KATE ATKIN

Kate Atkin logo
kate@kateatkin.com
07779 646976

Kate was recently a guest on Creative Reboot podcast, listen to the podcast at https://creativereboot.co/episodes/season-2-episode-2-imposter-syndrome-with-guest-expert-kate-atkin/

Kate-Atkin-by-Helena-G-Anderson-980x709

Topics covered included …

The difference between imposter syndrome and imposter phenomenon, and why imposter phenomenon shouldn’t really be referred to as a syndrome.

Reasons for experiencing it, and the very real difference between self-doubt and imposter doubt – self-doubt is normal if you don’t have evidence and experience of what you’re doing. Imposter doubt sneaks in and makes itself felt after you have plenty of evidence that you do, in fact, know how to do this thing.

Putting our successes down to something external (thinking people are just being kind, or nice), and not internalising our abilities and how good we are.

Reasoning our way out of something if it doesn’t fit with the world view we already have. If you’ve outgrown your expectations and done more than you ever believed you could, imposter chatter (we love this description of it!) can increase.

The things we expect to have an impact on us, conditioning and narratives we carry about ourselves, which we don’t even really know, and how idle comments from others can cut really deeply when they hit on these narratives.

I was recently a guest on Derek Arden’s Monday Night Live chat show. In this extract, Kate gives a brief overview of the nature and causes of Imposter Phenomenon chatter, together with some tips for overcoming the difficulties that can result.  The video can be found on my video page.

In this newsletter you will find a call for participants for my PhD research, an review of tips for the imposter phenomenon and a short overview of courage.

Time has flown since my last newsletter, which was back in September when I was celebrating my 20th year in business.  In these difficult times, I feel very fortunate that work has continued apace since then – indeed many of my clients are moving to online delivery as their ‘new normal’.

 

 

Call for Participants in my PhD Research

Over the Christmas period, with celebrations curtailed, I managed to focus on my PhD research into how people who experience the Imposter Phenomenon in the workplace deal with their ‘Imposter Chatter’.  As you probably know by now, the Imposter Phenomenon is where someone who is successful nonetheless experiences inner feelings of being unworthy of their success or position and thinks (erroneously) that they will be ‘found out’ or exposed as a fraud.

I am now (at last!) at that exciting point in a PhD where I can switch my focus from reading and thinking about other people’s research to actually doing some of my own. The first part of my research consists of a short online questionnaire that takes about 15 minutes to complete.  I am seeking people who are in middle management or above, in the financial and insurance sectors, to complete this questionnaire. If you are interested, you can find more at angliaruskin.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/imposter-phenomenon-study-1.

If you know someone else who you think might also be interested, please do forward the details to them.

Based on the results from this questionnaire a number of people will be invited to partake in the second part of the study which involves a short interview.  However, as the link above explains, completing the online survey does not result in any obligation to participate in the second part of the study!

Thank you for your help.

 

Imposter Tips Revisited

I have been interviewed for a number of podcasts recently and during these discussions some of the interviewers have picked out their favourite imposter tips, so I thought I would be helpful to list a few below.
 

1. Stop comparing yourself to others

As Charlie Mackesy writes in The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse (my favourite book of 2020), the Boy asks, “What do you think is the biggest waste of time?”.  “Comparing yourself to others” replies the Mole.

This is something I try very hard not to do, but it is easy to slip back into old habits. However, in this tip I discuss the need for us to start to compare ourselves to ourselves.  At the start of the new year many of you will have created resolutions or set goals for 2021. But how many of you reflected back over the past 12 months (and what a year 2020 was!!)?  Have you looked back to see what you learnt in the last 12 months? What skills did you use? What helped you to grow as a person? We are often too busy looking forward or looking back with negativity that we forget to find something positive about ourselves.


2. Label it “imposter chatter”

Creating a label, whether for the internal voice or simply calling it “imposter chatter” can be really helpful. It isn’t a syndrome; you don’t suffer from it… we experience imposter chatter every-so-often. Recognising it for what it is puts you in the driving seat to change the internal chatter.


3. Collect AND review your positive feedback

While some people collect their positive feedback, others find it so excruciating to read nice things about themselves that they delete the email instantly.  Please don’t!!  Do collect your positive feedback into a dedicated email folder and take time every-so-often to review it. While at first it may be a bit “toe-curling”, in time it does get easier to read the good things people say about you. It’s even more useful if those good things say what you have done well, or why they think you are good at what you do.

In addition you can “yes and…” the feedback rather than “yes, but…” it.  All too often we dismiss the positive feedback by saying (usually internally) “yes, but they would say that wouldn’t they” or “yes, but they’re just being nice” or yes, but it’s because I worked really hard” or “yes, but it was a team effort” and so on and so on…  Instead, try saying to yourself “yes, and I learnt XYZ skill by doing that” or “yes, and I used XYZ strength” or “yes, and I enjoyed XYZ aspect of that task”.

 

Some key points about courage

I’ve been reading a lot about courage recently as one aspect of my PhD research is looking at the role of courage in dealing with imposter feelings.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that there is no agreed definition of what courage is.  If the academic world can’t agree on what courage is, what hope have the rest of us? One of the definitions Rate (2010) is:
(a) a willing, intentional act,
(b) involving substantial danger, difficulty, or risk to the actor,
(c) primarily motivated to bring about a noble good or morally worthy purpose.

An interesting discussion in the research is whether there needs to be fear involved for an individual’s actions to be considered courageous?

There are different types of courage, but the main three main ones are physical, moral and psychological.

