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Imposter Syndrome - Most Veterinarians Suffer From It. Now What?

Posted by Andrea Dover on Nov 9, 2018 10:13:56 AM

One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to go to veterinary schools and talk to students from all walks of life.  

Part of this talk is an interactive anonymous poll that asks “Y/N: Sometimes I feel inadequate and incompetent, despite evidence that indicates I'm actually smart and successful at things I put my mind to.”  

You can probably guess that at every school an average of 98% of respondents chose Yes. (And I kinda don’t believe the other 2%--maybe their finger slipped or something).

Personally, this is also something I have struggled with throughout all stages of my career—from vet school to ER/CC to industry to teaching and beyond. When I first heard whispers of Imposter Syndrome over a decade ago, I was shocked that my dirty little secret may not be just mine alone.

My own personal story

Awhile back, I was preparing for a performance review where I hadn’t gotten much feedback. The objective criteria was all there—I was doing a great job. I had exceeded all performance goals that were set when I was hired.

Despite concrete proof, I still had feelings of self-doubt. So, I turned to my big sister who is my hero and my guru for anything business-related. She has reached the pinnacle of success in the uber competitive tech industry.

I asked her, “What is wrong with me? Why do I continue to doubt myself and my abilities when I have this evidence staring me in the face?!? How old do I have to be before I can believe in myself?” When she shared that she, too, experienced this…well, it just rocked my world. If Jami suffers from Imposter Syndrome, no one is immune.


Until we take action, it’s not going away

Nowadays the term Imposter Syndrome is part of our everyday lexicon. We hear it all the time to the point where it’s almost overused and not taken seriously. I can say with certainty it is alive and well in the veterinary community.

Here’s a start:

1.  Name It.  When you shine a light on it and see it for what it is, you take away its power. When you take a moment to say, “Oh hey Imposter Syndrome…not gonna play today”…it seems far less intimidating.

2.  Listen to your self-talk. It's no secret we are our harshest critic.  If you take a step back and listen to how you talk to yourself, it's heart-breaking.  Would you talk to a loved-one or a dear friend that way? The words “I am” are very powerful. Your subconscious believes whatever comes after that. So, a harmless, “I am such an idiot” isn’t quite so harmless after all.  Here's an interesting study to consider from the University of Michigan.

3.  Talk to yourself in 3rd person during times of negativity and stress. New research has come out that shows it helps you control emotions and diffuses stress. It helps to create some psychological distance. “Andrea, you got this!” Check out this study from 

4.  Own it. Hey, if you got into vet school…clearly, you’re smart enough! They wouldn’t have let you in if they didn’t think you could cut it.

5.   Postural Feedback. This is the updated version of power posing from Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. The gist of it is, how we hold our bodies directly affects how we feel about ourselves.  Here’s the latest research from Amy Cuddy. 

6.   Build your tribe.  Because sometimes you need a cheerleader.  And equally as important, sometimes you need to BE one.

Do you believe you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? How do you tackle it? Let us know in the comments.

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Topics: Imposter Syndrome

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