Last week we had a wonderful discussion going on in the comments section about ways to cope with and plan for transitioning from a student to a professional. Thank you to everyone who commented!

This week’s topic is the ego.

In school, you’ve hopefully taken advantage of the opportunities to succeed. Perhaps you have become a leader in an organization, started a new clinical site, help tutor and assist underclassmen, or gone above and beyond requirements in your clinical work. You’ve also been performing regularly, be it in an ensemble or a group, and the opportunity is there to feel like you are the best (or worst) in your area.

I was (unfortunately) one of those who thought I was pretty awesome. I was in a charge of one facet of our community music therapy project, I was—to an extent—supervising underclassmen, my voice teacher told me I rocked, I frequently felt like the only person in my classes who understood the lecture because I was one of the few who talked, I took difficult practicum locations, and my professors always commented on my versatility and ability to adapt in session. I was proud of myself because I worked hard and got the feedback I desired from it.

Shortly before my internship, however, my professor, Dr. Chesley Mercado, said a very wise thing to my class:

“When you start your internship, you’re back at being the little guy. You know nothing.”

The way I understood it was that everything I did in school—all my accomplishments, all my praise, all my hard work—counted for nothing because every intern starts out the same: Observe. Just like in my Introduction to Music Therapy class. Watch and learn because this is what Music Therapy is.

And you know what? It helped.

I was able to go into my internship with clear eyes and open to a different type of practice and see its values and integrate it into my own. I was able to truly assess my learning style and voice my needs coherently. I was able to learn from my supervisor and my co-intern in a way that my somewhat inflated ego would not have allowed.

Checking my ego not only served me well as an intern, it helped to balance out my ability to be proud and confident in what I do, but to not seem overbearing or a know it all. I’ve found myself more open to assistance than I think I was in undergrad, as well as even hungrier for knowledge of things I do not know.

There is of course, another side to this situation that I cannot speak on. It’s the side of someone having to step up in their internship and really put themselves out there. If you are one of those people, I’d LOVE to have you guest post! Please e-mail me!