Imposters: “Step forward, to move forward”

When feeling like a fraud, stepping forward can seem terrifying. That inner narrative shouting "IMPOSTER" on full blast, yet at the same time egging us on to do it in the hope it might silence it for a while. I've been there. Here are some things that really helped me:

It’s very easy to sit back and stay in the area that you’re comfortable with. We all know exactly what we should do, but we don’t do it; it’s called the Knowing-Doing Gap. People often widen the gap by reading more, and never completing the “doing”. As Gary Vaynerchuk says “you can read about press-ups all that you want, doing them is a different matter.” I've been there though, as we listen to that negative voice in our head often telling us all the reasons why it won't work, why we're not the person to do it, maybe we need to 'know' just a little more and then we'll feel ready (yet we never do).

BUT! Every journey starts with just one step.

This isn't disregarding due diligence, but I'm sure we're all familiar with having enough knowledge, and yet still that inner critic has us doubt it.

If we come back to the press-up scenario, yes we have to know what a press-up is and we have to ensure that it's performed in a safe way. We also need to align with why we want to do them and ensure clarity on our values. We could take action by immediately enlisting the help of a personal trainer (or coach) to help us, or an experienced friend (or mentor) that has perfected the technique themselves. Alternatively, we could start with some basics, film ourselves, and self-critique with videos. If we just acted the minute that we have this information, then we could start taking some small steps and build the muscles up - putting conscious attention to reward ourselves for each set completed and tweaking as we go. All the time we'd focus on our why, which identity we are adopting, and a growth mindset. Yet what happens for many (and I was in this camp for years) is that we either:

  1. Listen to that inner critic that immediately tells us all the reasons why we can't do press-ups and not bother at all.

  2. We are so scared of failing and not doing them right, but still want to give them a go, that we read about every possible way to fail a press-up and end up even more terrified. We thought they were really simple, but the more we learn the more complex they look. The solution at this point seems to be gaining more information on muscle groups and positioning but it seems totally overwhelming and easier not to bother.

  3. We do some reading and decide to proverbially dip our toe in the water. We do the press-ups and fairly well, but we've found out so much more about press-ups that we discount them as not being a success at all, look at the failures and reasons why we don't deserve them. Even when people say well-done, that inner critic comes along with its "you didn't really earn that" narrative and you feel like a fraud as we believe it. You got lucky, must have been good genetics or maybe they just didn't see all the flaws (and let's hope they don't look closely enough!). *Cough* Imposter syndrome *Cough*. Remember, that inner critic is the fraud and not you.

But, back to reality.

If you want to move forward, a sensible step is to start acting in the way that you would when you reached your goal. For example, if you want to be a head nurse, think about the characteristics they’d have; kind, compassionate, organised, a good example, forward thinking, showing leadership qualities. Think of ways you can apply those in practice right now, by acting on what we already know. There's no 'faking it until you make it', you're not a fraud, it's actually realigning with the real us, minus that negative voice. Be kind to yourself and put conscious acknowledgment to the progress that you're making. Try not to resent the level of role that you’re currently in, use it as practice to build up the skillset for your next. As you act in this way, you're likely to spot opportunities as they come. Waiting until you’re in the job to align beliefs and behaviors can slow us down; making a habit of it before you apply is going to make you far more of an appealing candidate. I personally often think of every action as a vote for the identity that I'd choose, and respond rather than react; in my business, I started to act as a CEO way before I had any employees.

I see so many times people avoiding taking certain consults through (tactical toilet breaks, 5minutes before dinner), not volunteering themselves, not trying new things. This isn’t because of laziness, this is that often old paradigms and that negative voice in our head tells us that we’re not capable, maybe we don’t think we know enough, it's scary, or it’ll cause too much disruption to our day. People often genuinely believe that someone else will do a better job than them, which simply is not the case.

Aim to be the vet or nurse you aspire to be; maybe that's the one that’s confident, caring, assertive, and up for a challenge. Face those challenges head-on. There are always people to ask if you’re not sure (maybe not in your building, but you can call the lab, call the specialist, call your boss). Break through that terror barrier and make the decision to just start doing it.

Spending my first 9months in practice doing open surgeries gave me a good foundation of realising that I had to grab the bull by the horns and just get on with it; you couldn’t bypass one consult, as you knew the next one could be equally as challenging. You learn so much more by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Then you start to wonder what you worried about in the first place.

You've got this!

Always remember that you're valuable, unique and enough. Doing these things is easier when we have a powerful why, cheerlead ourselves, ask for help where necessary and don't place our self-worth on the outcome.

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