Am I a Professional Fraud? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

I’ve talked to So. Many. People. who have years of formal education, spend hours reading books to up their skillset, invest tons of money into continuing education, and then, when it comes down to the moment of action – be that setting up a coffee date, creating a presentation, writing a blog – they get a li’l bit sweaty.

They start to wipe their upper lip, blink excessively and then mumble something about not having a certification in XYZ, which, really, they ought to have in order to really be an expert.

Suddenly, right in front of my eyes, they become confident once again, chest puffed out, gaze steady, “Yes, that’s what I’ll do! Once I take that course on the best nutritional practices of red-assed orangutans while wearing a tweed jacket, then I’ll be qualified to raise my fees!”

Despite, a bachelor’s degree, often followed by a master’s degree and years upon years of personal and professional experience, they fail to take actionable steps that will lead to the lifestyle they want. I mean, who knows, this tweed-suited orangutan class sounds pretty sweet, so that might actually lead to success…

But most likely, it won’t.

There are those who had the privilege of being raised by educated, emotionally present parents who had boundless energy and resources to provide appropriate internal and external coping skills to ensure that there children were able to tackle the obstacles of life with confidence and foresight.

And then – there’s us. (Cue sad trombone)

We are in an entirely different cultural, economic, emotional and social landscape than the one in which we grew up. Concepts that were the norm in the families of our privileged buddies are mostly foreign to us.


“Tiffany, I’m tired of making excuses.

Give me more pearls of wisdom, so that together we can thread an entire pearl necklace that I can use to climb my way out of this morass of self-pity and into the light of freedom, flexibility and money that I can use to help all the people I love (myself included!).”

We won’t send you spam. Ever.


Everyday practices – like clearly and calmly stating our needs during a disagreement, putting a portion of every paycheck into savings, and abstaining from cheese filled hot dogs (but, come on, how cool were those. The cheese is IN SIDE) – were likely not practices that our families and friends back home engaged in.

So, when it comes to actually taking charge in a world filled with people who had so much access to ideas like investing and eating dinner, it is easy for us to doubt our ability to contribute anything of value.

When I talk people about leveling up, they often declare, “But I feel like a fraud!”

And what do I say?

WikiFraudYou are a fraud! A dirty, stinking, poorbie fraud who only just yesterday
learned that postmodernism consists of “skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism.”

Or are you?

Let’s visit the Merriam Webster:

Full Definition of FRAUD


  a :  deceit, trickery; specifically :  intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right

 b :  an act of deceiving or misrepresenting :  trick


a :  a person who is not what he or she pretends to be :  impostor; also :  one who defrauds :  cheat

b :  one that is not what it seems or is represented to be

Ah HA!

So it is here that we learn of an interesting distinction. As we can read, a Fraud is intentionally misleading.

Now we can use science and learning (…cuz that’s what the dictionary provides), to help you reflect back on your experience by asking yourself these questions:freeimages-stacybraswell-fraud

  1. Do I don my fashionable garb in order to indicate that I have always dressed thusly?
  2. When I talk about my upbringing, do I often slip in references to my prize pony, Jean-Antoine Watteau?
  3. Do I scoff when my friends order Ossetra caviar, all the while opining that “grandmamma” always served Sterlet?

If the answer to these is “no”, then you’re not a fraud.

Let me repeat: You are Not a Fraud.

Yes, this is true even if a blue-blooded friend visits your apartment and seems startled and a bit betrayed by its tiny dimensions. “Oh, how, um quaint.”

Yes, this is true, even if your colleagues assume you simply must have a Prius parked in the garage, but you choose to take the bus because you have strong values around environmental causes.

Yes, this is true, even if your boss claps you on the back and declares, “You remind me of myself at your age, son (Even if you’re a girl. Let’s be real, by the time this statement came out of his mouth, he’s forgotten you in light of the latest Nasdaq scroll on his I-Phone 17).”

