053: Combatting Imposter Syndrome



Ronda Nelson: Well, hello, friend. Welcome to The Clinical Entrepreneur podcast. My name is Ronda Nelson and I want to talk to you about imposter syndrome. I know it well because I had it, but I am going to say it’s a lot better than it used to be. I think if you were being really honest, you probably would say you have it, too. I’m going to reframe imposter syndrome for you in a way that should help you when you get to that place where you’re thinking you’re the wrong person for the job.


The truth is that we’ve all had imposter syndrome, every single one of us. It sounds like a disease, which I don’t like so we’re going to rename it here in a minute. But every single human, I believe, has it at one time. It’s a state of mind in the way that we think and believe about ourselves. How often that imposter-ness shows up has to do with early influences in our lives and life experiences, like who we’re in a relationship with, all of that stuff. It comes down to an underlying belief, but beliefs can be changed.


It’s a belief that you are undeserving of your achievements or the high esteem that people place on you. As that translates into clinical practice, it might be that you feel like you’re not competent enough or you’re not as smart as they think you are. It’s like you’re living in your life, but you feel like an imposter that’s sort of living in someone else’s life. Behind the scenes, your brain is working hard to keep you safe, safe from something that feels scary or feels unsure. Especially when we’re perfectionists or very self-efficient, we want to look like we have it all together all the time, and this imposter syndrome thing can show up a lot more in that kind of headspace.


Why do we worry about this so much? We worry because we don’t want to do something wrong or we don’t want to make the wrong recommendation. Here’s what I propose. Instead of calling this imposter syndrome, my suggestion is that we call it the internal saboteur, the internal voice that just wants to sabotage us. That doesn’t seem quite as scary to me as imposter syndrome because I don’t have any syndromes, but I do recognize the voice of that internal saboteur. Sometimes you might think, “I’m really just not good enough to charge for what I do.” For those of you that know you’re charging less than what you need to, my friend, that is probably your internal saboteur sabotaging you and telling you that you aren’t worth it. If you discount your ability, you discount what you’re worth, that’s likely the conversation of that internal saboteur. Another common thing I hear is that I’m not the expert yet. 


I knew that I had a gift of being able to help people and seeing through their clinical issues to get to the bottom of what was wrong. It’s like my superpower, but I never felt like I knew enough. The good thing is that when you recognize this internal saboteur voice, it is a sign of humility because it reminds us that even though we don’t know everything, we do have an opinion and a voice and we want to contribute. My opinion is my opinion, and the way that I do things is the way that I do things. There’s this space in the middle where we want to acknowledge that maybe what you and I do, it’s just different. That’s okay. It’s natural to question your relevance, but as long as you air on that side of humility rather than airing over on the dark side that is all doom and gloom. Sometimes, I’ve found that when I start feeling that internal saboteur voice or that emotion starts to come up, I stop for a minute and I pause. I consider, okay, what else might be going on? Am I hungry or do I need to take a nap? Am I sleep-deprived? Did I just have a bad interaction with a patient that has kind of got me sideways on the road here? Do I need to do something different? Maybe I just need to wait.


I say that really at the end of the day, whether you want to call it imposter syndrome or the internal saboteur, I do think that it’s a good thing because when it shows up, there are a few things you want to remind yourself of. There are three things. First of all, you, my friend, are doing what you’re doing. You’re here for a reason because someone put you there. When you change the conversation from, “I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, I don’t know enough” to “I deserve to be here. I have people that come in and they trust what I have to say. Therefore, I am not going to listen to that voice because I am here for a reason. My patients put me here and my passion put me here. There are examples of people who have done way more with less than I have.” Absolutely, I have a right to be here and doing what I’m doing and speaking my truth about what I believe.


