Managing wellbeing whilst being “that guy” by Dr Simon Fleming

Our guest blog this time around is from the rather marvellous Dr Simon Fleming, an amazing surgeon who shares some of his personal thoughts of how he manages his wellbeing amidst a demanding professional career.

Simon is a Trauma and Orthopaedic registrar on the Pott rotation in London. He is also a Past President of the British Orthopaedic Trainees’ Association (BOTA), the Chief Resident for the International Conference in Residency Education (ICRE) for 2017 and 2018, the Vice Chair of the Academy Trainee Doctors’ Group (ATDG) and a Ph.D candidate in Medical Education at Barts and The London Medical School. Simon is passionate about Orthopaedics and achieving excellence in surgical training, he has special interests in hand surgery, and competency attainment decisions.  Simon is heavily involved in mentoring and teaching both undergraduates and postgraduates, which has been recognised with a Surgeon Educator Award from the Royal College of Surgeons (Eng) and the Academic Support Award from Queen Mary University, Barts and The London Medical School.

Simon leads the award winning #HammerItOut campaign which combats bullying, undermining professional practice and harassment in healthcare; Simon has also delivered a TEDx talk and spoken internationally.

Simon undoes all the good work he does in the gym with a love of great food and tries to change the world in his spare time.

Being “that guy” by Dr Simon Fleming

It is always a challenge when asked to write a blog about something that is important to me. Especially when the goal is not to focus on the things I tend to write the most on, that being medical education and the work I do around culture change, the #HammerItOut campaign and the like.

After giving this blog a little thought, I realised that something that is both topical and currently very important to me is wellbeing. So here I am, with a caveat to all who read this, that this is me speaking on wellbeing purely from my own understanding of it. Willing to share that I have enough emotional intelligence to know that I am also bad at it!

For example, over the last few years, I have (entirely through my own choices), had a ton of work on my plate. I am “that guy”. You know who I mean, the one who puts his hand up when volunteers are asked for; I am “that guy” who cannot sit and watch if something is wrong and nobody else is speaking up. For that matter, I also struggle to sit by if I think something is important and that I can do a better job. Because I am “that guy” I am busier than I ever have been, which means I struggle to switch off.

I also admit that have another facet of the “that guy” psyche, which is that I am undeniably my own biggest critic. There is not, nor has there ever been, a criticism levied at me that I haven’t already levied at myself. Though it means I am always striving to be better, it does mean I am nearly incapable of giving myself a break – both because I am always aware that I could have done better and because a lot of the things that are important to me are also much much more important than me.

So we come to the crux of this blog – wellbeing (I don’t like calling it self-care because in my head it always sounds a little like self-love, which to me land somewhere between an awful innuendo and excess ego). What I have realised though is this – if I treat myself now and then, I become better at what I do. This is how I sell “wellness” to my internal critical voice that tells me ‘there is more to be done’, ‘other people are working harder’ and that ‘I don’t deserve it’.

So what do I do when it’s time to tick the wellbeing box? I cook or I eat.

My favourite quote from Marco Pierre White, a man who once returned his three Michelin stars saying, “success comes from arrogance, but greatness comes from humility”, is….. “gastronomy is the greatest form of therapy anyone can be exposed to” and with this I entirely agree…..

I love to cook. I love the zen state I get into, picking a recipe, prepping ingredients, music on and running my own show. I love the need to balance consistence with creativity; passion with self-control; that each recipe can be made my own with even the most gentle of changes. Plus, I love cooking for people, as this provides a sense of safety, of giving joy and demonstrates my feelings for someone through an abstract medium.

On occasion, when time and funds allow, I bloody love eating out. It doesn’t have to be fine dining. From a cheeky Nandos, to my favourite Vietnamese café, to the foie-grasiest of restaurants, eating out also makes me happy. Not gonna lie. The amount of a “wellness” break I need will determine how much I spend, in terms of time, money and thought on where to go.

That’s why, after a tough day at the office, I might go for dim sum with my nearest and dearest. There’ll be foodie chat (undeniably) but it’s more about sharing a meal and putting the world to rights. Equally, sometimes, after a really tough day/week/month/year, there’s nothing for it but opening the Michelin app on my phone, or the World’s 50 Greatest Restaurant webpage and picking one. I honestly don’t care what people think, sometimes, my soul just needs really superlative food.

It makes me happy. Which is also a part of being me, and not just being ‘”that guy”. It is also the reason that this blog could not have been written about going to the gym.

Simon Fleming