Benefits of Insecurity
Confidence is widely regarded as an important trait for success, and insecurity is often considered a liability.
Recently, a colleague who is transitioning to a new team shared her fears with me about her position change. She will soon be working alongside Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists to serve children who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Many of the children have complex medical needs and the position requires coordinating services across multiple professionals.
“I feel like an imposter,” she confided to me, implying that she didn’t feel qualified for the job. The imposter syndrome describes when people with strong skills do not appear to believe in their own abilities. I know her and I know her work. She is qualified for the position, and it will also require her to expand her knowledge base.
After reassuring her that most professionals feel uneasy when they change settings and begin working with new clients, I told her that a little insecurity is actually a good thing. Insecurity can make us better clinicians. Insecurity often occurs when we are not sure how to proceed. When we are unsure, we may take deliberate steps to increase our understanding.
Self-doubt may be a form of self-reflection. If we entered every clinical situation with such a heightened sense of confidence, that we didn't question our own decision-making, then how would we learn new things? We might even inadvertently make incorrect assumptions about the course of treatment. Obviously, too much insecurity can be debilitating, but too much confidence can be detrimental. A balance of just enough insecurity to recognize our current limits may prompt self-improvement.
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When we have moments where we feel like an imposter, we may be recognizing that we have areas that need growth. We are acknowledging that we have more to learn. Our field encourages life-long learning, which is another way of saying that we have a life-long lack of knowledge. The manifestation of disorders, disabilities, and constellations of needs in communication and swallowing that exist within the entire human condition is too broad for any one person to ever reach expertise.
Insecurity is a shadow form of humility, which may be an asset as we interact with clients and families. Self-improvement may come from recognizing present limitations, followed by a purposeful plan of action for positive change. We can welcome threads of insecurity to enter our practice in the form of functional questions:
• How was I prepared for this client’s needs?
• How was I unprepared for this client’s needs?
• How did I interact with the family?
• How could I change my interaction style to foster improved rapport?
• What additional information do I need to access?
• What resources could help me?
• What is the expertise of the other professionals around me?
• How can I learn more about the scope of related professionals?
• What new research is available pertaining to this client’s needs?
Skilled services may include the instability that comes from seeing strengths along with current weaknesses. Insecurity can be a force that challenges us to be better.