The Type A Problem

Nice to meet you. Tell me about yourself.

“Well, I am inherently high stress, anxious, and competitive. In fact, competition makes me even more stressed and anxious. I have to have my way and I think I know best, even though I often feel that I am not good enough. How about you, what are your hobbies?”

Is this what you would say to someone? That might get you a weird look. Still, is there some truth to the statement?

Dr. Andy Roark recently posted a video that made went viral lamenting the loss of another person and veterinarian to suicide. He shared what many in the field feel: the same characteristics that make veterinarians hard working and successful, a personality often called “Type A”, also causes veterinarians undue stress, feelings of inadequacy, and self-hate.

You may feel you relate to this feeling, but I have some questions for you. Is being Typa A a part of you? Is that who you are? Would you be a worse veterinarian or veterinary student if you no longer stressed over every minutia? Would you no longer be yourself if you gave up some control and stress?


In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other. -John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

I propose that it is both possible and better to give up your Type A tendencies. It is not truly a part of your identity, but something you learned along the way that helped you get good grades to get into veterinary school. Having a Type A personality is a bit like being Bruce Banner (aka the Incredible Hulk, aka the not-so-jolly green giant). It certainly lets you accomplish some things you otherwise might not, but you cannot control it. Ironically, you must give up your need for control in order to regain control.

How would you do this? To be honest, this is why people talk with counselors and therapists. They help people examine their own thoughts in an objective way. This is sometimes difficult for people with Type A personalities to do. They think they are always right. They don’t need to listen to anyone help them find out otherwise!

It is ok to be wrong (something else a good friend or counselor can help you understand), especially when it comes to the idea that being Type A is “just who you are”.

The question underneath this all is “Where do you find your identity?”

Last year, Dr. Andy Roark (that man is on a roll!) wrote an article about how veterinary medicine and family (the classic “work” and “life” of “work/life balance” fame) are not enough. There is more to your identity than that. I wrote a follow-up article on this blog discussing his idea further.

I strongly believe you are more than a personality type from a psychology textbook, and there is more for you if you are willing to give it up.

Thought of the Week:
What is your identity?

Type A neurotic veterinary student
Type A- high functioning neurotic veterinary student
please, I know who I am
??? (post in comments)


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