Episode #28: Imposter Syndrome with Sarah Stremming

Marissa MartinoPaws & Reward Podcast

In this Connection Summit Bonus Episode of the Paws & Reward Podcast, Sarah Stremming joins me to discuss overcoming imposter syndrome and how it impacts all of us either as pet parents or dog training professionals. What can we do to combat this feeling of inadequacy and how can we help others overcome their doubts?

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is when we doubt our own abilities and feel like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high achieving people who cannot accept their accomplishments and find receiving accolades difficult. Overcoming imposter syndrome can be really challenging, but it’s a worthy effort.

Why do we feel this way?

Without outside feedback free from judgment, or harsh criticism, we tend to become distrustful of praise and doubt our worthiness to be praised. We often do not give each other enough positive feedback and with social media being hyper-critical, this can make us second guess our abilities and skills. When we become more isolated, it’s difficult to find a safe community to voice questions or gain new perspectives. 

The more accolades we receive, the higher the standard we hold ourselves to, which can become a dangerous cycle. For example, sometimes we attach our self-worth to our work which can be unhealthy. We become more vulnerable as we become more visible to criticism. The more people are paying attention, the more you question whether they should. Be aware of attaching our sense of success to outside approval. Be your own biggest fan.

Of course, if you’re working on overcoming imposter syndrome, this can be easier said than done. 

Why don’t we treat fellow trainers with the same reinforcement tools and philosophies we treat our dogs?

Sarah and I invite everyone to shift your mindset to be more reinforcing with every single interaction you have, including the ones with yourself. This is key to overcoming imposter syndrome. The more we can do it for ourselves, the more we can do it with others. 

When we make mistakes or when we see others making mistakes, we need to be able to give and receive feedback from a place of kindness. If feedback is offered from that place, it’s easier for others to not feel as though it’s a personal judgment. Assume that everyone is trying their best with the tools that they have, including yourself. 

A woman reads a book on a bench outside with two dogs, working on overcoming imposter syndrome

What’s the key to overcoming imposter syndrome?

Here’s a hint: It isn’t having all the right answers all the time or never making mistakes. The antidote IS NOT perfection. Finding genuine connection is key to overcoming imposter syndrome. Connection can drown out negative criticism. 

Imposter syndrome is not a syndrome, it’s just self-doubt (a normal way to feel at times) with a fancy label. Labeling it can give it more power. We’ve taken moments of uncertainty and self-doubt and made it into something that needs to be ‘fixed’. 

Life is messy. We learn and grow with each experience and mistake. What if we just do our best to learn and recover from these moments of self-doubt and uncertainty? 

Sarah and I invite you to notice these moments of instability and ask yourself “Is this true?” Because the answer is always no. The secret to overcoming imposter syndrome is to be aware that it’s happening, offer yourself and others kindness, and cultivate a community of people you trust to tell you the truth in a productive way.

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