Another thing to think about is to ask yourself the question, “If it’s not me who’s going to be doing it, who else is going to do it?” For those of us in the alternative wellness-type space, there’s a lot of room for us to come out with and say this isn’t how it works. That’s where we have to come clear and be honest with ourselves about what we believe. Are you going to sit back and keep your opinion to yourself and never share it? Sometimes, we have to make a little mental reminder that we’re here for a reason. Remind yourself, lastly, that you have a job to do. Your job as a clinician, in my opinion, is to provide direction and help for the people around you, whether they’re patients, colleagues, community members, your family. Families are the worst, generally speaking, but you have a job to do. You went to school, you got educated, you paid money, and you spent time. This is your job, and your skills and training give you every right to have an opinion, but when you feel like an imposter, this is the thing that will flip you around faster than anything.


We are always comparing ourselves, but we tend to compare ourselves with people that are ahead of us, not behind us. If you compared yourself right now with what you knew when you first got out of school or when you first opened your practice, have you grown? Of course, you have. You’ve learned a lot. You’ve changed. You’ve had some life experience. You’ve dealt with people. You’re a different person now, but the dumb part is, is that when we get in this imposter syndrome, internal saboteur cycle, we’re always looking at someone else that’s further down the road and saying, “I’m never going to be like that.” Well, not with that attitude. Give yourself some grace, be kind to yourself. Love yourself, because you are exactly where you need to be right now.


Don’t compare, just make a shift in your mindset. Think about the people behind you that you’ve influenced and think about the opportunity that you have moving forward to continue to influence because you’re on a journey. It’s our responsibility to help the people that are in front of us and the people that are behind us to bring them forward. If you can exert that kind of influence on someone in your space, like maybe a colleague or a new grad, wouldn’t that be an awesome thing to do? Take someone in as an intern and teach them, pour into them. That makes that imposter syndrome, internal saboteur, get quiet real fast because what you’re doing is focusing on what you love. You’re sharing your knowledge with someone as you’re helping bring them up. You’re not worried about what they know or don’t know. You’re sharing yourself. You’re being you. Keep applying yourself, keep learning, and you keep giving. Look at the people ahead of you that you need to serve. Remember why you chose your profession? Why are you so passionate about what you do? I would say it’s time for you to turn off your judgment switch because that’s what you’ve got going on, friend. You’ve got to turn off the judgment switch and focus on the people you serve, not on you. 


This imposter syndrome or internal saboteur voice is a belief system. It’s a foundation of beliefs that can be changed. If you think that you are not good enough, I’m afraid you’re wrong. I believe in you and I see you. I know you are working hard to try and grow your practice and serve your people better. I know it’s a struggle sometimes. I get it, but it’s all about a shift in your mindset. When you make that mindset shift, you’re going to focus on your strengths rather than your flaws, because we all have them. If you don’t know everything, it’s okay. Just keep learning. That’s why you get in a community with people. That’s why you joined Clinical Academy or why you’re in a social media group. Brush up on your skills and keep learning. If you’re a perfectionist, learn how to stop when the task is good enough. When you need help, ask for it. It’s not a sign of weakness. If anything, it’s a sign of strength because you recognize that you don’t know it all and you want someone to help you so that you can be better about serving your people, taking care of yourself, and growing your practice. As long as you are just a few steps ahead of where the other person is, that, my friend, makes you the expert.


This has been weighing on my heart for a while because I hear it often when I’m coaching practitioners. It makes me so sad because I want to say, no, you’re not an imposter. That internal saboteur voice is trying to rip you off from having a life that you love, the income that you deserve, and the freedom that you desire. That’s what your internal voice wants to steal and I’m here to not let that happen.


As I wrap up, remember, it’s a belief, it’s a mindset, and you are not an imposter. You are exactly where you need to be in your practice. Your skills are exactly where they need to be. What you choose to do as you move forward is only going to help move the football down the field towards the end zone. You’re going to keep on moving until you make that touchdown, but every day you make that choice, you make that choice about moving the football down the field towards the end zone, I know you can do this. I believe in you, and I’m so grateful to have you as part of my community.




Ronda Nelson: If you could, leave a review, because they are game-changers for me. I read every single one of them. I so appreciate your kind words. I appreciate every single one of you. I can’t wait to connect with you, and I’ll talk to you soon.




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