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“I am good at my job, but I feel incompetent.”

“I am good at my job, but I feel incompetent.”
November 11, 2015 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #486


“When I am around providers who specialize in this field, I feel dreadfully incompetent.”


Stephanie writes:
I am a doctoral student with only my dissertation left to complete my degree. I also work in a hospital, in a field that has NOTHING to do with my academic field. I am good at my job and it had a high level of responsibility, but when I am around interns and providers who specialize in this field, I feel dreadfully incompetent. I am cognitively aware that I am just as smart, but chose a different specialization, yet when they discuss things I do not fully comprehend I am humiliated. What do I do to move into that felt sense so that I can access the reason for my shame?

Dear Stephanie:
I can tell you already have a lot of self-awareness about this issue. You have traced your reactions of feeling “dreadfully incompetent” to an inner experience of shame. Shame is not an easy feeling to be with. So you can start by giving yourself some extra appreciation for even being willing to try!

It sounds like this situation of being around specialists in their field, and not being one yourself, is triggering something in you. So what you will want to do is turn toward that something in you that is being triggered, and give it some compassionate attention.

Probably it’s best to do that when you are not actually IN the triggering situation.

So when you feel safe and supported, perhaps home alone or with a good listening friend, you can bring awareness to your body and invite the “something in you” that feels ashamed at not understanding what those people are talking about.

Let it come as a felt sense in your body. Take your time. When it comes, you might let a gentle hand go there, where it is, to give the signal that you are not going to judge it. You are just going to listen…and give it all the time it needs.

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