Beginnings and transitions

Beginnings and transitions are a very common time to experience imposter feelings. It might be starting a new job or a new project, teaching a new topic, or learning a new skill. Naturally, at the start of any new project or job, there is a lot to learn.

“Entering general practice training as a junior registrar was a completely different story. With just you, the patient, and a supervising specialist GP watching your progress, you are completely exposed. And this, coupled with the fact that junior registrars are going to make mistakes, made for a very humbling experience. I couldn’t count the number of times I reached the conclusion that being a doctor was just not for me. I regularly thought about my “fallback” options, going back to research, perhaps teaching, or maybe stacking shelves at the supermarket.”

Dean, experienced GP

In most cases you don’t know everything about the new task. This lack of knowledge can lead to doubts and worries.

I’ll come across as stupid.

I’ll keep making silly mistakes.

I’ll ask really dumb questions.

They’ll think I’m an idiot.

It can be particularly hard when you are taking over a job from someone else, especially if they did a good job. You might be thinking “The previous person was so well liked and respected and knew all the networks. I don’t know anybody and don’t know who to go to when I need a favour.”

cvperfectionThese doubts can be especially strong when you start a new job because of course at the interview you told the panel how good you were, how well you handle challenges, how you are a self-starter and a quick learner.

So now they are going to expect great things from you. And here you are, the quick learner, asking really thick questions.

When you look at this logically it doesn’t make sense. It’s unrealistic to expect that you should be an expert from day one – this doesn’t allow for learning, or for the need to develop new skills. But what’s logic got to do with it? You feel like a fraud so it must be true. And the doubts can become self-fulfilling. If you don’t ask those stupid questions then you don’t get the answers and so you might make those silly mistakes.

Extract from The Imposter Syndrome.


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