I work out a lot. I even work out with a trainer several days per week. I set goals for myself like being able to leg press 360 pounds, or run a 5K race (despite my asthma), or train for a half marathon on rollerblades (yes, they exist!). Despite all of this training, I never considered calling myself an “athlete” as an adult. When I was much younger and I was playing AAA ringette (it’s a real sport!) and competing in events like the Ontario Winter Games, I was an “athlete”. When I got a letter asking me to try out for Canada’s ringette team, I was absolutely an “athlete”. There was no doubt in my mind, I was an “athlete”.
But the other day it took me by surprise when my trainer referred to me as an “athlete”. We got talking about nutrition, which I’m very passionate about, and my current nutritional strategy is really out of whack given the amount of training I’m doing. I tried to find the words to explain that I really didn’t consider myself an “athlete” as an adult. This got me thinking about how other people see me and how I see myself.
For the people around me who see how hard I’m working, calling me an “athlete” was a no-brainer. For me, the person who’s actually doing the training, it seemed like a foreign concept (probable diagnosis = imposter syndrome). “Athlete” seems like a term that should be reserved for someone who’s competing at a very high level (confirmed diagnosis = imposter syndrome). I’m just someone with personal goals who wants to be healthy (100% imposter syndrome).
Managing Misinformation Mountain
This conversation really got me thinking about how I see myself as a veterinary clinical nutritionist. I want to make a difference. No one in their right mind would train for 14 years and take on tremendous debt to become a boarded specialist if they did not want to make a difference. I want to fight back against the mountain of misinformation on pet nutrition. But sometimes the misinformation is so rampant, I feel like I’m not making a difference, and I’m definitely not moving what I’m going to call “Misinformation Mountain”.
And then 24 hours later, I became part of a conversation where I was referred to as a “thought leader”. Before dismissing the idea, I was reminded of my recent self-diagnosis with imposter syndrome. I have not thought of myself as a “thought leader” because I don’t feel as though I’ve made a dent. I feel like I’m throwing pebbles and twigs at “Misinformation Mountain”.
It was then that I recognized I should be following my own advice. When I teach I focus on having veterinarians and technicians pick their battles during appointments because they cannot possibly cover every piece of misinformation on pet nutrition in a 15-30 minute annual examination. It’s about finding the one or two pieces of misinformation to address that are really truly going to help the cat or dog you are seeing get the best possible nutrition.
We don’t actually have to move “Misinformation Mountain” to do some real good for our patients. A nutritional assessment is a great place to start!
So I’m going to get back to writing. I’m going to pick one battle to tackle at a time and I’m not going to focus so much on “Misinformation Mountain”. I’m also going to start seeing myself as the person other people see. Yes, we can all be victims of imposter syndrome and recognition is the first step.
Until next time (and there will be a next time)! Keep it balanced and keep it factual!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.