Imposter Syndrome as a therapist can feel like a burdensome secret and can be one of the biggest hurdles for many who are hoping to start or grow their own private practice.
If you relate with hearing whispers of self-doubt, I want to offer you some encouragement for navigating this roadblock.
Imposter Syndrome as a Therapist is Common
I’ve been creating YouTube videos and ecourses for therapists for a few years now. All of the content I create is focused on giving therapists the tools they need to start and grow their private practice.
But amidst offering practical tools, there was a pattern I noticed popping up among the therapists I interacted with that kept them from starting or growing their practice.
Surprisingly, it had little to do with having the right list of tasks to complete to start a private practice.
Even with access to all the right tools, most therapists struggle with believing in themselves enough. And this hampers their capacity for succeeding in private practice.
Self-Doubt Is a Stumbling Block
Yep, the thing we are so talented at helping others foster, apparently is also our own downfall. We don’t believe in ourselves. Our self-esteem is lackluster.
And when we don’t believe we’re capable of something, then we don’t even bother trying.
Even though I’ve been surprised to see this come up for other therapists, it was (and is!) true of me as well.
It’s taken years for me to really believe I have what it takes to succeed in private practice, and I still have to navigate this kind of imposter syndrome as a therapist on a regular basis.
Why is Imposter Syndrome Such a Problem?
I have a theory on why imposter syndrome is such a big issue for therapists:
- Often in our training, we’re taught to have all our “stuff” together and then from that place of knowledge and wisdom, we help others.
Maybe this isn’t always stated explicitly, and maybe our professors and supervisors acknowledge the importance of ongoing personal development.
But, there is often an undercurrent in the messaging that we must have our “stuff” together to some standard before we’re capable of helping others.
Therapists Are Human Too
The problem is, this messaging doesn’t reflect the reality of our humanness. Therapists are people. We need help. We always have room to get to know ourselves more and grow.
And, we will always, always make mistakes. Because we are human and that’s what humans do.
If we believe we have to have our “stuff” together in order to be a good therapist, then we will forever be disappointed in ourselves that we haven’t achieved some level of self-actualization (that’s not entirely possible since we’re human).
Then, when we pursue a venture like private practice, we feel like absolute imposters because we know we don’t measure up to the unattainable bar we believe we need to reach before we’re “good enough” to have our own practice.
So here’s a Public Service Announcement to help clear the air:
Therapist: You are human. You are just as capable of making mistakes as anyone else. You are just as beautiful and messy as the wonderful humans you help in therapy. You will always have room to grow. There is no future state when this will no longer be true of you. And there is no other therapist that is above all the same mistakes and growth edges as you.
You Aren’t Perfect, And That’s Okay!
I used to find this kind of realization deflating. It doesn’t feel good to hear that you are imperfect.
But actually, this is a huge win. It means there is always room for improvement. We’ve never achieved our best.
When we mess up, there’s room to do better next time. Practice becomes far more valuable because we can believe that when we try something new, with practice we will get better at it.
So if you’re in this boat of feeling deflated or incapable, might I encourage you to reconsider that you are beautifully human. It’s built into your human nature to not know what you’re doing until you try and try again.
Go Ahead And Try
If you’re wanting to get started in private practice but you feel inadequate, just start. Assume you will mess up, especially at the beginning. Do it anyway, keep going, keep practicing. And in time, you’ll find that your skills improve.
You can’t know what you’re capable of unless you try, right?
Want To Learn From My Mistakes?
If you are interested in hearing more and want to learn from me about the biggest mistakes I made starting a private practice (so you don’t have to!) check out this video.
Well, I hope you know that you are not alone in feeling imposter syndrome as a therapist. And that you can enjoy the journey of practicing being human, whatever that may look like for you.
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!
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