I’m a fraud.

Photo by Sam Lion from Pexels

*Warning, this post contains a clickbait title and a little bit of swearing*

When I started this blog, I think both my audience and I expected that I’d be writing about horses. I still do plan to write about horses, eventually, but for the moment, my own personal development seems to be my muse. I hope that through sharing my experiences I may help others in their personal and professional endeavours.

Before I became an equine massage therapist, I wanted to be a writer. Specifically, I wanted to be the youngest published author in Australia, but Alexandra Adornetto beat me to it.

By the time high school ended I was already well on the way to fulfill my destiny as the next J. K. Rowling; I’d already written an entire 154,898 word manuscript and received my first rejection letters from potential publishers. I went to university believing myself a prodigy – all my teachers had believed in me, after all. But at uni, I was average. My stories were criticised. I compared myself to the dark-haired girl who had confidence and wrote in the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had been rewarded for good grades my whole life. Being a high achiever was part of my identity, my value. I worked very hard to be good at things, because if I wasn’t good, I was a failure.

My problem is that my inner critic is also a high achiever. It reminds me that I am a fraud, that I am not naturally talented, that I don’t know as much as I should, that I don’t deserve success and opportunity as much as somebody else. It warns me that one day I will be exposed for not being as competent as people think I am.

There were a number of reasons I didn’t pursue writing in the end, but imposter syndrome was a big one. The thing is, though, you can’t escape it by switching focus to something else; it follows you with everything you do. And there are plenty of experts in the horse world, which means plenty of opportunity for comparison.

Imposter syndrome is not an official diagnosable condition but describes a pattern of thinking that may have developed in response to a number of influencing factors. Telling someone with imposter thoughts to ‘be more confident’ is a bit like telling someone with anxiety to ‘calm down’. It’s just not that simple, and there’s usually a lifetime of habits, behaviours and ingrained beliefs to contend with. If any of this has sounded familiar, you are not alone; apparently imposter feelings affect a large number of the population. Not surprising in our results-driven society. I haven’t yet learned to silence the inner critic entirely, but I have learned a few tricks that can help.

Be kind to yourself

It sounds cliché, I know, but in my experience overcoming imposter thoughts has less to do with gaining confidence and more to do with breaking down the impossibly high expectations of oneself. Comparing yourself to people that may have 20 more years of education and experience than you is not fair. And expecting perfection in everything you do is unrealistic. Cut yourself some slack.

Compare the pair

Following on from the previous point, if you are going to compare yourself to others, at least level the playing field. As much as there are people out there who are amazing at what they do, there are also people who are just good at marketing themselves. Have you ever heard the phrase “Those who know least shout the loudest”? When I come across these people I remind myself that I do belong; and even though I am not perfect I am doing a better job than some.

Everyone has doubts

The truth is that no one has all their shit together all of the time. When I learned that others in my industry (people I idolise, people I compare myself to) have doubted themselves as well, I realised that being great doesn’t mean having the absence of doubts, it just means getting on with things anyway.

Use it for good, not evil

A friend said to me: “I think you’re one of the best ones out there, Anna. But you doubt yourself, which as much as that fucking sucks, it makes you better for it as you don’t have your head up your ass.” Imposter feelings can paralyse you completely if you let it (remember that writing career?) – set your expectations too high to be attainable and what’s the point of even trying? At this point you may be thinking imposter syndrome is a curse, but it does have some redeeming factors that you can make work for you. The critical mindset helps keep you humble, for one. But it also fosters a desire to keep learning. Just make sure that you check in with yourself – learn for the sake of growth and improvement, not perfection or validation.

Look after yourself

Although mainly discussed in a professional sense, imposter thoughts could intrude on any aspect of your life. It goes without saying that nothing written here is a substitute for professional advice – if you are really struggling with imposter thoughts then therapy may help you develop strategies to manage it.

