So one of the prompts in the December Reflections 2018 was about the biggest challenge I’ve faced this year, and to be completely honest after about 5 years of stretching myself with learning new skills (Integrated Myofascial Therapy Diploma and Yoga teacher training) I decided to not do much new learning (challenging the little grey cells) this year.  This actually turned out to be far harder than I thought, and was highlighted and helped by going off piste and doing a one day wildlife photography course

So not having any learning experiences to challenge me, I had other things to face, and the biggest challenge has been much more personal. For most of this year I’ve been suffering from storms of doubting thoughts that have washed away any self confidence I have in my abilities as a Myofascial Therapist, Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist, Yoga teacher and as a person that anyone would want to be friends with.  

Thankfully my long suffering Significant Other (SO) has patiently put up with a deluge of messages from me about overwhelming anxiety, feelings of fear and doubt that have assailed me throughout the year, seemingly at random.  I even knew what it was called (Imposter Syndrome), as these feelings have always been something that I contend with, but this year they seemed even louder than normal.  I knew about Imposter Syndrome because I was given an article by a good friend (and d*mned if I can find it again) about it, and it described so much of what goes through my mind. 

Imposter Syndrome is a name for the psychological pattern of doubting your accomplishments and achievements, thinking that you are a fraud or will be exposed as one (despite any evidence to the contrary) and that any achievements you make are not deserved.  This is something that has plagued me for many years.  I know that I am not alone in this, as there have a been a number of articles in the news about it, like this one from the BBC, and Michelle Obama has also said she suffers from it (nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this.)

It strikes me worst when I’m left to my own thought for any length of time, like when I’m walking to work, a client cancels at short notice and no one books in, or when I’m waiting for my yoga class to start.  Then when I am actually on the spot and need to be professional it seems to disappear, though occasionally I hear a little voice saying “why do you think you’re any good”.  It can also strike when I’m helping out at the Myofascial Release Courses as an assistant and I am answering questions from bodyworkers (Massage therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, physios) who’ve been training and practicing for years.

So how have I gotten through it?  Have I gotten over it?  

I’m not sure that I will ever get over it, and I’m not sure I should: it can be a sign that we know that there is more for us to learn.  So Imposter Syndrome means I know I don’t know anything and that I  have the desire to learn more (and not assume I do know everything). With regards to the human body, I really do think that the more I learn the more there is for me to learn.  Anatomists and medics are still discovering things about the human body, so why on earth would I think that I would learn everything in the last 9 years.  It does give my brain the comfort that there will be many more books, course and opportunities to learn.

I am also comforted that this feeling of being a fraud affects people who are at the top of the game, the people that I look up to and people who have been studying for decades.  In fact the best people are always feeling that they need to know more, that those who don’t feel like this are the ones to be slightly careful of, as they aren’t still growing.  I was comforted by the sheer number of people who commented that they feel the same, again some of who said that surprised me.  They were also comforted by the fact that I had given them a name for something that they suffered from and realising they weren’t alone.

However, there are somethings that have definitely helped:

  1. Noticing what it is that I’m worrying about, is it something that I can find out about?  Is there someone who can point me in the right direction.
  2. Keeping up to date with reading around my subjects: blogs, magazine articles, journals and following academics on social media.
  3. Reminding myself of my boundaries in working with people: I’m not a Chiropractor, nor a counsellor.  They are not my areas of expertise, but I know people I can refer onto .
  4. Looking at my skills and seeing if there is an area that could do with supporting, and looking at ways to improve that area.
  5. Just getting on and working, I know that when I am with a class or with clients the fears evaporate as I suddenly realise I know so much.

One other thing that has happened since I started to write this post was I had opportunities to be given a massage by someone who has just qualified, and to attend a yoga class taught by a trainee yoga teacher.  Both of these situations (both unexpectedly thrust upon me) gave me the chance to see that I have come a long way since I was at the same stage in my journey.  So sometimes looking back to just see how far I have come is important, and realising that I have travelled a long way down the path, and there is still further for me to travel and sights to see.

The BBC article mentioned above says that there are four things we can do to help ourselves:

  • to talk about it, which is what I have been doing.
  • to recognise our successes, which I have had the chance to be reminded about.
  • Remember I’m not perfect, this feels counter-intuitive: this is part of my thought process… but there are opportunities to learn and improve.
  • Stop comparing myself to others

That last one feels like it is increasingly hard, what with the way that Social Media seemingly portrays others perfect lives.  It is difficult to see through what might be carefully crafted online persona, designed to sell themselves.   These can be very professionally done, and I find it very difficult to see myself ever doing that, and I’m not sure I want to.  I am considering having a cull of my feeds to remove people who make me feel less than I actually am, but I need to balance that with working out where i want to be heading.

The best I can do is do my best and remind myself that I am a work in progress, and that there is plenty of things for me to do.  I also need to remind myself that my clinic diaries are full because I am good at what I do, and that friends like to spend time with me because I’m worth spending time with.

Thanks for reading this my lovely Interonauts.  I hope that this view into my mind has been helpful, and that it might help even just one of you out there.