No, Learning How to Read Tarot Isn't a Trick: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome When Reading

Jennifer VanBenschoten

Ever hear of impostor syndrome? It's a real thing, and it's a gigantic pain in my ass. It's one of the things I've had to learn to deal with when bringing my authentic voice to the world, and especially through my work with Tarot.

A huge part of impostor syndrome is that whole "I'm not good enough" mentality. I mean, come on...let's face it. I am NOT Mary Greer or Biddy Tarot or Little Red Tarot or Ethony any one of a number of really talented Tarot readers out there. Tarot is not my full-time job (yet). But does that mean that what I have to offer isn't just as valuable as what they have to offer? Of course fucking not!

Now, here's the thing. I've read Tarot at a handful of events where I've had some pretty skeptical clients. These events are where you set up your table and a group of complete strangers come to you for a reading. Naturally, some of these people are there because they're humoring their friends, or they're just suspicious as hell of the whole process. But, hey, those folks are there to teach me something - as well as to learn something about themselves.

Letting Ego Get In the Way

A huge part of learning how to read Tarot for me was learning how to trust my intuition. I would get that feeling in my gut about something, I would see words or phrases or images in my head when I was reading for someone. These images and words would be so strong, so powerful, that I would sometimes immediately shut it down and say to myself, well, no, that's just too on-the-nose, this must be about something else.

Case in point: years ago when I used to offer free readings every week on my Facebook page, a friend managed to snag one of the readings. When I laid out the cards for her, the first thing that hit me was, wow, this is all about her struggles to get pregnant and start a family. 

And then my Impostor Syndrome/Ego kicked in and shut that shit right down. "Of course that's not what it's about," said Monkey Mind. "This is about her job or her career or something else. Your intuition isn't as reliable as you think it is. You're just faking it. It's so obvious. People are going to see right through this."

Well, when I sent her the reading, she confirmed that it was about her struggles to start a family. My gut had been right all along. Now when I get a strong impression, I share it. When I turned over The Devil during a reading at a women's wellness event last year, I looked at the person I was reading for and asked her if she had struggled with chemical addictions. She nodded and smiled and said, absolutely, that's what she was hoping would show up in the cards for her. 

It's not always easy, but sometimes you gotta tell that Ego to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. You've got work to do as a reader, and you don't have time to listen to that whole "my intuition isn't good enough" bullshit.

Is Reading Tarot Just a "Party Trick"?

This one kinda irritates me. Reading Tarot isn't a trick at all. It's a process, a study, a way of accessing knowledge and insight and information from our Higher Selves. Really, I don't think I've ever been surprised by what I read in a Tarot spread. It's stuff that I already know, but for whatever reason, haven't been able to bring to the surface.

Sure, you could sit there and memorize the meanings of every single card in the Tarot deck, and then you could go and memorize all the reversals and then just spew off hollow words when you read for yourself or for someone else. But that's the kind of stuff that gives Tarot a bad reputation. 

Honestly, though. If someone comes to you for a reading and really believes that it's all just a trick, then that's what they're going to get. It's not up to you to convince them otherwise. 

Reading Tarot From the Heart

While traditional wisdom tells us that the third eye chakra is the seat of our intuition, through my years of practice with Tarot and yoga and Reiki, I've come to feel that intuition is more of a heart-centered practice. When I feel something, I don't feel it in my head or my third eye. Sensations, words, images...all those things come through my heat center when I'm grounded and open. 

The bottom line is this: whether you're just learning how to read Tarot or you've been reading for decades, what you have to offer the world through your work with the cards is valuable. Act with integrity and heart when you're reading Tarot, and you can't go wrong. Trust yourself with the knowledge that you're more powerful than you could ever imagine.

So What Does This All Have To Do With Impostor Syndrome?

Once you've been reading Tarot for a while, it starts to come easier for you. And that's when I noticed my impostor syndrome kicking in. It was hard for me to accept that just maybe I was actually a really good Tarot reader. (It feels weird just writing that sentence, but whatever. I'm putting it out there.) One of the things that helped me embrace my abilities with Tarot was the idea that "I" wasn't doing much of anything - all I was doing was feeling the energy that came through when I turned over the cards. So if it helps you overcome your impostor syndrome, or at least put it to rest long enough so that you can work with your cards, go for it. Let yourself relax and just be a channel for the energy and information to flow.


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