I’m just wondering if I could..”
“I’m just ringing to ask..”
The word “just” is the epitome of selling myself short, diminishing my contribution and value and the wonderful experience and wisdom that GP’s bring to their communities.
But more than that, I found the word “just” to be passive, slightly apprehensive, imprecise and aggressive.
When I stopped using the word “just”, I became precise in what I said and clear about what I wanted.
This is because people who know what they want in life have a confidence in themselves and their value to the world — this is the type of person who I wanted to be.
With great respect to my General Practice colleagues, I would strongly suggest that you would please stop using the “justagp” hashtag and narrative — it reinforces a sense of inferiority and diminishes your great contribution which you and I know, is significant.
Why being told you are “just a GP” isn’t personal — unless you make it so
One thought that helped to profoundly change the way that I thought and responded to the opinion of others was in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements.
This was agreement number 2:
Don’t take anything personally
It seems easy enough to do and completely obvious until someone provides us with an unwanted and offensive opinion.
“You are just a GP” or “Are you going to become a specialist or just a GP?”
Or something that my wife has encountered over the last few years “do you work or do you just look after kids”
When this happens, it provides us with an opportunity to look at the real power behind this agreement, which is — what has been spoken is not about us but rather the person who was spoken.
“Nothing other people do (or say) is about you. It is about themselves” (The Four Agreements)
Don Miguel suggests that the opinions of others are their reflection, their thoughts, their limitations and their opinions placed upon you. Their actions and words are simply a reflection of their worldview and their perception of us.
Perception of us. Did you get that?
When we take something personally, it begins with assuming that the person who spoke knows about our world, our background, our story, our motivation, our hopes and desires, our innermost thoughts and our purpose. And the poison of being offended begins when we entertain their thoughts, think about it, then agree with what they’ve said in starting to defend ourselves or worse still, agree with and start living out this story. — #justagp
The start of an agreement is the moment our pondering begins on the insult, the opinion and the statement — Not taking things personally is much harder than it sounds!
Not taking the putdowns of our speciality begins with the understanding that the person who insults us, demeans General Practice or carries a low opinion of us, is dealing with their own feelings, their own beliefs, their own opinions, their own life experience and programming they have received.
“Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing do with you.
What they say, what they do and the opinions they give are according to to the agreements they have made in their own minds” (The Four Agreements)
Don’t take it personally — it is not about you, it is about them.
If another doctor, community member, health bureaucrat has insulted you or put our speciality down, it is not personal — it is about them.
It has taken me a little while not to be instantly offended but as I created these new neural pathways of processing these slights and unwanted comments, I feel that I am better equipped to walk through the swamp of ridicule and pointless noise with a better framework to process these thoughts.
If we understand that we are enough in ourselves and good enough doctors, not taking the “just a GP” insults personally will make us immune in the midst of great challenge and adversity
Furthermore not taking things personally works for both insults but also praise. Our encouragement needs to begin from within — we need to be our own cheerleaders. I’ve always been wary of patients or other doctors who shower me with praise because using the same tongue they have been quick to criticise and complain about me too — but I am learning it’s not about me, it’s them.
As General Practitioners we need to be self-referenced, that is our value needs to be derived from agreements that we have made about ourselves and not the opinions of others.
If we take the “just a GP” phrase and similar slights against our profession personally, what we are doing is agreeing with these diminutive opinions. But if we understand that it is not about us but rather ill-formed and unqualified opinions from others, it will help immensely in keeping our minds free from garbage and poison.
The neediness of “just” and determining our value as GP’s
“Just” conveys neediness.
It represents a person who is unsure of themselves and requires others for validation, desperate for their approval. This person conveys that they have everything to lose if approval is not given and their expectations are not met.
It may have taken a pandemic to really hit it home for me, but 2020 taught me that I was very valuable and absolutely enough as I turned 40 years old.
What this means for my clinical practice is that I am confident in myself as a GP as I have nothing to prove to anyone and nothing that anyone can take away from me.
When I introduce myself as a General Practitioner it is not up to a patient, specialist colleague, nor the public to provide me with value, but completely up to me to know who I am and what I can offer. It is also up to me to know that I am enough and a good enough doctor.
If a colleague looks down on me or a patient values the opinion of another “more qualified” doctor over mine, it is not my problem, it is not personal and not even about me.
I determine my value and I determine who I give my power away to. If I lose it each time something does not go my way or throw my hands up in disgust when I am underappreciated or talked down to or a political agenda does not fall in my favour, I lose all my power.
I am not a reckless doctor but rather a diligent, creative, honest, passionate and intelligent person who seeks to make a difference — no one can take away your value unless you allow them to.
Power is given away rather than taken.
We don’t need another doctor, patient or family member to validate us, this comes from within, our story, our spiritual connection and the agreements we have made about ourselves.
Perhaps we need to spend a little more time developing a rapport with ourselves, our spirit and what is sacred and significant to us. And also explore those ideas and stories which are holding us back from being fully secure in ourselves, our speciality and what we can offer.
My friend, speaker and life coach Jaemin Frazer says “those who are doing well in life are simply telling a different story”.
What story are you telling?
Because to say that I am #justagp is to diminish myself, to enter the world from a place of neediness and to be unsure of my worth and value and worse still, ascribe this for others to determine.
We determined our value as GP’s.
So with great respect please stop using the #justagp phrase and hashtag and understand that you are not “just” a GP or “just a _____” insert term here.
Be precise in your language for it is the fuel and frame for your thoughts and actions.
You are absolutely enough.
Enjoy your health
Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan