A phrase that has come to my mind a lot this past week is “one step forward, three steps back.” Other than this being an incredibly catchy Olivia Rodrigo song, “one step forward and threes steps back” is a commonly used phrase about progress. According to Google, this phrase means:

“You make progress but then experience events that cause you to be further behind than you were when you made the progress.”

I have related to this phrase often during my internship. I constantly have this feeling I’m progressing in some ways, then finding other places I have deficits in. This puts me in an often stressful place that feels like I’m back to where I started or even behind where I should be. The following topics are things that I have realized about growth and learning during my internship.

Learning Never Stops

When I started as a student, I perceived that college is where a music therapist learns everything. Then internship is where that knowledge is put into practice. This isn’t reality; there is so much to be learned during internship and beyond. I am learning so much during my time in internship. I am learning more about myself as a therapist, musician and person. The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn. Learning and growth is never ending.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome adds to this feel of going one step forward and three steps back. According to Google imposters syndrome is “feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments.” I have accomplished a lot and went to college for music therapy for 4 years. Even with this, I feel imposter syndrome almost every day. It seems at times as soon as I am feeling comfortable with one area, I find another area that I am not comfortable with. These two ideas feed each other, leading to stress, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

Finding New Places for Growth

I worked very hard on my musical skills throughout my life. However, performing music for new people brings up nerves and stress that can affect how I play. Additionally, my supervisors have different musical techniques that I didn’t learn when I was in college. I came into internship feeling like a fairly confident musician, but I’ve quickly seen areas where I can still grow. I’ve had to learn that it’s not a bad thing to find new areas in which I can grow.

From talking with my supervisors I have learned that feeling like you’re continually going one step forward and three steps back is a shared feeling that stays with you your whole life. I am still in my schooling and in a transition period in my life during internship. Right now the feeling of stepping back can feel so huge and the steps forward so small sometimes. 

The idea of going one step forward and two steps back can seem like a negative thing, but I’m realizing that there are positives to it. It helps me remember that I can’t be perfect and there are always places for me to grow. It helps to remind me that I can celebrate my steps forward, but give myself kindness for the perceived steps back. Even with the positives, this feeling can bring anxiety and lower my confidence. I just keep reminding myself that each step, not matter how big or small it feels, is taking me closer and closer to my goals.