Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Speech Pathology

Any early-career professional has plenty of learning to do before becoming an expert. However, it’s important to differentiate that from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome occurs when someone with the knowledge and skill set to fill a certain role doesn’t believe they possess either. They might feel like a fraud or experience self-doubt, even when it’s unwarranted. 

Maggie Donaker, the latest guest on The Missing Link for SLPs podcast, occasionally struggles with imposter syndrome — as do many other seasoned speech-language pathologists. The trick is learning how to recognize and combat it. 

So, how exactly can SLPs push back against their imposter syndrome? Here are some tips to fight that self-doubt when it rears its ugly head.

Learn the Signs

You can’t overcome imposter syndrome if you can’t recognize when it’s happening. Learning to consciously call yourself out when you’re speaking down to yourself or doubting your abilities will help you identify what triggers those feelings. Doing so will enable you to distinguish between self-deprecating thoughts and reality.

Identify Facts vs. Feelings

When you’ve caught yourself feeling like an imposter, pick apart the reason for it. Are you feeling uninformed about a topic you actually don’t know much about? Or are you experiencing uncertainty over something you should have more confidence in? If you have the knowledge base and experience necessary to work with a particular patient, it’s likely the latter.

Of course, educating yourself about areas of speech pathology you aren’t familiar with can help improve your self-doubt as well. Taking CEUs and learning from other professionals will leave you feeling more self-assured when it comes to your work.

Rewrite Your Inner Dialogue

Catching your inner dialogue when it veers toward negativity can also help you rewrite it. Once you’ve gotten good at recognizing your imposter syndrome, you can challenge it. If your mind questions your ability to do something, remind yourself of the times you’ve already succeeded in that endeavor. If you feel doubtful about something, identify the reasons you shouldn’t.

Learn From Your Mistakes

With or without imposter syndrome, SLPs will make mistakes. Of course, those who struggle with self-doubt will often use those failures to justify their negative thoughts. That’s why learning to cope with slip-ups is critical to overcoming imposter syndrome. Rather than giving your internal dialogue more ammunition following a mistake, consider how you can learn from it. Then remind yourself that you’ve grown because of that error.

Trust Yourself

At the end of the day, those who struggle with imposter syndrome lack trust in themselves. That can prove a problem when making medical decisions or needing to think on your feet. 

Fortunately, by doing the inner work and educating yourself, you can rebuild the trust necessary to treat patients with confidence, a must-do for both yourself and the patients you treat.

Want to learn more about Maggie and her journey to becoming an SLP? Listen to her and Mattie chat on The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast.

Did you know Mattie provides coaching to SLPs? Learn more here.

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