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10 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

After 16 whole seasons of love, sadness, anger (lots of those last two thanks to Shonda’s killing spree), and every other emotion in the book, it’s fair to say that there’s also been a whole lot of wisdom, too. When I first started this show, I expected it to be like any other; fun, entertaining, and with good eye-candy. But much to my surprise, I’ve learned some of my biggest life lessons through the doctors that have roamed the halls of Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. If you haven’t watched Grey’s Anatomy – or if it’s been a while and you need a refresher – here are my top 10 pieces of insightful wisdom that the show has imparted over the last 15 years.

Your past doesn’t define you

So many of these characters have difficult pasts, whether it was Alex’s messed up family, Jo’s tough life in the foster system or Meredith’s strained relationship with her parents, it’s safe to say our favorite doctors have been through the wringer.

But look at where they’ve ended up in spite of all of that! They’ve excelled in their fields, reached the top of their game, and achieved success, proving that your past doesn’t define you, nor does it set the track for the rest of your life – only you are responsible for creating your future.

Blood doesn’t make you a family – love does

If there’s one thing the relationships on this show have taught us, it’s that your blood doesn’t ecessarily make you a family, and your family don’t necessarily share your blood. Despite having no blood relation, Richard has been more of a father to Meredith than Thatcher ever was, Amelia and Maggie have a sisterly bond that runs deep, and Alex was the perfect uncle to Meredith’s kids.

Life is too short to not say the things you feel

The plane crash is always a tough episode to remember for most Grey’s fans, but out of the many horrible things that happened in that episode, the biggest lesson I took away was that life is too short to not do the things you want to do, say the things you want to say, and to be with the person you love.

I would’ve killed (no pun intended) to see Mark and Lexie get their happily ever after, but instead we got to watch them profess their undying (again, no pun intended) love for each other while Lexie took her last breaths, left with a void in our hearts where they should’ve been.

Don’t make the same mistakes they did – if you know you love someone, tell them.

Stay true to yourself and your beliefs

While April was slightly annoying, to say the least, her ability to stay true to herself was more than admirable. While others may not have understood April’s steadfast belief and commitment to being a good Catholic, she didn’t let that damper her spirits, nor make her ashamed of her faith. April was a proud Catholic, and she was the perfect example of how one should stay true to themselves and what they believe in, even if the world doesn’t get it.

Women are strong, and they can achieve anything they put their minds to

It’s been all sorts of refreshing watching the women of Grey’s kill it on-screen. Although I definitely don’t want to be a surgeon, watching these brilliant women make huge strides in their careers gave me the motivation to do the same; to never settle, to ask for my worth — or rather demand it – and to always believe that I can do it. 

Bailey was the first female Chief of Surgery Grey-Sloan had, Meredith was one of the few prestigious female surgeons to win a Harper Avery award, and Cristina flew across the world to work in a hospital in Switzerland to further her career. Talk about a group of badass women!

Don’t fight growth – embrace it

Growth can be a scary thing, but look at Alex! Ask any Grey’s fan who had the best character development, and they’ll tell you without hesitation that it was Alex. He grew from one of the most – if not the most – hated characters on the show to the fan-favorite.

So much so, in fact, that Alex’s departure had fans in utter turmoil. Alex represents hope for those who think all is lost — there’s always time to change, to be better, and to do better, as long as you can learn to embrace the journey.

People can surprise you, if you give them a chance

Addison couldn’t imagine Mark being a father, but he made a great one! He loved Sophia with every fiber of his being, and the idea of family was always so important to him. I guess as cliche as it is, the saying is true: Never judge a book by its cover.

So don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t think you know how someone feels based on how they act, and most importantly, give them a chance — they might prove to be worth it.

Never apologize for being who you are

Callie was a powerful, successful woman who never took anyone’s crap, including her father’s. When Callie’s dad was unaccepting of her sexual orientation, regardless of how hurt she was, she made no apologies for being who she was. You don’t ever need to apologize for being yourself – nobody should make you feel badly for who you fundamentally are.

If you fail, try again

Failure is normal, but accepting it isn’t. George failed his intern exam, and while it was an embarrassing situation that would have led most people to drop out or transfer, George didn’t give up in the slightest. He studied harder, got help from his friends, and made sure he came back ready to crush that exam and move forward with his life.

It’s easy to give up when things get hard or, worse, when they get embarrassing — but much like George, we have to persevere, and know that failing doesn’t mean it’s over. It just means you have to try again.

You are the sun

Possibly my favorite lesson from this show was when Cristina reminded Meredith, “He’s very dreamy but he’s not the sun — you are.”

And that’s all you need to remember. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone or how important they are to you, because your self-worth, your abilities, and who you are as a person has nothing to do with them. Always remember your worth, and love yourself before giving all your love to others. If your needs aren’t being met or you don’t feel appreciated, it’s okay to put yourself first and make a decision that serves you best — even if it might mean hurting someone you love.

Zainab is a 4th-year journalism student from Dubai, UAE who is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at Ryerson. When she's not taking photos for her Instagram or petting dogs on the street, she's probably watching a rom-com on Netflix or journaling! Zainab loves The Bold Type and would love to work for a magazine in New York City someday! Zainab is a feminist and fierce advocate against social injustice - she hopes to use her platform and writing to create change in the world, one article at a time.