The Cheerleader and The Critic

by Kimberly Alexander, M.S.

You know the tricky thing about thoughts that run through our mind is that even when you learn how to challenge and change unhelpful/maladaptive/negativistic ways of thinking in one situation, you sometimes fall into the same trap of unhelpful thinking when a new scenario comes up…

Well around this time of year is when applications for next year’s internships start going out. And as similar to last year, I find myself in a pit of self-doubt when I examine the requirements and expectations for each internship posting. You would think that once you have challenged the need to self-doubt, found more helpful thoughts to tell yourself, and found acceptance for what you cannot control then any new situation that would typically elicit self-doubt would be “nipped in the bud”. However, unhelpful thoughts are a very natural and normal occurrence of the mind but ultimately, feels like a bad habit I can’t kick from time to time. On the one hand, I know it is a personal choice to give constant attention to the self-doubt that says that I’m always “underqualified”. Yet realistically and ironically, I really do think of myself as highly capable. So, I sit in this cycle around this time of year with a cheerleader on one shoulder and a critic on the other.

As a result, it usually takes me some time to get to a more balanced place mentally. Last year panned out great because I landed my top choice, now training at the Albert Ellis Institute. There is proof to suggest that in face of self-doubt, I need to give myself a little credit because I am capable of landing great training opportunities. However, the fact of the matter is that some of my reasons for doubting myself are also based facts. Such as, if an internship site requests Clinical Psychology trainees and I am a School Psychology trainee, then I may get weeded out. However, it is also true that I only need one internship offer and I have taken great care in molding my application and training thus far to demonstrate that I can work in settings typical to Clinical Psychology trainees and can even bring additional skills based on some of my previous training.

As you can see, the cheerleader and the critic are actively busy at work in my mind. But ultimately, this all boils down to what it would mean to me if I was rejected from all the sites that I want to be placed at. At the very least, it would hurt and show me that all the work I have put into crafting my training was for nothing. That I wasted my time and I’m not the capable, skilled, or very knowledgeable. And I have failed in a very important way.

Dramatic, huh?!? Also, it’s emotionally exhausting, unrealistic, and overgeneralizes and minimize the efforts and hard work I have done thus far. No matter what the title I study under, I have been trained by amazing clinicians and sites to be a strong therapist. The work my cohort and I put in could never be overgeneralized… for that matter I can probably talk all day about the great work I do and have done. With that being said, I plan to stick to my plan, go forth and apply to those internship sites no matter what the technical title they are looking for because… to put it simply… I believe I am qualified. And as they say, “Don’t let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game.”

Kimberly Alexander, M.S.

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