When I first became a therapist, I had a serious case of imposter syndrome. I could not believe that people trusted me with their fears, secrets and anxieties. I didn’t feel like I had a right to be sitting in the therapist’s chair; I doubted my skills and my knowledge. There was a moment a few months into becoming a therapist, I was listening to a client tell a story in which she told her friends “something smart my therapist had said.” My response, “Oh, whose your therapist?” The client looked at me confused…”Dahlia…you, you are my therapist.”
I could’t believe that I had done or said something impactful enough to be quoted to a client’s friend. I couldn’t believe anything I had said had been profound enough for a client to take it home and share. After that moment, I realized that I was judging myself and being unkind to myself for no reason. Why wouldn’t I belong in the therapists’ chair? I went through years of schooling to be there. I took my licensing exam. I read books and articles, I studied, I memorized…I worked hard to sit in that chair. My clients believed in me; they kept coming back and rarely cancelled sessions. Why was it that everyone around me believed in me, except for me?
Most people experience imposter syndrome at certain points in their career, especially when they’re new to a role. For some reason, it is easy for us to feel like we haven’t earned the right to be where we are. As if we duped or fooled people into hiring us. For some reason we put pressure on ourselves to have to be perfect from the start, or to be at the level of someone whose been working in the field for fifty years. It makes me wonder, is there room for us to learn, to gain experience, to grow and develop within new roles, and also deserve to be there? Is it okay for us to not be perfect, and for people to still take us seriously and respect us?
After a few years of being a therapist, I still have moments where I feel I don’t have the answer. I am sometimes stumped. I sometimes stutter or lose confidence. I sometimes have to go back and research a disorder, or re-read an article on CBT, or listen to a podcast to clarify my clinical understanding. I have realized that no one expects me to be perfect, and that it is okay for me to not know the perfect thing to say all the time. It does not mean I am a bad therapist, or an imposter. It means I am human, and that is good enough.