We all know how important it is to have diversity in the workplace and to limit our own unconscious biases. In academic research it’s equally important to have diversity and try to avoid bias so that findings are generally valid. I’ve recently finished reading Caroline Criado-Perez’s book ‘Invisible Women’. This book contains stark messages of how data bias creeps into research, with sometimes devastating consequences. (E.g. Crash test dummies have male body weight, men and women have different heart attack symptoms but male symptoms are taught as typical, and many other examples.)
So it is with this in mind that I am trying to avoid data bias creeping in to my own research into the imposter phenomenon. To reduce any impact in the data from differing industry sectors, I’m focusing on the finance and insurance industries. But sadly an unwanted even narrower focus is creeping in to my data as far more women than men are coming forward to volunteer to take part in the study. I have interviewed some amazing people so far, but all of them, bar one, have been women.
So if you are male or non-binary and work in finance or insurance, would you consider taking part in my research? It consists of a 15 minute online questionnaire, which may be followed up by an optional interview that lasts no longer than an hour. More information about the study, and the online survey itself, can be found here: https://lnkd.in/dnteYYG, or you can contact me for more information at email@example.com
If you are female, work in finance or insurance, and would like to take part, you are, of course, very welcome to take the survey – the bigger the sample size the more reliable the findings. Also, if you know someone else who would be interested, please feel free to forward the information about this study.
I was recently a guest on the ‘Gin and Topic’ podcast hosted by Sarah Cruise of Eloquential and her stepdaughter Áine. It involves remote tasting of a gin chosen by the guest, followed by discussion of an interesting topic, in this case the Imposter Phenomenon (billed, as ever, as a Syndrome). Surprisingly the podcast sounds reassuringly coherent, obviously not too much gin was tasted!
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.