This post has been challenging to write (what imposter wants to admit they’re not perfect!) but I hope you have found it useful. If you struggle with imposter thoughts too, and are brave enough to share your experience, or any other tips, please leave a comment below 😊

A horse owner’s guide to finding a qualified practitioner/bodyworker for your horse in Australia

Equine bodywork is a growing industry; once upon a time you may have been lucky to find a ‘chiro’ and now you’re spoilt for choice between various bodywork modalities and magical devices. As a horse owner, the hunt for an equine bodyworker usually begins with recommendations from friends and other equine professionals, but it soon becomes apparent everyone swears by somebody else! While word-of-mouth recommendations are a solid place to start, it also helps to have an understanding of the industry and what kind of professional you are after.

So, with a veritable smorgasbord of services on offer, what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, the equine bodywork industry in Australia lacks standardisation and regulation. This means that many people do go out and charge for services for which they have had little/inadequate or even no formal training. As a consumer, the horse owner often puts faith in the practitioners and trusts that they have adequate training and qualifications. However, in reality, the onus falls on the horse owner to ensure their practitioner is up to standard. This can be very tricky terrain to navigate, especially when the language people use to market themselves can be a little misleading (for example, training with a company is not the same as being certified by them).

How do I find a qualified practitioner?

The simplest way to screen your practitioner is to directly ask them about their education/experience and proof of qualifications (any practitioner who has gone to the effort of achieving certification will likely be more than happy to share this with you). Years ago, when I was still studying my first massage course, I’d moved to a rural area and was looking for a chiropractor for my horse. It turned out that they were hard to come by, but the locals put me in touch with someone who did service the area occasionally. When I contacted them for information about what they do, they said they had over 20 years of experience and if I needed someone with a piece of paper to say they are qualified, I’d need to find someone else.

Now, it’s worth noting that someone may lack formal qualifications and still be very good at what they do. But, on the other-hand, 20 years of experience doesn’t mean so much if it’s 20 years holding on to outdated ideas and doing an average job. Importantly, someone without qualifications is unlikely to be insured. Unfortunately, accidents can happen and it’s peace of mind to know your practitioner is covered.

If you’re not the type of person to confront people directly about their credentials there are still plenty of ways you can try to screen a potential practitioner. One of these is a simple Google search to see what information is available on their website and socials. Even better, therapists can often be found in databases and registries. For example, in order to source insurance, practitioners need to complete training with a recognised provider and obtain membership with a professional industry body (I’m with the Equine Therapies Association of Australia). These educational providers and associations often have practitioner databases where you can check the details of a prospective practitioner, or search for a practitioner near you.

It’s important to note here that there are differences between bodyworkers (anyone with training in a musculoskeletal modality such as massage) and chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths. In Australia, to become an equine chiro/physio/osteo usually means completing tertiary education in human practice (or veterinary medicine), followed by clinical experience and further education for animal therapy. These pathways require many years of higher education, and often relocation to another state (or even overseas). The difficulties in obtaining this type of training (especially if your passion is animals and not people) may account for the lack of these qualified professionals in Australia. Vets, chiros, physios & osteos need to maintain registration to practise, and this means you should be able to find them on registries such as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) or through your state’s veterinary board.

What next?

Once you’ve found a potential practitioner and evaluated their qualifications and experience, the next step in the screening process is simply to book them in and see how your horse responds and if this person is the right fit for your team. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that no modality should be considered a ‘one-fix-wonder’ and your horse may need more than one session (and your commitment between sessions) in order to progress. Choosing the right modality is a very individual decision – and perhaps another blog post all on its own – but there is no one modality to rule them all and, in fact, different modalities often compliment one other. Skill of the therapist is also an important factor.

What makes a good therapist besides qualifications and experience?

In my opinion, a good therapist is one who continues their professional development through ongoing learning, is open to ideas and willing to work with others, refers you on to other professionals when further investigation is needed or the situation is beyond their abilities, practises with integrity, and advocates for the well-being of the horse.

I hope you have found this information useful – let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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