Whether it is starting a new job, qualification, or looking to enter a sporting event, we all often take on new challenges. These might be inside the veterinary world, or out of it. We start projects regularly, but many of the profession experience impostor syndrome too; that persistent, internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud, peppered with self-doubt.

Here are FIVE top tips to set yourself up for success:

  1. Look at the positive consequences of doing the task. Realign your “why” and all of the reasons why you would choose to do it. Engrain that story in your mind, so as when the self-doubt pops up, you remember your reason for starting. If your reason involves the need to ‘prove’ yourself, remember, you’re valuable and you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.
  2. Visit failure. Failure is often seen negatively and in fact, can be the driver behind procrastination in new tasks. Consider the worst-case scenario of a negative outcome – can you deal with it? Would you know where to ask for help? Suddenly we disarm the fear by realising that we can handle it, or we know someone that can assist. Secondly, realise that failures are building blocks. Life is made up of good times and lessons. What would have been the lesson in that instance? You’ll struggle to find a successful person that never failed at something.
  3. Zone into your strengths. Rather than listening to the negative inner critic that may wish to list the reasons why you can’t do something, consider the reasons why you can. What are your strengths? What are you good at? Maybe ask a friend or colleague if you’re struggling to see them yourself, or enlist the help of a coach. How might these strengths and skills help with this task? Can you think of strengths you might need, and where you’ve used them before, in any context? Alternatively, when did you last learn a new skill successfully? Use these prompts to change your focus and choose a beneficial story.
  4. Focus on the destination, but don’t obsess over how exactly you get there. You’ve all seen the expected route, vs real route diagram? The one with a straight, linear line, vs the wiggly, wobbly line? Don’t be disheartened if the journey to the new task isn’t via the path you envisioned at first. Sometimes bumps in the road and diversions are there for a reason, or teach us something valuable.
  5. Ask for help. Standing on the shoulders of giants, or at least those that have done what you want to do, can save you years. You don’t have to do everything alone, and asking for assistance is not a weakness; in many circumstances, it puts you ahead of the game. Look for mentors that have done what you want to do. Alternatively, maybe you need a coach that might help prompt thoughts from you, change your beliefs and help with accountability.

Know that impostor syndrome often tends to show up at times of growth, so reframe the feeling as knowing you must be pushing comfort zones. Keep going, use the above tips, and ask for support where necessary.

I’d say good luck, but impostors also put lots of their success down to luck. It’s not luck, it’s you. Have a good time, enjoy using your skills!