Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in 2 Easy Steps

In Impact by Dental Entrepreneur

Imposter syndrome. I have to be honest–I’m not a fan of the phrase. Alas, it’s a thing even though it’s been a thing since the dawn of time–some marketer just needed to coin it like a Hallmark holiday to help you feel bad about yourself. Off soapbox. Like it or not-I felt it when I was you -you feel it today–let’s overcome it together.


Step one: Exit survival mode and enter thrive mode. 


First, I know this is not an easy ask of you. Whether you’re a D1, 2, 3, or 4, I get it. Job one is head down and get your DDS OR DMD. I also know dental school isn’t always the safest space. It isn’t always the least stressful place. And it isn’t always what you want to wake up and face. In truth, I still have random pre-clinical flashbacks of crushed waxups, and the overwhelming feeling that I’m not good enough.


That said, I remember a very specific early fall D2 day. We had a few holdbacks join our class. They, of course, had friends who moved on to D3. As we sat around and talked, I remember thinking, “If that crew advanced to D3, so can I.” That moment was a defining one. That strategy became a mantra as I looked one, two, three years ahead at every goal I had. “If they can do it, so can I.”


That was for me and can be for you–the first step to thriving. Knowing as hard as it seems, that you can and you will do it. From there, if you’re going to overcome imposter syndrome, I need you to actually look to your future. I need you to imagine your life as a young dentist. Think about who you want to be. Think about what kind of dentistry you want to do. Don’t worry about your inexperience. Don’t worry about changing your mind. Don’t worry or overthink any of it. Just think, as you sit here in this moment, who do you want to be as a dentist, as a leader, as a teammate, as a person? How do you want people to view you? What do you want them to say about you when you’re not around? If you could draw up YOUR perfect dental day as you sit here now, what does it look like? What procedures do you picture doing (even if you’ve only seen them in class)? Picture your practice. What’s your style? Modern? Traditional? Are you comfortable with tried and true? Do you see yourself being cutting-edge? Do you love people and want a small team? Larger team? 


Do you like a consistent week? Do you prefer to mix it up?


Take some time alone. Answer those questions for you. There’s no wrong answer. There’s only your ideal answer. Summed up, that’s called your vision. 


From there, why do you want what you want? Is it to have balanced time? For family? Friends? Travel? Is it that at all? Maybe you want a 70-hour/week, all-in, dentistry-focused life. All of it is right. As long as it’s right for you. You see-regardless of our different whys, I believe we all seek the same thing. A self-determined future. 


Build your mental picture of what you want, where you want it, when and why, and you’ve just completed step one in overcoming imposter syndrome. When you know where you’re going, you have the power to define who can help and how you’ll get there.


Step two: Re-frame learning.


It’s always been easy to see graduation as a finish line rather than a starting point for learning. It’s even easier to view it that way today when one adds up their debt and several social media groups pouncing on the fact that schools should be better. 


Don’t get me wrong–dental school needs to provide us with a strong foundation. It cannot, no matter what you’re hearing or experiencing, provide you with more than that. 




Most dental schools arm us to do basic restorative basically well. Some arm us with some prosthetics, including implants. There’s a win in those schools. There’s also a caveat to all of it. Procedure reps help us on the mechanical side. So yes, as a student, the more reps, the better. But why you do the what and how you do it matters more. Please re-read that. Why you and I do what we do and why we do it the way we do it matters more than the reps.


It’s the difference between a professional, a doctor, and a tooth mechanic. You do not want yourself or our profession to be viewed in that light. That is how we fall into a lesser division of medicine. That is how and why insurance companies dominate choices many of today’s dental pros operate. 


Go on Facebook, and you’ll see two dozen experts selling you the “how to fix”:


 Poor insurance reimbursement 

 Lack of patients

 Less than stellar associate treatment

 Poor case acceptance 

 Your need for speed


That’s nice. But you know what’ll help you far more? What will crush your imposter syndrome?


Investing in your diagnostic and treatment planning abilities so you can confidently walk into any room and prescribe (even if you’re referring out because the experience hasn’t come yet). 


*This is how you gain 95% complete care-case acceptance.

**This is also an incredible path to building patient referrals from specialists, by the way! 


When the top docs see you as a top doc, they’ll send you endless referrals.


Understanding material science: Few dentists have a real grasp on when to use what materials on which patients and why. When you’re one of those few, patients and colleagues will respond.


Working on your communication skills: If I told you how many dentists (of all ages) believe patients say no, maybe, or yes, and then cancel because of money or insurance – you’ll fall over. Patients say no or yes based on our ability to build real value for what we do. When they understand what we understand, as deeply as we understand, they say yes. The key is understanding their why. When you and I know every individual reason why patients choose what they choose, we hear yes almost every time. Imagine how hearing yes all day, every day, will cure that insecure feeling you have.


Do the work


If you’ve heard me speak before or read any of my articles, this will sound familiar to you. It’s not going to be easy. But it is going to be worth it. The top 2% in any profession, not just dentistry, know they must do the work.


You are capable of being in that top 2%!




Head back to the beginning of this article. 


Make a list of all the questions I asked.


Answer them for you.


Give it a week and go back to them to make sure it all makes sense. If it does, proceed; if it doesn’t, tweak.


If you have questions-DM me @ignitedds on Instagram.


Then re-read our second step. What can you commit to learning more of RIGHT NOW?


What can you prioritize learning immediately following school?


Have it under control? Great. Have questions on where to learn what you want to learn? DM @ignitedds on Instagram. We know the best of the best in all lanes of dentistry–it’s why a team of dentists who graduated anywhere from a year ago to twenty-nine years ago gets us. 🙂


Look in the mirror and smile. You have already done a lot of the work! The actual future learning and future reps will come easily now that you’ve invested the time to build your playbook. Great job!!


Imposter syndrome, as I said, is a phrase I’m not a fan of. Alas, we called it out, and we built a plan to overcome it. Sprinkle in a few great mentors to keep advising you, keep encouraging you, keep pushing you to be your best, and keep picking you up when you fall, and you’re in a great position to succeed. I only have one question for you before we part ways today…


Will you do it?