There is a magical moment in time that you will only experience once. You put on a cap and gown and walk across a stage. You begin that walk as an ordinary person, then someone hands you a piece of paper, and you end that walk as a Doctor of Chiropractic. All your dreams and hard work have finally come together.
Your career should be wonderful from now on, but your initial rosy optimism dims as you confront what may become your biggest stumbling block. Imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
You know that you really are a Chiropractor, and that you have the skills to care for your patients effectively, but you become filled with self-doubt. You worry that you will be exposed as incompetent, inept, a fraud. You may become completely paralysed by these feelings.
When you first enter practice, these unexpected feelings can be quite shocking, but please know that every professional, no matter which one they are in, has experienced this. It’s normal. It’s natural. It would be strange if you didn’t go through this stage. If you’re a perfectionist, you will probably be hit hard with imposter syndrome. Remember though, stage is the operative word here; you will move on from this.
Here are some ways to help you get beyond this draining state:
Acknowledge these feelings when they come up
Don’t push them away. Keep a notebook nearby and jot down what you were doing and how you felt. For example, “The new patient crossed her arms, and I suddenly felt she was judging my abilities. I felt like she knew I was a fraud.”
Then, remind yourself of an occasion when a patient expressed gratitude for your care. The simple act of writing and reflecting can quieten the negative thoughts and make them more manageable.
Talk candidly to other Chiropractors about your self-doubts
Experienced docs will reassure you that this will pass and even tell you how they were affected. New docs will offer solidarity as they are facing the same issues. Either way, you will know that you’re not alone.
View every patient interaction as an opportunity to hone your skills
When I’m working with coaching clients or with our docs at Willow, I get them to take a moment after a new patient consult or report of findings visit to reflect, without any emotion, on how the visit went.
I ask them to write down something positive first. What did you do well in the interaction? For example, “I smiled and met the patient’s eyes”, or “I gave great answers to the patient’s questions.”
Next, I get them to write down what they did not do so well and what they will do to improve in the future. For example, “I got nervous and stuttered when I was explaining the number of visits I recommended. To overcome this, I will ask X for guidance. I will practice saying these words in front of a mirror until they flow easily.”
Having a plan to improve little by little can make all the difference.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Yes, you are a Chiropractor, but no one expects you to be perfect. You have decades ahead of you to hone your skills. All the truly great Chiropractors out there continue to learn throughout their careers. That focus on continual improvement is the hallmark of a true master.
Being forewarned is forearmed. You now know what to expect and have the tools to confront the problem head on. Occasionally, a few people find it difficult to overcome imposter syndrome no matter what they do. If this is the case for you, seek out a professional for guidance.
You can overcome this and get back to enjoying the greatest professions in the world.
- Lynn McAvenia