Vet life as a secret imposter...
Updated: Apr 27
For 26 years (until 2016), I was tortured by a negative voice in my head that I thought was me. It would constantly tell me:
If I didn’t get top of the class that I was a useless failure.
I was missing something obvious in all my cases that someone else would find and think I was stupid.
People didn’t like me.If a client asked to see someone else, I’d be convinced that I'd done something wrong in the previous consult.
The next thing would make me happy (and never did) - house, cars, clothes etc.
More qualifications would justify my being a good vet.
I was fat and unfit.
Eventually I’d get found out.
I should be doing more, achieving more and comparing to anyone doing “better.”
That staying in work longer hours would fix everything (I could be there to clean up my “mistakes”).
I thought someone else would see my cases and wonder why on earth I’d chosen that treatment.
On the outside, I had it all. I was a successful vet with a huge client following, a certificate, I had a radio show, speaking events and received endless thanks and gifts. I had my own house, a brand new car and I kept fit. I felt like a failure though, on a treadmill to nowhere.
Inside my head, I was sick of the civil war. All I could hear was this voice. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get away from it. Nothing ever good enough, living a performance related experience and happiness on a delayed payment plan.
I was not a nice person to be around. As hard as this voice was on me, it was on other people and made me snappy and unforgiving. I closed my family out of my life. I became angry and frustrated easily with colleagues. A weekend off work and I’d create a War&Peace style document to ensure nothing went wrong with my cases.
On my own, I’d cry with frustration. I’d sit on-call, on the floor of the dispensary crying and not understand why my brain was so broken. Everyone thought it was a gift, I thought it was a curse. I’d be sick of it turning up at all hours of the day “you missed this”, “don’t forget that time in July 2014 when that client was mad”. Coffee with friends, my mind wandered to work. I’d go home and sleep to escape it, that didn’t always work. Somehow it persuaded me that if I worried enough, then it might be ok.
I received amazing feedback, but this negative voice wouldn’t let me accept any of it. “Fluke”, “that’s one nice comment but nobody else said anything,” “that was a straightforward case, you don’t deserve the praise”, “looks like you got away with that one again.”
This spiralled out of control, to the point where I couldn’t see the point of my life. I couldn’t ever keep this voice happy, no matter what I achieved, what I owned, what I did and what I looked like. I hated myself, because I thought that voice was me.
They say talk to yourself like your best friend. I wouldn’t talk to my worst enemy the way I talked to myself. I used to drive, crying, and many times I considered whether the only option to switch off this voice was to drive into a wall. In our profession, when something is suffering beyond repair, we euthanise it. I was suffering and felt like I was running out of options.
I had a very supportive boss who could see what was unfolding, and despite trying herself, begged me to go to the NHS. I went through CBT and although I gained a little relief in knowing I’d finally acknowledged that something needed to change, the voice was still there and I knew there must be more out there.
In 2016, I eventually came across Richard Wilkins and Liz Ivory, who run a programme called Broadband Consciousness (BC). This explains that we all have this negative voice, which they call The Script. You are born scriptless, and then gain “pages” of the script - teaching you to compare, compete, nobody likes you, money is everything. The script is added to, without you even knowing about it. It’s like a subconscious programming that we tune into, wrongly think is us and is usually choosing for us to feel bad. The Script never goes away, but you can choose not to believe it, and know it isn’t you.
I went on the 5 day BC course over 3 years ago, and it changed my life completely. I felt like a huge weight was lifted. I wasn’t a performing monkey. I had a value and it didn’t wager on my achievements. I also joined a huge group of supportive people from all backgrounds. I was a much nicer person to be around.
Now I actually like myself and acknowledge that I’m a brilliant vet. I know what is me and what is The Script. I know that every time after a bitch spay it’ll still jump in with its unhelpful musings, but I acknowledge it and know it’ll quieten down. I know if I feel bad, then The Script is choosing my thoughts. Sometimes it’s easy and I choose something else. Other times, I just have to sit with it, knowing that it’ll pass; I’m still there underneath, it’s just bad weather. I get superb feedback from everyone that I work with, and I give myself the credit to believe it. I am kind, considerate and empathetic.
This method is something really special, and I can tell you that it saved my life over and over. Shortly after I did it, so did my boss (also a vet) and my Mum, as they saw the change in me.
I’m honoured to be doing the 1:1 coaching course next month, and launching the methods to other vets and nurses that may be feeling the same way. Everything that I posted about here isn't a "vet thing", it's a human being thing. I package it as veterinary, to help the profession - but it applies to us all.
I have created an eBook called "Six Steps to Crushing Imposter Syndrome", which you can find on my home page.