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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.


Be you. Be safe. Keep well.

With thanks