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Doubting Myself

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Dear Sally
Weekly Advice Straight From The Horse’s Mouth.

Dear Sally,

What advice do you have for someone who periodically gets a case of the imposter syndrome? Others around me tell me things about myself and sometimes I just can’t see them myself. I’ve been successful in most things I’ve persevered through and enjoy my work! But sometimes I get this feeling like I’ve somehow tricked people around me into thinking I’m more competent in something than I am. Most of the time I know my truth, but what advice do you have for those moments of doubt?

Doubting Myself

Dear Doubting,

Oh man, this letter really just made me want to give you a big old nuzzle. Imposter syndrome. I think everyone experiences it at some point. Even horses. It’s not atypical for young horses to posture and sometimes go a little too far pretending to be more dominant than they really are. When this happens in the herd, the leader usually knocks those young’uns down a peg or two.

But there’s a reason humans posture. It can be hugely intimidating to start a new job, or heck to start a new career. When backgrounds are grounded in academics, we often know there’s so much more to know. So much more to learn. How could we possibly know enough? The answer of course, is that we can’t. And that’ actually a great thing. Life would be pretty boring pretty quickly if we knew everything we needed to know about something five minutes after we started it.

Here’s the last thing, Doubting. I would venture a guess that the fact that you actually care enough to experience imposter syndrome is a sign of the kind of person you are: kind, compassionate, and reasonable. It means you feel the reality of what you know and what you don’t know. Trust me, this is so much better than the folks who act like they know everything and don’t even realize that they don’t. You’re humble enough to be honest about this, and that puts you in a league of your own!

Here’s my advice for you. Next time you feel yourself sinking into imposter syndrome, say it out loud to someone. The next time someone at work talks about something that you don’t actually know anything about, don’t pretend you do. Be honest. Ask curiously. THIS is how you continue to grow your knowledge and learn, for years and years to come.

Good Luck!