By Rob Jacobs
In my opinion, every human being experiences some degree of what is known as imposter syndrome. A friend of mine from the East Coast reached out to me and asked if I would consider writing a column on how we can manage feelings of self-doubt as young professionals. I thought this recommendation fit well into the theme I have established for the year, to support young professionals as it pertains to accomplishing goals within the equestrian sport.
I haven’t met an equestrian who does not work through some degree of self-doubt. In equestrian sport, human athletes may doubt themselves and/or their horse occasionally. The psychological aspect to our sport is undeniable. Because our industry is so broad, there are many areas an equestrian may experience uncertainty in, including the management of horse or rider, client relations, administrative responsibilities, competing and more.
Personally, self-doubt comes in phases depending on the part of my career I’ve challenged myself in. Self-doubt can be related to many things, one of which may be growth. People have different feelings around making professional progress in their lives. I tend to be a growth-oriented person. Depending on the particular challenge, I have experienced varying degrees of self-doubt throughout my career. As I’m doing something unfamiliar and unsure of the outcome, the likelihood I will experience doubt is higher. I believe we should practice being “out of our element.” By this, I mean doing something new or challenging on a regular basis. Over the years, I’ve practiced being out of my element and have learned more about what’s required to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I’ve come in contact with people who have made tremendous professional progress and have accomplished more than expected, perhaps more than an average person, but these people struggle accepting their accomplishments. Of course, we should be humble and operate with as little ego as possible; however, there is a difference in a person viewing themselves as a beginner at something they have clearly almost mastered and their work and accomplishments that demonstrates this. It’s possible for our mentality and perception of ourselves to be slower than the rate of progression we may experience in an area. I especially see this when working with kids that are naturally talented in the sport and therefore have a higher rate of progression.
It’s our responsibility to identify what it is we need to be self-motivated. Every person, in my opinion, should become skilled at advocating for personal and professional growth. Becoming a better version of ourselves is vital to us as humans seeking fulfillment. This is the beauty of our sport: There are always areas we are continuing to learn and grow in. I think of Betty Oare, who continues to be involved in our sport because she knows there is always something she can learn and do better. In many of her interviews over the years, she expresses that her desire to get better is because she loves the horses and feels she owes it to them. We can all agree that horses do a lot for us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I agree that we owe growth not only to ourselves, but also to the horses and to equestrian sport. Continuing to grow is dual-purposed. From one angle, I am combating imposter syndrome, and from the other angle, I am furthering my professional career.
My intention in this column was to briefly address feelings every equestrian has experienced or continues to experience. I believe a unique way to overcome imposter syndrome is to talk about it openly and better understand how and why we individually feel the way we do. Every person may have a different strategy to manage their feelings of doubt, and what works for me may or may not work for the next person. Communicate with your friends and peers in the sport; you may be surprised at what you learn.
Don’t allow self-doubt to slow your rate of progression.
Photo by Images By Katie