Physical courage may seem obvious, as in the “man saves woman from drowning” type of headline.   (As actually happened last year in China when a UK diplomat did just that – see here for the BBC news report)

Moral courage is often cited as that exhibited by Rosa Parks in defiance of the Jim Crow race laws in the USA.  I think there must also have been an element of physical courage in her choice to sit in a ‘white only’ seat on that bus. Similar displays of moral courage have been exhibited during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Psychological courage is often exemplified as the courage needed to give up an addiction or get out of an unhealthy relationship.  In these cases, the individual is escaping from a very negative situation. However. I’m interested in how psychological courage is relevant in positive situations. For instance, does it take courage to accept positive feedback, or courage to change the view you have of yourself as a result. Could we call that ‘positive psychological courage’?  Please do let me know your thoughts.

There’s more to come on this topic as I delve deeper into the research.

I hope you’ve found the above useful/interesting and please do pass along the link to others you know to take part in my research.

https://angliaruskin.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/imposter-phenomenon-study-1

Be you. Be safe. Keep well.

With thanks

Kate

Credit: Helena g Anderson

I recently came across research by KPMG entitled “Advancing the Future of Women in Business: The 2020 KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report“. Now, don’t get me wrong the report makes interesting reading and is spot on with its research.

It’s just that, well, it seems to me that it perpetuates a few myths…

First of all, the report refers is all about women experiencing imposter syndrome.

Myth one: it isn’t a syndrome, not really. While most media outlets refer to it as such and it is in common usage (which is why I have imposter syndrome in my LinkedIn profile and my website, because that’s what people are searching for), it really is a PHENOMENON. I don’t mind anyone using the term syndrome, providing they also indicate that the imposter chatter is not a medicalised condition, and it would be great if everyone states that it really should be called a phenomenon (something that occurs at certain points in time or in certain situations). People don’t suffer from imposterism, they experience it.

Secondly 74% of the women interviewed report that they believe male counterparts don’t experience feelings of self-doubt as much as female leaders do. While that may well be true, it refers to another myth and a bugbear of mine…

Myth two: imposter feelings are one and the same as self-doubt. It’s just a confidence issue. No, no, and no again! the imposter feelings are not the same as self doubt, they are much more pervasive and should not be confused with what is normal, healthy self-doubt. When you are doing something for the first time, second or even third time wondering whether you are good enough, if it will turn out ok, or what will happen if you make a mistake is normal. Indeed, it is healthy. Normal self-doubt stops us from being arrogant, from taking unnecessary risks and keeps us self-aware. However, imposter-style self-doubt is so much more debilitating on the inside. This is when you have lots of evidence that says you are good at what you do, a string of successes behind you to prove that you are up to the job, and you still don’t believe them. That’s imposter self-doubt.

Thirdly, the report also states that: Imposter Syndrome is a persistent inability to believe one’s success is deserved or achieved by working hard and possessing distinct skills and capabilities but by other means such as luck or being at the right place at the right time. It is often accompanied with feelings of self-doubt, fear of success or failure, or self-sabotage. Which sadly perpetuates another myth, that of hard work being ok…

Myth three: If I work really hard, it will be ok. Many individuals achieve success through hard work and an element of luck, but those experiencing imposter chatter put their success down to luck and/or hard work – and not their own knowledge skills and abilities. Indeed, they put in extra effort to make sure the outcome is successful often to the detriment of the outcome (see Yerkes-Dodson law). The desire for perfection can mean they miss deadlines, procrastinate on important topics and get caught up in the detail. So letting go of the myth that you need to work really hard to be successful would be beneficial.

There are some great things in this report, and it is well worth a read. I am truly delighted to see top organisations taking the internal experience of imposter chatter seriously and commissioning reports on it. It’s just that I’d like them to be a bit more accurate.

A phrase by Dr Shima Barakat springs to mind: “fix the system, not the women”.

 

A couple of the useful bits:

47 percent reported experiencing Imposter Syndrome due to the fact that they never expected to reach the level of success they have achieved.

Research backs this up as IP is often experienced by those who have outgrown their childhood expectations, or society’s expectations, or indeed what is seen as ‘normal’ in the organisation. So from a diversity and inclusion perspective, banishing the myths that women don’t belong at the top would help; start creating allies and sponsors to encourage more women to reach for the top and when they get there to feel comfortable in that position.

72% of female executives relied on the advice of a mentor or trusted advisor when doubting their abilities to take on new roles.

Yes, and… mentors are great, having someone who can help you see yourself objectively can be really beneficial in taming the imposter chatter. AND having someone help you to review your successes, to accept them as deserved, to help you highlight your skills and your strengths. There’s so much more that a mentor and/or a good line manager can do.

If you’d like to know more about the imposter phenomenon please take a look around my website. I am currently researching the imposter chatter with men and women in the workplace for a doctorate and I also give talks and run workshops to help others acknowledge their internal chatter, identify where it might come from and how to covercome it. Imposter feelings can be lessened and overcome with time, and support whether from a manager, mentor or supportive other half.

 

My Phd supervisor, Dr Terri Simpkin, and I have been working with TotalJobs to carry out research into how employees experience and deal with the Imposter Phenomenon in the workplace. You can find a summary of our results at www.totaljobs.com/insidejob/imposter-phenomenon.  

On my Videos page you can watch video of a recent webinar where we presented our findings to over 150 HR professionals.  TotalJobs have also been researching the impact of lockdown and furloughing.  This meant that we were were able to have an interesting discussion about whether the pandemic is exacerbating our imposter feelings at the moment.   This will also be part of my own PhD research, although I’m sincerely hoping that the pandemic will be over by the time I start my in-depth interviews in 2021!