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 😊

Dealing with webinar FOMO

Dealing with webinar FOMO

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

It’s the first day of 2022 and I find myself writing my first ever blog post.

Starting a blog was not a New Year resolution of mine, but in reflecting on 2021 an important topic came to mind that I thought worthy of sharing.

The COVID pandemic has seen the rise of the webinar. In many ways this has been a great opportunity for people, both as a way to supplement income, and as a learning opportunity. There’s no doubt the online learning movement has made it easier to access information and professionals from all around the world. It is now easier than ever to meet CPD (continuing professional development) targets, even if you live rurally.

So what’s the problem?

The sheer abundance of online learning material available, means that consumption of material is limited by time and financial costs. It is simply impossible to consume all the available material. For myself, already a part-time university student, this led to serious feelings of what I call ‘webinar FOMO’ – fear of missing out.

And I know I am not alone in this. Many other therapists (or professionals in general) struggle with perfectionism and imposter syndrome. These two qualities can be both a blessing and a curse, a driving-force for continued learning but the catch is that you never actually reach a point where you feel knowledgeable or good enough. I felt that if I missed a popular webinar I’d be missing out on an essential opportunity, vital information that I needed to be on par with other professionals. This, of course, led to feelings of stress and anxiety.

It was actually a conversation with another professional that made me realise I may not be alone in this struggle – that many others may be paying for webinars they never watch, or flooded with feelings of guilt and anxiety at missed opportunities. A career in equine bodywork can already be demanding on our emotional and mental health so the added stress of webinar FOMO is important to address.

How do we deal with it?

I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers, or have all my ‘stuff’ together, but I think it’s important to realise that with so many webinars available, it is likely that for every missed opportunity there is probably another one just around the corner. To be honest, some of the webinars I have watched contained a lot of information I already knew, and if I had missed it, I would have survived. So, I have comprised a list of tips to help me through 2022, and I hope they will help you too.

  • Know your limitations. Set a time/financial budget for online learning and stick to it.
  • Practice saying ‘no’. This is about learning to put yourself first and realising that your path to being a good therapist lies in looking after your mental health.
  • Prioritise the webinars you think you’ll benefit from most. Quality, not quantity.
  • Remember that if you miss an opportunity you will survive, it’s very likely another opportunity will present itself soon when you may be in a better position to accept it.
  • You are not alone. I’d bet a lot of therapists have the same struggles but because we often work alone, we don’t get to talk about these struggles. Make sure you have friends and colleagues you can confide in.

It’s quite possible this may be my one and only blog post, only time will tell! Let me know if you found it useful.

Happy New Year,