As students and veterinarians, we are taught to wear what is considered appropriate during work. For example, we know we shouldn’t wear any jewelry in the O.R. or make up, especially lipstick, for hygienic reasons and because of the amount of hours we’re going to be in there with our masks on. But, what happens when you are simply going to class on a normal day? Or when you do work at a hospital and don’t really need to be in the O.R.?
Every day millions of women find themselves in predicaments confronting the quality of their appearance and makeup even though this may seem like it’s not an issue I know there are women who are professional healthcare workers who have no doubt encountered this.
I’ve always been a girly girl who loves to get ready, whatever the occasion may be. You know, throw on a cute outfit and wear makeup. But unfortunately, while in vet school, I encountered a lot of stigma and advice on how a veterinarian “should” look like on a daily basis. Some people have come up with a “stereotype” of what a vet student should look like. Usually, they picture a person wearing rodeo boots, boot cut jeans, and no makeup.
People used to say I was the “preppy” girl. I always got ask questions like, “What time do you wake up to get ready?” and, “Don’t you get tired of getting ready every single day?” That said, I never got offended by any of the comments or questions because I knew people were not trying to be mean. They were just curious. I mean after all, I was the only one wearing a pink outfit with matching lipstick and curled hair on a regular day of school.
I guess when this really started to bother me, was when people started to doubt my potential as a student because of the way I looked. I know I don’t wear rodeo boots or boot cut jeans, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to work with horses. There was even this one class where the Doctor used to call me “the model.” This wasn’t a compliment, but more like a way to make fun of me. The minute I entered the classroom he would ask me, “Why are you dressing like that? Why don’t you dress like a veterinarian? You do know that real doctors don’t wear makeup right?” I used to brush these comments off with a laugh and not care, until his stigma started to mess with my education.
One time, we went to a ranch to learn about palpation. Every single one of my classmates where palpating cows, then my turn came around and the Doctor didn’t want me to try because he thought I didn’t want to get dirty and mess up my hair. He eventually ended up letting me try after I explained to him I actually didn’t care at all about getting dirty. Stuff like that happened to me on the daily during vet school. People thought I couldn’t do surgery on a horse or I was just in vet school for the dogs. The funny thing is now, as a veterinarian, I have done more surgeries on horses than on dogs and have spent more time at ranches and farms than at a clinic.
To be clear, most of my teachers were not like that, it was just one. But stuff like this shouldn’t happen to anyone, doesn’t matter what you look like and it doesn’t matter if it’s just one person making the comment.
I’m sharing these stories to break the stigma and show that not all veterinarians are the same. Our outfits and makeup shouldn’t define our capability of doing something or not, if we´re good students or not, or if we’re good Doctors or not. People can get caught on this stigma where vets shouldn’t wear makeup because maybe they think the less makeup we wear, the more professional we look. This could be the reason most people still have this idea that “looking pretty and being smart” don’t go together. I’m letting my work to speak louder than the comments, louder than the stigma. I’m letting my work to prove them wrong and prove myself right. Always be yourself, don’t let anything change the way you are.
The positive thing I took from this is that I never once thought about changing myself. Not going to lie, there were times I did doubt myself a bit and thought maybe the comments of that one doctor were true that I wasn’t going to be a good veterinarian. My negative mindset changed when another doctor that I was working with kept complimenting my work and telling me what I was doing was great. That’s when I realized I was doing just fine as a vet student. Later on, I even had the opportunity to get a double degree in two countries because this person believed in me when I thought no one did.
We shouldn’t need anyone’s validation to feel good or to believe in ourselves, but everyone needs some encouragement. I’m telling you right now, that you are great and you can do it. We’re all unique and that’s what makes us wonderful and we’re all going to be great doctors no matter how we dress, I promise you.
This is why the comments of others shouldn’t phase us, their opinions are their problem not ours. We know what we’re capable of and as people who are in the healthcare area we know that we still have a lot left to learn but that is what’s awesome about our profession we get the chance to grow every day, the chance to become better veterinarians, the chance to know what really matters, that other people’s opinions really don’t matter at all, that we’re smart and can do anything so I hope this gives you the encouragement to start or even continue believing in yourself, that you shouldn’t change at all the way you are, and that you should go ahead and dress however you want and wear the makeup you want. You like how that red lipstick looks on you? Wear it. You prefer the nude lipstick look? That’s fine too! Just don’t change yourself to meet anyone’s expectations, you’re perfect being you.