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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, One Strength at a Time

As a school psychology intern, and still to this day as a relatively early career school psychologist, I often experience imposter syndrome. When in graduate school, I experienced a situation in which one of my deficits was glaringly pointed out by someone I had otherwise looked up to. As a result, I began to overanalyze everything that I did as a school psychologist, before even becoming one. Was this really the career for me? 


When in graduate school, I experienced a situation in which one of my deficits was glaringly pointed out by someone I had otherwise looked up to.

When I started my internship, my thoughts nearly became a self-fulfilling prophecy. While the data had proven I could be good at this gig, my deficit thinking, in combination with the negative feedback I received, often limited my abilities to showcase my true potential. In addition, my kind spirit, something I always treasured as one of my deeply embedded character strengths, was instead pointed out as something that didn’t matter if I wasn’t doing my job effectively. In turn, I began to compare myself to my intern colleagues. Why did it feel like I was the only one who wasn’t getting the hang of this career? Was I really supposed to be here? I became so accustomed to focusing on the negatives in myself, and how I never seemed to get it right, that I began to retreat. I did not want to seek out any additional work in fear of doing something wrong, and being discovered as a fraud or a failure. I showed up, did my assigned work, and went home. In combination with starting my career in a global pandemic, I had a very isolating year.


My kind spirit, something I always treasured as one of my deeply embedded character strengths, was instead pointed out as something that didn’t matter if I wasn’t doing my job effectively.

Then… the lightbulb went off. I had an amazing mentor who constantly used my strengths to remind me that I in fact, did deserve to be here. I ran with her feedback and then, at the right time, became attuned to the importance of strength-based practices. I moved, started working with a new population, and shifted my entire approach to school psychology. 


I had an amazing mentor who constantly used my strengths to remind me that I in fact, did deserve to be here.

Today, in the schools, I often work with preschool age students. When I work with any student, one of the first questions I will ask an adult is what the student demonstrates strengths in. How would they best describe the student? What are their favorite things about the student? I was getting to know my students better than I ever could have otherwise. I then use this data to paint a picture of a child who may need support… but also has many strengths that should be looked at with just as much, if not more, importance.


All in all, focusing on the strengths of my students changed the game for me in my career. Leaning into my kind spirit is something in which I feel the most proud of. Now, I have additionally begun to pour these practices into my work as an executive functioning coach. Seeing my clients identify their strengths and needs, learn to advocate for themselves, or teach their children to be advocates while leaning into their strengths, constantly inspires me. 


Focusing on the strengths of my students changed the game for me in my career.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 



This article was written by Shawna Bush, a school psychologist and executive functioning coach who is passionate about supporting neurodivergent children, teens, and their families. Her favorite thing to do is help those she supports lean into their strengths. You can find her on instagram @shawnaxsunshine 


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