Just about every client who comes to me – no matter what their stated need – sooner or later admit to lack of confidence and imposter syndrome. This ranges from doctors in training to those who have been specialists for a number of years.
Imposter syndrome is the feeling of being a fraud and incompetent at your job despite objective evidence of competence such as ongoing positive feedback and awards etc.
It’s a real problem because people with imposter syndrome avoid taking on opportunities and roles where they have important things to contribute. They go home wracked with anxiety – and can’t understand why their patients keep returning.
But here’s the thing, I believe it’s the MOST TALENTED doctors who most often systematically underestimate their own abilities. According to the Dunning-Kruger effect – the vast majority of people overestimate their abilities compared to their actual performance. Simply said – most people think they are better than they really are. The Dunning-Kruger effect shows there’s only one group of people who underestimate their abilities – and do you know who that is? Why of course, it’s the MOST competent people.
See the diagram below I have adapted from the original paper describing the Dunning-Kruger effect.
This means, if we trust the research, every single doctor who feels like a fraud is likely to be an outstanding performer with many hidden potentials and strengths that can be drawn out and tapped into. These are the people who can make great and important contributions to the profession and to their patients – and yet they hold themselves back – avoid opportunities and consider leaving the profession.
This is a crying shame – and this is why I love working with people who feel like they are imposters. I know the ‘doctor imposters’ amongst us can do so much more than they have ever thought possible. And the absolute good news is you can do something about imposter syndrome. It is modifiable and it’s a pure pleasure seeing them growing into the space they are meant to be in. They have so much to give the profession, their patients and the world.
So to all the ‘doctor imposters’ out there – you can safely take off your masks and be yourself – because you don;t need to fake it till you make it you’re already there. Underneath your masks, I can guarantee is an an awesome, incredible and talented human being. So put your masks away and let the world see what you can really do.
Of course, for many people with decades of ingrained habits that is often easier said than done. The good news is evidence-based coaching [using a blend of solution-focused cognitive behaviour coaching and positive psychology] can help. I’ve done it, many of my clients have done it…and so can you.