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Impostor syndrome

Who is the fraud?

Who am I to write a guest blog for the Oxford English Dictionary on the Impostor Syndrome?

I have now given several talks on the subject of the Impostor Syndrome – more correctly termed Impostor Phenomenon – chaired a panel discussion for the General Assembly on the subject, been interviewed by the Telegraph and Cambridge TV on it, as well as receiving a distinction for my research into it when doing my Masters Degree a couple of years ago.  So why did I still think, “what me?  Really? can I do this?” when contacted by the Oxford English Dictionary to be a guest blogger on their new entry “Impostor Syndrome“.

The answer, as you may have guessed, is that I am one of the 70% who experience ‘imposter’ feelings.

Of course I said yes, and then set about controlling my internal chatter to be able to write a comprehensive piece.  The resulting OED Blog post is here

Then I spot a completely incorrect use of the term in the Times today.  A fraudster does NOT experience the impostor syndrome or phenomenon.  Those who set out to deliberately deceive others are actual impostors, as defined by the OED.

Please, it’s hard enough to experience the feelings without being confused with with real fraudsters.  So, a plea to all journalists, please don’t muddle the use of impostor syndrome with real impostors.

Impostor Syndrome dealing with the imposter phenomenon

reveal your imposter for what it is, a mask, not reality

Having spent the past two years studying for a masters in applied positive psychology, and completing a dissertation on the imposter phenomenon and self-efficacy I should know enough about it by now to write a blog.  Yet my own Imposter rears its head when I go to put my fingers to the keyboard…. You probably know the sort of stuff, an internal voice which says “there are so many writing about this already, why you?”, “who’s going to want to hear your take?”, “are you sure you’ve got anything to add?” or “what if you write something that’s incorrect?”, “make sure there aren’t any spelling mistakes or typos” and “do you really know what you are talking about?”

Well do I?  I have read a few (ok, several!) books, numerous research articles and interviewed successful entrepreneurs, six men and six women, for my dissertation on the subject.  So does that qualify me to write a blog post?

What really qualifies me is my own experience of dealing with what I now know to be an Imposter for many years. Something which pops up every so often, or rather very often!  On coming across the term two years ago in the early part of my studies I realised that this is what I had been dealing with.

 

It wasn’t exactly a lack of confidence, more a crippling

“don’t put yourself out THERE as you’ll be FOUND OUT” feeling…

For those of you who, like me, can relate to the imposter feelings, there is often a huge desire to be successful, to do well and make a difference in the world, which contrasts big time with the internal struggle of what to do if you are successful, if you do make a difference because then you really have to work hard at not failing. To fail, so the imposter tells you, negates the success you have achieved and proves that you weren’t worth it after all.

Right from my early primary school days I have been subjected to ridicule, or “teasing” as it is often innocuously referred to. Harmless to many, for me it became something to avoid. If I didn’t do well, I would be ridiculed. If I didn’t succeed I was a failure. If I didn’t know something I was an idiot.  Not in other people’s eyes I might add…but in my own!  Others would tell me how well I was doing, how entrepreneurial I am to start a training business on my own (sixteen years ago), and how brave I am (to travel to Outer Mongolia on my own, for instance). Internally those comments only fueled the desire to work hard, to be 100% perfect… so as not to be found out.

 

Stop Hiding

Last weekend I spoke at the District 71 Toastmaster Conference and I let my Imposter completely out of the bag by pulling off my mask. I spoke about the ridicule, the internal angst, the perfectionism and also ways to overcome the feelings, which I confessed I was still working on.  Surprisingly (that’s my Imposter talking, to everyone else it wasn’t a surprise) I wasn’t ridiculed, I wasn’t run out of town for talking nonsense, instead I had people coming up to me to thank me for my honesty and to say how well I had connected with their own experiences.

Then just two days later I attended an event at the O2. A graduation ceremony for my masters in applied positive psychology. Again, I feel amazed that I not only now have a masters, but was awarded it with distinction!  Compare that with failing the 11 Plus, an examination all primary school leavers had to take in the UK to determine whether they were clever enough to go to the grammar school. I obviously wasn’t clever as I attended the Spilsby Franklin School, a secondary modern. But just two years ago, at the age of 48, at the same time as learning about the imposter phenomenon, I realised that I probably failed the exam as I took it at the age of 10 because my birthday is in August. How I hadn’t come to that realisation before I don’t know, but there it was staring me in the face.  My sisters both passed, I didn’t, yet I’m the only summer-born sibling.

