Imposter Syndrome

“Imposter syndrome” refers to the notion that an individual is not worthy or experienced enough to fulfill their current role… and it’s quite rampant in healthcare. People are overly self-critical and worry about being “exposed” to their superiors, colleagues, trainees, and patients.

“What if I look stupid on rounds?” “What if my patients lose trust in me?” “What if my colleagues think I’m inferior?” “What if I get yelled at?”

These thoughts have been expressed by my colleagues and trainees over the years. We’re surrounded by incredibly dedicated and brilliant peers who often make ourselves feel less-than-adequate (often times without being aware of it).

I try to stress the importance of growth during one’s medical training. No first year medical student should be comparing him/herself to a seasoned resident. No nursing student should feel “inferior” to their classmate. No new attending should feel completely isolated. We all come from different backgrounds with varying experiences and interests; however, we are all worthy to be there.

With that said, you will be embarrassed in front of your peers and even patients. You will be wrong. You will sometimes question why you did this in the first place. But it’s in these situations that you discover yourself and the very essence of your resilience. Medicine is an imperfect science. No matter how long one has been practicing, we are all fallible.

For that reason, learn to laugh at yourself. Admit when you don’t know things, but also put in the time to investigate questions on your own. Most importantly, when you are at your lowest, remember that you belong. Reflect on the journey you’ve endured, the training you’ve undergone, and the people who are supporting your development. Fearlessly seize the opportunities that enhance your career and ignore the haters as they envy your success. 🙂

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