If you are a health & wellness practitioner navigating feelings of imposter syndrome and hypocrisy because you struggle with your own health issues amongst trying to support others, this article is for you. Learn from IAFHH graduate, Alyssa Chavez’s journey to building an imperfect practice, as she shares her story with battling endometriosis and infertility all the while growing her women’s health practice.
You are Not Alone
Do you struggle with perfectionist tendencies? Maybe you find yourself feeling like a “fraud” because you “can’t get a handle on your own health issues” yet you are positioning yourself as a leader and expert in your industry working with health & wellness? If so, you’re not alone.
I too have struggled throughout my life with perfectionist tendencies. In school, if I missed a couple of questions on a test and it kept me from getting that perfect 100%, I would get really hard on myself. I knew in my head that everything didn’t have to be perfect, but I sure did like seeing those straight A’s on my report card!
In the years since I graduated from school, life has taught me many lessons. Amongst those is the lesson that there are so many things we just can never be “perfect” at. Why? Because they are completely outside of our control. Those are the things that we need to learn to let go of to build a successful, yet imperfect practice.
My Journey to Building an Imperfect Practice
My journey to becoming a Functional Hormone Specialist began when I joined the Nutritional Therapy Association program in early 2021. This decision came about after reading a blog written by an NTP who helps women with endometriosis. I was struggling heavily at the time with endometriosis as well as infertility. In fact, I found that blog while I was digging into the depths of Google in desperation after I had a miscarriage following my second round of IVF.
I had first gone to my fertility doctor after my husband and I had struggled to conceive. By that time I had been off of birth control for two years and had battled with extremely painful periods. No one told me at the time that it wasn’t normal to be in that much pain, but that is a topic of discussion for another day.
My doctor did an ultrasound and was able to see a large endometrioma on my right ovary and suggested we go straight into IVF. I was afraid this might be our only chance at having a family, so we agreed.
After two rounds of IVF, a devastating pregnancy loss, and so much uncertainty we decided to take a break. I had asked my doctor before our second embryo transfer if there was anything I could do dietarily to help my odds of success. She blew that off like there is no way that could help, but I just knew there had to be something more I could do.
I did some research and reading on my own. This encouraged me to make some dietary and lifestyle changes which ended up having massive impacts on my pain level, energy, PMS, and so many other symptoms. I honestly didn’t even know many of these were an issue until they started to subside. To me, this was incredible, and I felt empowered to find a way to share this information with the world.
I knew that by becoming an NTP, I would learn a lot about my own health as well as information to help my future clients, which I certainly did. I came a long way during that time in so many ways and I have come even further since.
Reality vs. Expectations of Building an Imperfect Practice
Along with that perfectionist nature, I also have a tendency to be optimistic. Maybe even idealistic would be a better word. I fully believed that I would go into the NTA program, learn about my health, and come out the other side fully healed and pregnant and ready to share my miracle story with the world and help others do the same.
Is that the way it happened? Absolutely not. I did, however, learn a lot about myself and how my body works. I learned about what works and doesn’t work for me and I saw a lot of positive changes. Connections were made in my brain right and left and I knew could help so many people do the same.
After graduating, I struggled with how to start my business. My plan all along was to tell my own success story. I would share how I went from being in pain and infertile to feeling great and fertile again. That was just not the case. It turns out life had other plans. While I had seen some amazing changes in my body, I had not yet achieved the goal I was really looking for. I did worry if my clients would see right through that and wonder if this stuff even really works.
Then I joined the IAFHH Functional Hormone Specialist Certification Program to further my training. Here I could learn more about hormones and how they work, and maybe then I could continue to “perfect” my own health and be better able to help my clients.
I definitely learned a lot in the program that helped me to feel more educated and empowered in my hormone health journey, but I also know there is still a lot more I have to apply and experience before I will be able to “perfect” my own health.
By this point, I was working with some clients. To my great pleasure, every single one of them saw positive results with the changes we were working on. I reminded them that we are making progress and that baby steps are A-okay. It is not a requirement to do everything 100% of the time in order to get results. And let’s be real, we all have lives! Every one of my clients was either a busy mom or had a busy schedule that could get in the way of the plans we laid out.
Each step of the way I would remind them to just do their best and take it one step at a time. We are looking for consistency and being able to make lasting changes they can stick with for life. Doing everything perfectly is just not a reality for any of us humans!
The beautiful thing is that although I went into these client sessions with the idea that I would be teaching them and sharing all that I had learned with them, that learning was reciprocated right back to me.
The Part that Really Mattered
Each one of my clients would come back to me with smiling faces during our follow-up sessions and tell me about the little things that had improved. They would be so excited to hear what is next and what else they can do for themselves. I could feel the self-empowerment radiating off of them, which was exactly what I had dreamed about.
And you know what? Not one of them questioned whether I would be able to help them because I was still struggling with infertility myself. Since starting my business I have been very open about my journey. I have talked about my struggles with endometriosis pain, infertility, pregnancy loss and so much more. This is something I felt very hesitant and vulnerable about, but I went for it anyway and I am so glad that I did. More than anything I have received floods of gratitude for sharing my story. There has been so much support from family and friends, clients, and even strangers.
The Beauty of Imperfection
In all honesty, I’m glad things have worked out the way they have for the time being. I have learned so much from this experience so far. Along the way, I have seen the beauty in letting things go. I have found gratitude for the little things, the beauty of vulnerability, and the connection with other humans.
There was one thing that I really found missing with most of the practitioners I have worked with myself. While many of them are amazing at what they do and very kind, they never quite “got it” because they hadn’t experienced my issues themselves.
For anyone who has struggled with infertility, endometriosis, or really any chronic health condition you know full well that you can never really understand what it is like unless you have experienced it.
I have realized now that the best way that I can show up fully for my clients is to share my own struggles and imperfections. At the end of the day, those are the things that many of them connect with the most. That connection is a gift. I am not here to show anyone what a picture of perfection looks like. We see enough of that through social media. Instead, I am here to be human right alongside you as we walk this journey together.
Learning to Let Go of Perfectionism
Step by step I am learning to let go of that picture of perfection. I do still have goals for myself and for my clients, but now I understand that it is okay if we don’t hit those goals within a particular time or in a certain way. We will reach those goals as the messy humans that we are by whatever curvy, crazy pathway we need to. Health is not a destination, but a journey that will ebb and flow and change over time. We will all experience good days and bad, setbacks and revelations. The important thing is that we don’t give up.
To any practitioners out there who may be struggling with insecurities surrounding their own health struggles as they work with clients, I encourage you to be open with them. For many people, just knowing they are not alone is huge. We all want our clients to feel better and mental health is a huge part of that. Having someone to hold their hand and let them know that it is okay to have ups and downs is monumental in the healing process.
Many clients may be coming to us either with a brand new diagnosis or having tried everything to no avail. To have someone guiding them who has been there can mean the world and bring an enormous amount of relief.
We are here to be leaders in the world of holistic health and to be an excellent leader is to be vulnerable and to have a strong sense of humanity.
Much love and happy healing!
About the Author
Alyssa Chavez, NTP, IC-FHS
Alyssa Chavez is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and IAFHH Certified Functional Hormone Specialist who supports women struggling with hormone imbalances such as endometriosis, painful or heavy periods, infertility, and more. Outside of her work, Alyssa lives in California with her husband and two dogs where she loves spending time traveling and being outdoors.
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