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I’m not as smart as them.

My skills are not good enough.

I can’t lead the team.

They all know more than me.

They are better at it than me.

I don’t deserve it, I can’t do it, I won’t be successful and I will fail.

These thoughts are you enemy. These thoughts are the villain known as imposter syndrome.

Everyone has this villain in them. Myself, included. Writing my first book, “Oops, I Became a Manager” I almost tossed in the towel at least two dozen times. Who was I to think I could write a book on leadership? I have never been a practice manager. I’ve “only” managed veterinary technician teams. I’m an imposter, phony and fraud.

But none of that is true. I have a Master’s degree in management and leadership, taken countless online leadership courses and read so many books on management I’ve lost count. I have successful managed many veterinary teams. I have taught workshops and lectured on team development over the past decade. I’m not an imposter, but I felt like I was.

What Is It?

Impostor syndrome (IS) refers to an individual believing that they are not as competent as others may perceive them to be. Ultimately IS is linked to the individual’s perception of how society views them. Imposter syndrome affects every person on the planet no matter their social status, work background, skill level, education or expertise. In the 1970s when IS was first termed it was originally thought to only apply to successful career women. Now it is known that everyone, regardless of sex, suffers from IS. One study estimated that 7 in 10 adults experience IS at some point in their life.

Imposter Syndrome Results In

  • Self-doubt

  • Attributing your success to external factors

  • Never allowing yourself to celebrate your wins

  • Fear that you won't live up to expectations

  • Overachieving

  • Sabotaging your own success

  • Anxiety due to a fear of failing

  • Depression because of a perceived failure

Identification is Key

  • Do you agonize over any mistake? Big or small?

  • Do you feel you’ve never earned anything on your own?

  • Do you feel like you will eventually be seen as a phony or fraud?

  • Do you downplay your own expertise? Are you embarrassed when someone says “great job” to you?

  • Do you feel you are undeserving of success?

  • Do you fail to pursue promotions or opportunities because you feel you aren’t good enough?

Recognizing you are experiencing from IS is the first step to you taking steps to creating a better outlook about yourself

Steps to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Separate Feelings from Facts: Chances are you’ll feel the imposter syndrome villain at some point in your life. When you start with the self-doubting thoughts, stop. Peel your feelings away and stick to the facts.

  • Someone honored you with a promotion because they felt you were the best candidate and deserving. Therefore, you deserve it.

  • · You’ve done the procedure more than fifty times. Just because someone you perceive to be smarter than you is now watching you does not matter. You know how to do it. You are just as smart as them.

  • · You made one mistake. It hurts and will haunt you, but it does not define your career. You were successful a million more times. You are still amazing at your career because that one mistake does not define you.

  • · A client questioned your knowledge because you are “just a tech.” You know the answer to the question they asked. Don’t second guess yourself. Explain you are a trained medical professional and provide them the information they are seeking.

Learn to Praise Yourself: Stop with the constant self-defeating thoughts. Instead, celebrate your wins. I dare you to put yourself out there and ask others to join in and celebrate with you. It’s an uncomfortable space to be in. I once won a “Speaker of the Year” award. I only told three people. My work found out when they read about the award online. When they asked me why I didn’t inform them my reply was “it’s not a big deal,” but it actually was. I didn’t want to be seen as a bragger and I struggled with “was I actually deserving of the award.” Saying that I deserved the award was and still is uncomfortable.

Stop Comparing: Focus on own achievements instead of holding them up against others’. With social media and news available around the clock it can easily seem that everyone is more successful than you. Are you happy with your success? If you are not, is it because you feel like you should be “more” because of others. Ask yourself, “what do I want for myself?” That should be your goal.

Talk to Others: Chat with a friend or colleague and ask them to provide you feedback in the area you are struggling with. They will likely cause you to realize that your imposter feelings are irrational and unfounded. They will say amazing supportive statements like, “You’re amazing. I can’t believe you think you’re not as good as XYZ. Just stop talking this way because you are as good as you think you are.”

Talk to a Therapist: A therapist can help you recognize feelings associated with imposter syndrome and provide you tools to help you move past them. We all have self-defeating thoughts from time to time, but it your thoughts are all consuming, you find yourself depressed, anxious or fearful talking to a professional can help.

Refuse to Let the Villain Hold You Back: No matter how much you feel like you are a phony, don't let that stop you from pursuing your goals. Recently I listened to a veterinary technician give her first presentation. She was very good and the subject was interesting. I recommended to her that she submit a proposal for an article in a national veterinary journal. She replied that she would think about it, but she felt like she didn’t have the experience or talent to write a peer-reviewed journal article on the subject. My reply was, “You do. You got this. Stop doubting yourself.” Don’t let the villain hold you back from pursuing a goal, new path or a challenge. You got this.

Develop a Mantra: Don’t tell me it’s silly. You have given enough pep talks to others. Do it for yourself. Some of the most famous and successful individuals in the world have mantras they say for certain events or even every day. Talk to yourself and boost yourself up. When you are feeling like an imposter, stop and say, “I got this. I am enough. I am good at this.” As corny as it sounds I find peace in nature and you can often find me trail running in the woods with my dogs. When I’m faced with a challenge I think I may fail at I repeat “I got this. I can do this” over and over while I run my nervous energy off in the woods. Develop a mantra that works for you and give yourself a pep talk when you need one.

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1 Comment

Julie Kerr
Julie Kerr
Mar 29, 2021

Enjoyed this Amy. I’m currently making a big change in my career, including a lot of things I’ve never done before and it’s super helpful to know that its normal to self doubt and also some great tips to help me calm my brain.

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