 

What to do if you have experience imposter feelings

So what can you do to alleviate your imposter feelings?  The first step is to recognise them for what they are.  Feelings, not necessarily truths.  The second step is to start to talk about them.  You don’t have to go to the extreme of going on stage at a conference, but talk about them with family members or friends, or a work colleague you know you can trust.  Chances are they’ll go “yeah, me too”.

 

Further ways of banishing the imposter and boosting confidence will be the subject of subsequent blogs.  Meanwhile if you’d like me to speak at your conference, or to your staff or organisation, or for one-to-one coaching do get in touch. I’m on a mission to Banish the Imposter, my own included.

Contact me on kate@kateatkin.com or see www.kateatkin.com for more details.

Thank you.

  • Presentation Workout by Kate Atkin

    Signed copies will be available on the evening

  • How do you make your business, project or idea stand out?
  • Have you ever been asked to say a few words at short notice?
  • Do your knees knock or does your throat dry up when standing on your feet?

For many people making a presentation or speaking up in meetings is often feared, yet in today’s environment if you don’t make yourself and your idea, product or project stand out you’ll be passed over for the person who does.

Come along to network, learn and raise money for charity, suggested donation of £20 on the night.

Book your place via Eventbrite

This evening on presentation skills will address not only the skills to deliver powerful and persuasive presentations, but also the ability to deliver them with confidence and clarity.  There will be an opportunity to win signed copies of The Presentation Workout, donated by Pearson and also a chance to network over cheese and wine sponsored by Whitehill Pelham.  All finds raised on the evening will go directly to Arthur Rank Hospice Charity.

 

This is a rare chance to learn the skills from Kate Atkin, a world debating champion, #1 in UK & Ireland Toastmasters Speech Evaluation contest and runner up in JCI European Public Speaking competition, in an open event.  Normally Kate only runs workshops in-house for clients.

 

What will I learn?

Kate will cover the following areas

Planning a presentation                     Vocal techniques                               Controlling nerves

Body language                                         Beginning with impact                    Power Point tips

 

When and Where?

Monday 7th December 2015 hosted by St John’s Innovation Centre, Cambridge CB4 0WS

Network with cheese & wine from 18.30.  There will be a 60 minute interactive seminar followed by Q&A and the event will close by 21.00

 

How do I book?

Book online through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/presentation-skills-workshop-raising-funds-for-arthur-rank-hospice-tickets-19146035307

If you have any queries please contact Kate direct on 07779 646 976 or email kate@kateatkin.com.

 

Kate recently gave her ‘Dream, Dare, Do’ keynote speech to Cambridge AWISE, an organisation with the mission to connect and inspire women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Read about its success here:

AWISE

 

 

I have just come across a very interesting blog on Emotional Intelligence, and how it has progressed over the years since Daniel Goleman wrote his book in 1995 “Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ”.  The blog is a very interesting read and rather than replicate the whole of it here, I’m providing the link:

http://intentionalworkplace.com/2013/06/13/emotional-intelligence-20-years-on/?goback=%2Enmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1

There’s a great difference ion being emotionally self-aware and able to read emotions in others.  Some people I find are good at both, while others are good at one or other.  How confident are you in assessing your own and others’ feelings?

To hone your own emotional intelligence I suggest you try looking at these two things in isolation:

First, find a list of feelings (there’s a good list here by Byron Katie).  Then start to notice your own emotions, pause a review the list a few times a day to increase your own feelings vocabulary.  Once you have done that for a week notice whether you can register and name your emotions more quickly.

Next, focus on other people.  How might they be feeling in certain situations?  Look at their body language, the subtle facial expressions and listen to their tone of voice to help you draw your conclusions. Remember, this isn’t about how you are feeling.  Aim to adapt your responses to how you think the other person is feeling, and if appropriate ask them.  Continue to do this for a week and then assess whether you can gauge an emotion from others with greater accuracy than before.

 

Confidence is often about having the courage of your convictions, saying what needs to be said, in a timely and appropriate manner whilst considering the other person’s point of view.

So what happens when you are challenged, say in a meeting?  Do you stand up for yourself or back down?

During a recent workshop on Courageous Conversations I discussed this with the participants.  Many felt it wasn’t easy to stand up for themselves if the person challenging them was of higher authority.  Here are a few suggestions should you need to stand up for yourself: Read more…