New graduates… interning students...fellows…30-year veterans in the profession… We have all faced it at some point, whether we admit it or not. We arrive at a point where we question if we deserve the success that we’ve earned. Are we frauds? Are we imposters… or even...‘ImpAuDsters’?!
Psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD first coined the term imposter phenomenon in the 1970s. “Impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.” Their study focused on high-achieving women who felt they really weren’t that bright and have fooled everyone. Some famous women who have admitted to having the imposter phenomenon include former First Lady Michelle Obama, Charlize Theron, Viola Davis, etc. However, the imposter phenomenon, which now known as the imposter syndrome, affects both men and women.
In Audiology, we find ourselves helping our patients with their hearing and balance needs sometimes with such ease that we find ourselves asking if our job is really that simple. Did they just hand out my doctoral degree to anyone?
Of course not, far from it. I first noticed this self-doubt years ago while working with a patient who had tried numerous hearing aids at different locations in town. After fitting him with the appropriate hearing aids, which seemed like such a no-brainer, and only 3 follow ups before he was satisfied…I wondered if I was just lucky….or was I that good?! After that, I knew that I had to make sure everything was done perfectly well with every patient, so that I wouldn’t get found out!
A few years later, I recognized that my skills, education and passion were not fake…and in fact, I really was not a fraud. This realization came when I was working with a third-year audiology student in my clinic, when I asked him to make the decision on what options would work well for a specific patient. I thought there was only one simple option…however, that decision was not as simple for him. I asked another student to describe the audiogram to a patient, something that also seemed so trivial to me. They both struggled, even though they had watched and listened to me making medical decisions and describing audiograms with so many patients.
If you are feeling like an ‘ImpAuDster’, know that you are not alone. In fact, the Seattle Times published an article called “Got imposter syndrome? Congratulations, you are not a sociopath!” Many doctors in varying areas of healthcare feel this way and they are all great doctors! Remember, you went through a 4 year undergraduate degree, along with a 3-4 year doctoral degree including internship/externships and a fellowship year! That’s a lot of education!
Although it’s okay to have these feelings, the American Psychological Association recommends these ideas to help:
1. Talk to your mentors
2. Recognize your expertise
3. Remember what you do well
4. Realize no one is perfect
5. Change your mindset
6. Talk to someone who can help (like another audiologist and/or AudBoss)
Being a doctor takes skills, passion, education and heart! No, they don’t just hand out doctorates. As the (arguably) wise Stuart Smalley used to say, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you”.