Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2022

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60 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 2 W hen I fi rst wrote about impostor syndrome in 2019 ("Feeling Like a Fake: Impostor Syndrome in Massage Therapists," May/June 2019, page 50), it was with the goal of helping massage therapists move through the very common cycle of doubting oneself and one's skills. These doubts and fears can become big obstacles in our growth and success as practitioners and business owners. Since that article was published, I've had the opportunity to view the issue with a wider lens, one that includes both a pandemic and the raised awareness of racial inequity and the systemic, intentional disenfranchisement of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ communities. Rowan Blaisdell, former massage therapist, current psychotherapist, and host of the Therapy for Humans podcast (, describes impostor syndrome as the feeling you don't belong or haven't earned your place. It's feeling not smart or experienced enough. Impostor syndrome often includes the fear you will be "found out" and uncovered as a fraud. Blaisdell says impostor syndrome is often rooted in low self-esteem, performance anxiety, and fear of failure. A work or home environment where people are harshly criticized for mistakes can increase these feelings. Some of the same traits of impostor syndrome can also be motivators to keep improving as practitioners. Sometimes what looks like the procrastination of impostor syndrome is actually an awareness to stay in our scope of practice. Self-awareness is contextual and fl exible and helps you accomplish your goals. Impostor syndrome is pervasive and repetitive and holds you back. While I touched on the importance of balancing confi dence and humility, I dramatically underestimated the role of ego and hubris in our profession. There have always been massage therapists who knowingly practice outside their scope. Many of us have attended classes where one renowned educator or another makes wild claims, telling stories of diagnosing clients or "knowing more" than a medical practitioner. I once took a massage class in which the instructor, who had no credentials outside of massage, performed chiropractic adjustments, without permission, on students who had volunteered for massage demonstrations. "You needed that," said the instructor, to a wide-eyed, shocked, and in- pain student. The arrival of the pandemic brought these issues of ego and scope into sharp focus at a practitioner level. As some states shut down and forced closure of personal- service businesses, many massage therapists argued that massage therapy is essential health care and they should be allowed to remain open. While I can appreciate that approach and encourage activism whenever one is opposed to legislation, many therapists just ignored those rules and kept working regardless of state and local restrictions. Here in Massachusetts, where we were completely shut down for about three months, I know of practitioners who worked illegally because they felt they "knew better" than all the authorities and health-care professionals who guided those restrictions. Is It Impostor Syndrome or . . . By Allissa Haines Find Allissa Haines's original article, "Feeling Like a Fake," online at

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