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How Vets Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome



Ever felt like you’re not good enough? Or that you’ve duped your boss into giving you a job?

Imposter Syndrome is a pervasive and frustrating condition. It can hinder growth, cause anxiety, and stunt both our personal and professional lives.


But how can veterinary professionals overcome it? In this article, we explore how to manage and beat career imposterism.


But First, What Is Imposter Syndrome?

‘Imposter Syndrome is that feeling that you’re a fraud, or that somehow, you’ve gotten this far based on either your looks, chance or that you’ve been able to fool people all this whole time’ says Professor Lori Kogan, a licensed psychologist at Colorado State University. 


‘It’s that fear of the discrepancy between how people may see themselves and how others may see them’.


Imposter syndrome is extremely common. In fact, according to research, up to 82% of the population may experience it at least once in their life [1].


How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

1. Be Objective

With Imposter Syndrome, it can be easy to get caught up in an internal narrative that isn’t reflective of reality. 


So when you experience intrusive thoughts, instead of letting yourself get carried away by them, look at what’s really going on around you.


If you’re telling yourself you’re not good enough for the promotion, ask- is there any evidence to support this? Or is this feeling reflective of something else? 


Just because you think something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. So be objective, and you’ll gain a clearer perspective on what’s going on.


2. Stop Comparing

‘There’s a lot of factors within our environment that foster insecurity, and I think social media is one of them’ says Prof. Kogan. ‘It creates this idea that everyone else’s life is so glamorous and fantastic, and yours isn’t’.


This interconnectedness can really heighten feelings of Imposter Syndrome. A good way to tackle this, therefore, is to disconnect from social media and reconnect with the ‘real’ people around you. 


Oftentimes, the ‘perfect’ people that we compare ourselves to have their own problems too- and this realization can be liberating.


3. Practice Makes Progress

The more you try at something the better you will get – this is a universal truism. Do not let a fear of failure, or looking silly put you off attempting to improve your skills. Such things are a normal part of learning complex or challenging things.


Adopting a mantra of ‘Practice Makes Progress’ over the less helpful ‘Practice Makes Perfect’, will go a long way to opening your mind to growth.


4. Familiarize Yourself With the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Did you know that the smarter you are, the more likely you are to experience Imposter Syndrome [2]? 

The Dunning-Kruger effect, as it is known, is a type of cognitive bias where incompetent people vastly overestimate their abilities. Whereas incredibly competent people tend to do the opposite and underestimate.


This is because ‘low-experienced people’ do not have a full enough understanding of a subject to be aware of their own knowledge deficiencies. Whereas those who have acquired vast experience come to understand exactly how much they still have to learn [3]. 


So if you’re thinking that you’re an Imposter, then it may be a sign that you have a huge amount of knowledge and you’re actually more likely a rockstar than an imposter!


This knowledge, though hugely ironic, might help you to silence those inner critics.  Telling which camp you fit into is likely to be partly reviewing the results of your work and partly linked to how long you’ve been doing something.


5. Talk To Someone

When people feel like impostors, they often get caught up in their own head. Talking and connecting with family, friends, or even colleagues, therefore, can help reality-check people with a warped sense of self.


If imposterism is affecting your work then speaking with a therapist or counsellor can make a huge difference. Working with a coach can assist too.


Beating Your Inner Imposter

Imposter Syndrome can really knock your confidence. But it’s good to remember that most people experience this feeling at some stage during their career- no matter their ability or competence. 


‘If you have these feelings, guess what- you are not alone. Almost everyone you work with has those feelings too’ says Prof. Kogan. 


Many people who are incompetent at their jobs do not tend to have the self-awareness to recognize this. So the fact that this is concerning you is probably evidence enough that you’re far from being lost cause. 


Just keep at it, and as you develop personally and professionally, make sure to record your progress, check in with your mentors, and with time, these feelings should subside. 


If you enjoyed this article, you should check out our twelve-module, 'So You're a Vet, Now What?' course to help build a sustainable and successful career in veterinary medicine:


References

1 -  ‘Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome – NCBI.’ 17 Dec. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7174434/. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.

2 - ‘A Psychologist Explains How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome.’ 24 Feb. 2021, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/a-psychologist-explains-how-to-deal-with-imposter-syndrome/. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.

3 -  ‘An Overview of the Dunning-Kruger Effect – Verywell Mind.’ 6 Aug. 2021, https://www.verywellmind.com/an-overview-of-the-dunning-kruger-effect-4160740. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.


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