You’re Pretty Damn Awesome: An Osteopath’s Guide to Imposter Syndrome

Osteopaths often feel like an imposter. You’re not an imposter. You're bloody great. Here's your practical guide to imposter syndrome and what to do about it.
An Osteopath’s Guide to Imposter Syndrome

Osteopath feeling like an imposter? You’re not alone

Do you feel like a fraud? Many osteopaths do. Perhaps you’ve just graduated and believe you’re unable to do as good of a job as another osteopath. Or maybe you’re feeling lost as an osteopath.

If you feel like you’re doing something you don’t feel qualified for, you may have imposter syndrome. Don’t worry, you’re in good company. According to a review article, an estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives. Osteopaths aren’t likely to be any different.

Here’s an osteopath’s guide to imposter syndrome.

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What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is frequently related to our sense of self-worth and who we are as people. Psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance first coined Imposter Syndrome, stating three key attributes:

  1. The fear of being exposed as a cheat or fraud.
  2. Thinking that people have an amplified view of your abilities.
  3. The never-ending feeling to downplay your achievements.

While everyone experiences imposter syndrome slightly differently, other symptoms include:

  • Attributing luck, rather than skills or abilities to your success.
  • Feeling like perfectionism is overbearing your work.
  • Increased levels of procrastination.
  • Disconnection from the people around you.
  • Decreased self-confidence.
  • Sacrificing your own well-being in order to get more work done.
  • Needing to ‘hide’ so no one discovers your “secret”, especially when there’s no proof.

When imposter syndrome shows

While employees in more senior positions are interestingly more likely than average to experience impostor syndrome, imposter syndrome odds also increase when we decide to try something new like a new responsibility at work.

Imposter syndrome appears to be more common when we are going through personal or professional changes or have decided to try something new. Next thing you know, you’re getting feelings of self-doubt, guilt, anxiety and fraudulence, especially if we lack experience.

The pressure to do well often leads to a lack of progress, making frequent and minor mistakes which we obsess over in our minds. Your feelings seem impossible to overcome.

It’s essential for you to get the help you need before imposter syndrome leads to chronic mental health issues and burnout.

What to do about imposter syndrome

Having built two businesses now and worked with dozens of osteopaths to build their businesses, I’ve compiled a few strategies that have helped me and many osteopaths, manage and even overcome the terrible feelings caused by imposter syndrome.

Start acknowledging your accomplishments

Osteopaths suffering from imposter syndrome often downplay their achievements.

If you’re anything like some of the amazing osteopaths I’ve worked with, we’re incredibly humble people. I always hear osteopaths say that their success, no matter how big or little, is just “good timing”, “lucky” or “a twist of fate”.

Of course, being humble is important, but Dr. Valerie Young, one of the world’s leading experts on imposter syndrome, says it’s even more important to acknowledge and celebrate our accomplishments and abilities.

So, the next time you get that feeling of self-doubt, remember how far you’ve come and always take a couple of seconds to give yourself a mental pat on the back.

Face the facts, reflect and share

The best way to fight impostor syndrome is to separate your feelings from the facts. It’s common in Stoic philosophy to combat any feelings of anxiety with extreme rationale and bury feelings of self-doubt in facts. So as soon as you feel those imposter feelings, refer back to the facts. What really happened? What was actually said?

Pair that idea with acknowledging your accomplishments, and you’ve got a practical way to combat imposter syndrome.

Enter confidence coach, Tiwalola Ogunlesi, who says that we must track our monthly wins by breaking a spreadsheet of each day in your diary into two columns:

  1. Type of win (big or small)
  2. Descriptions (what actions you completed)

Then reflect by asking yourself:

  • “What have I done that makes me feel capable?”
  • “If a younger me could see my life now, what would they be proud of?”

Ogunlesi says that to get the most from your reflection, you should share the lessons you’ve learned from your accomplishments.

Whether you decide to share achievements to a trusted group of friends or throw everything into the public domain, Ogunlesi says: “consider taking yourself to dinner, texting a friend about your accomplishment, or even buying yourself something small. Whatever you choose, do something!”

Even Ed Sheeran memorialises special nights with empty wine bottles.

There is no point being the world’s best secret

I’ll put it to you that you should be sharing your lessons as marketing. Here’s my pitch to you about why you should learn to get comfortable with putting yourself and your lessons out there.

  1. You can help others overcome similar problems.
  2. If you stay silent, no one will know about how you can help.
  3. The more you share, the more people will see you as the expert.

All of the above will help chip away at that “I’m a fraud” feeling while creating a feel-good cycle to achieve more so you can share more so you can feel helpful and valid.

Use social media (responsibly)

Both my businesses were built on the very fact that the internet, including social media, allowed me to connect with incredible osteopaths I’ve yet to meet in real life.

It’s true that social media can be used as a tool to find, connect with and learn from high-achieving people, access we didn’t have before social media.

When looking for answers to a meaningful problem like overcoming imposter syndrome, we naturally gravitate to people we look up to and academics.

With a simple Google search, you now have access to a TED talk presented by one of the leading experts on imposter syndrome. Go one step further by following Lou and other great problem-solvers on Twitter.

However, it’s no secret that social media has a dark side. Use it responsibly by being wary of people living a staged life and be sure to speak to people you know and trust outside of social media.

Plan to achieve

Overcoming imposter syndrome takes time. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. You will face obstacles and not everyone’s advice will work and that’s okay. You’ve done the hard part by admitting that there will be diversions. The best way to avoid letting your nerves and thoughts get the better of you is to have a plan.

It’s popular advice that may seem old, but that’s because it works.

Where people go wrong is being too broad with their plan. Break down your big goals into smaller milestones that each have specific instructions. Organising trumps anxiety. Schedule blocks of time on your calendar to actually do the smaller milestones and keep it up to date. It may sound simple but simply having the decision made for you gets you off to a great start.

Finally, as Ray Dalio says, “once we figure out what we need to do, we just actually have to execute and do the thing”. Do the work, keep your chin up and you will overcome imposter syndrome.

You’re not an imposter. You’re bloody awesome.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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