Imposter Syndrome

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The dictionary definition of imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.

I’ve been in practice since 1995. But I still remember clearly how I felt when I first rolled up at the college. Excited, yes. But, not being a natural student, I was also terrified. This was the beginning of my imposter syndrome. I felt like I wasn’t really meant to be there. Learning has always been hard for me. And the thought of going back to a learning environment for 12 months (my first course of many) had me daunted for the months before my first day. I felt like I wasn’t going to be good enough, smart enough or capable enough. Turns out, imposter syndrome is a common feeling amongst health practitioners – before study, throughout study and also well past graduation. Well past.

The first day at college was filled with new experiences and a lot of information. So much information I didn’t think I would ever get to the point of remembering it let alone learning how to apply it. Fortunately, I’m a stubborn sod. If I was going to spend the money on the course, then I was going to do my utmost to get everything I could from it. After five years I completed my Bachelor of Health Science in Acupuncture. Four years prior, I began my career as a massage therapist.


After Graduation

Every time I went to conferences I felt somehow out of place because the shallowness of my knowledge was shown up time and time again. It was only when I voiced this to other practitioners, I found that I wasn’t alone. Imposter syndrome is everywhere. Speaking to some of the practitioners that I looked upto they all said they felt their knowledge was incomplete and not enough. No matter how much a person knew about a particular aspect of their modality, even presenters, they all felt their depth of understanding was still limited. That they are not quite enough.

This for me became the point when I felt the true learning began. It allowed me the luxury of knowing I had limitations but also gave me the fire to push me forward to seeking more knowledge. I even remember at the 19-year mark considering throwing in the towel and leaving practice as I still spent much of my time scratching my head wondering what I was doing. Fortunately, I attended a seminar that changed the entire way I practiced overnight. My results sky rocketed and I found a re-invigorated focus for my practice. Knowing that even after so many years in practice such a mammoth shift in my knowledge definitely brought things into perspective.

A famous martial arts master in China called Li Zi Ming noted in his biography at 80 years old after studying his art for over 6 decades ‘I realise now I have only just scratched the surface’.

This has become my constant reminder that there is still much to learn and better ways I can help people with their pain and suffering. It feels almost liberating.

These days I spend much more time learning than I felt like I did when I was training not because I have to but because I have learnt to embrace learning, whether it be formally, via seminars or getting together with colleagues. I also have now been teaching and running workshops since 2009 because I realised my experience has given me knowledge worth sharing.

Find out more about upcoming workshops.




Jeff Shearer is a registered Chinese medicine practitioner in Newcastle, Australia. He has been teaching practitioners since 2009 helping them to become the best they can be to serve their communities better.