5 min read. Posted in Other

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Written by Joe Rinaldi

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Well, that’s the degree I’ve earned, but to be honest, I don’t always feel like one. To be even more honest, sometimes, I’m not sure that I deserve to hold that title at all. Taking honesty in a different direction, I couldn’t actually care less about the title “doctor”, because that’s not who I am or what matters in the slightest. I’m a human being who cares about helping other human beings.

Regardless of title, I sometimes find myself standing in the clinic and other places in life (like writing this blog) feeling like an imposter. It’s a unique feeling to describe. It almost feels like I slipped past the cracks and have somehow gotten to where I am without being qualified. In some ways, it feels like I’m hiding in a shell of myself just waiting to be exposed as a fraud.

It’s in those moments that I have to remind myself that we’re all in the same boat and that even though I feel like an imposter, I’m not. Instead of letting those feelings crush me, I need to keep on going, giving intentional effort, doing the next right thing and fake it until I make it believe it until I become it.

 

Believe it until you become it

This blog is tailored toward new grads in the physiotherapy / physical therapy space because it’s a place that I know well. It’s a place filled with uncertainty and often times, we don’t have all of the answers (or most of the answers). It can be intimidating to guide others when we feel ourselves that we need guidance, but let me tell you something: you can do it and this blog will show you how. Beyond healthcare, this blog is for everyone; because in life, chances are you’ve felt like, are feeling like, or will feel like an imposter at some point in time.

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Having been out of university for over a year now, it’s interesting to look back and consider advice from a physical therapy student (me circa two years ago). In particular, it’s ironic how my own guidance tends to be what I need most in times of self-doubt, both in the clinic and elsewhere. I had the honor of delivering the graduation speech to the Drexel DPT class of 2019 and in it I said:

“When you feel overwhelmed and experience self-doubt [it will happen], just remember that not everything that matters shows up in the numbers or on paper. Remember that the important things – how we care for other people, how we love other people and our intentions to leave the world just a little bit better than we found it – can’t always be quantified. When you’re not sure what to do next, just do the next right thing; fall back on the fundamentals and choose to be there for the people who you treat.  Make it part of your job [life] to help your patients believe in themselves. Find ways to show your patients that they can and things will fall into place. No matter where we end up in our careers, I want to remind us never to underestimate the power of human connection. Above all else, care about people, make them smile, be there for them, believe in them and give them hope.”

I concur with past Joe. The most important qualities of a great physical therapist (and person) aren’t ones that require schooling. So, if you’re feeling like an imposter in the clinic (or anywhere else), don’t panic. Take a deep breath and consider the following:

  • Don’t freeze
  • Do the next right thing
  • Gather small wins
  • Get advice from others
  • Care about people
  • Give your best effort
  • Be intentional with your path
  • Be consistent in your pursuit
  • Love other people
  • Be a good human first

The thing about imposter syndrome is that it’s different for everyone. It can be transient, or it can linger for a long time. It can create a sense of paralyzing panic or it can ignite somewhat of a forced confidence. It can be a vague feeling that’s hard to pinpoint or it can be exactly what you think it is.

Whatever it feels like for you, just know that you’re not alone. We all feel like imposters from time to time, but at the end of the day, if our effort and intentions are in the right place, things will be just fine. When it’s all said and done, doubt is normal but confidence is born through action, effort, failure, persistence and repetition. When you feel like an imposter, in the clinic or in life, keep going. Instead of faking it until you make it, believe it until you become it. It’s only a matter of time.

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Before I close out, let me leave you with one more thought. If you never feel like an imposter, you might still be too far in your comfort zone. It’s possible that imposter syndrome comes on (in part) because we stretch ourselves (or the idea of what we should be). That’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to want to be more, but don’t let the thought of being more ever make you feel like you’re not enough.

From one imposter to another…

“People might not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Believe it until you become it.

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Joe Rinaldi
Physical Therapist

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