My advice to you? Embrace that shit.

You came from scrappy beginnings and you’ve scrabbled your way up to a life where you can now get the meat out of the very tip of the lobster claw without it shooting out of your grip and sliding under the nearby table.

(yes, this happened to me, though it may have been crab).

People who come from privilege will make assumptions about you all day long because, chances are, they have never even conceived of canned corn and French’s mustard – unless of course, they are hosting a “funny”, hipster, frat party .

They’re going to imagine that, just like them, your parents took you on tours of college campuses and got you a private tutor when you brought home an “A –” in Advanced Chemistry.

And guess what – that’s none of your damn business.

Your job is to do you and do that well. If they are caught off guard when they get to know you better and their assumptions prove incorrect, that’s on them. Not you.

Yes, yes. It can feel shaming and awkward and make you want to get out of this entire exercise of movin’ on up. I get it, trust me. I get it. We ALL get it.

But don’t let it stop you from trying! Talk to other UP’s, get a shrink – shoot, email me if you must, but keep on keeping on!

You’re brilliant, motivated, funny and cool (I know this because you read my blog, so.) and it’s your job to carve a path for all the anxious, awkward, clumsy misfits who will be following in your wake. [Tweet This]

Today’s Mission: Leave me a comment (or send me an email) and tell me about the most mortifying experience you’ve had of public exposure.*


*And, no, please don’t send me stories of that kind of public exposure


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By |2016-04-11T16:19:33+00:00October 15th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|4 Comments

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  1. Mark 06/03/2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I have heard the same sentiments from fellow therapists, regardless of background, and I would add that I believe it also has to do with a very real reality: the actually efficacy of our training and practice. Meaning, the reality is if other professions had the outcomes we achieve they would experience a crisis of conscience as well (or at least should). Data… The more experienced a psychotherapist is, on the whole, the worse their outcomes. Supervision has shown not to help outcomes in any meaningful way and, in surprising percentage of cases, can actually be harmful (to supervisee and patient alike). Continuing education has not shown to improve results. Overall, psychotherapy only benefits 50 percent of people who seek it out and approximately 15 percent of people who seek it out actually get worse. Psychotherapy success rates have not improved in the decades of measuring outcomes, despite the burgeoning of modalities and orientations. So, I think we need to take a hard look at our training and practice approaches and see what we can do to be better ourselves professionally for us and those who seek our help.

    • TiffanyL 07/03/2017 at 12:55 am - Reply

      Excellent point, Mark! This question opens the door to many others, no doubt.

      By what standards do we measure efficacy?

      Who gets to set that standard?

      How does our history dictate the WHO that gets to determine what it means to achieve mental health in terms of ethnicity, class, culture, and gender?

      What does it mean to create a single standard of treatment that is meant to encompass the entirety of the human experience?

      Ay yi yi! And, at the end of the day, what official body has the power to say who is and is not a professional fraud?

      Great line of inquiry, Mark! You swept me away from the task I had meant to embark upon when entering the back end of HeyTiffany. Scammin!

  2. Emilie 20/06/2016 at 2:39 am - Reply

    I’m a new therapist, and have been struggling with this so much! I know I went to school for two years to get a master’s degree, interned for a year, and have taken numerous trainings, and while I may not have as much experience as others, I worked HARD and I [kind of?] know what I’m doing. Internalizing this is so difficult, but reading reminders like this is awesome because it reminds me that it’s normal and I’m not the only one!

    • TiffanyL 20/06/2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      Emilie! Heh heh ==> “and I [kind of] know what I’m doing.” You made me chuckle. I’m so glad this was helpful. Seriously, it is both knowing what we know and knowing how much we have YET to learn that makes us awesome clinicians and awesome business people. The fact that you know what you know and know that you have more to learn is a HUGE asset to this world. You are totally normal and you’re certainly not alone. I’m glad to know you’re out there in the world making it happen.

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