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The Imposter Syndrome

It was a pleasure to speak to you all online and thank you so much for taking the time to join the session and for your questions and comments. If there are any issues or questions you didn’t get the chance to raise, or which have been prompted by our discussions please do feel free to contact me. You can reach me at kate@kateatkin.com or 07779 646976.

On this webpage you will find some extra information on the imposter syndrome (really a phenomenon) and more on resilience and wellbeing too.  There are other useful links, suggestions for TED talks and further reading – see below.


The Imposter Phenomenon

We are still at an early stage in understanding the impact of the Imposter Phenomenon, my interest is in understanding the most effective ways of managing those imposter feelings, in particular in the workplace and passing on this information to others. As I mentioned, I am currently undertaking doctoral research on this topic. If you are interested in keeping up to date with my research findings and musings on the topic, do sign up to receive my newsletter.

Here’s a link to the research on IP in the workplace by TotalJobs in 2019, in collaboration with yours truly and my PhD supervisor Dr Terri Simpkin: TotalJobs Survey and further research completed this summer with Total Jobs summer 2020 survey results

On the video tab of this website you’ll find a panel discussion on the imposter syndrome with Circle Co. which provides an interesting insight into the imposter at work (filmed prior to Covid 19 so no references to working from home). I also add blogs and podcasts to the site, so do take a look around.

Building my Resilience - practical strategies

I truly hope that you found this part of the afternoon useful too. Resilience is a very personal topic, so please do look after yourself and reach out for help or support if you need to (including to me if appropriate).  The key now is to remember to implement the ideas and actions that you have created.

If there are any issues or questions you would like to discuss please contact me. You can reach me at kate@kateatkin.com or 07779 646976.

Below you will find some extra information on the topics we discussed and some links to other resources.

Remember only you can guage how well you are coping, thriving or how resilient you are feeling or how close to burning out you may be. Reaching out for help and support is a sign of strength.

Building Resilience and Avoiding Burnout

Stress is “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it,” that is, the rate at which we live at any one moment. All living beings are constantly under stress and anything, pleasant or unpleasant, that speeds up the intensity of life, causes a temporary increase in stress, the wear and tear exerted upon the body. A painful blow and a passionate kiss can be equally stressful. (Selye 1976)

Stress has become synonymous with negative events, but that wasn’t always the case…

HSE definition of stress: ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work’. 

There are good types of stress and a certain amount keeps us motivated and ‘on the ball’. Each of us have different levels of negative stress that we can cope with. The key is recognising where you are before you get too close to not coping.

Defining burnout

Burnout is not a sudden one-off event, but more like a “gradual emotional depletion and a loss of motivation and commitment” (Freudenberger 1974)

Three characteristics were identified by Maslach, Jackson & Leiter (1986):

Emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced accomplishment.

How to recognise whether you are coping. (see Skills for Care questionnaire)

CIPD fact sheet:


VUCA short Harvard Business Review article: https://hbr.org/2014/01/what-vuca-really-means-for-you

Coping and Confidence

Have the confidence & courage to speak up for yourself. Ask for what you need. Putting yourself first isn’t selfish, it is self-care (remember the flying and oxygen mask analogy).

Beliefs cycle: beliefs, feelings, behaviour, results…

Watch out for the tendency to need to be the rescuer – not helpful if you take away others’ abilities to look after themselves. Support by listening, but don’t take over.


Loving Kindness Meditations:

To others: May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease

And to yourself: May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease


Shad Helmstetter’s book “What to say when you talk to yourself”, and he has a Facebook page facebook.com/drshadhelmstetter/

Kristin Neff is a researcher in self-compassion, her website is https://self-compassion.org/

And here is a link to a YouTube video of a Loving Kindness Meditation youtube.com/watch?v=tY3NnodM3Ww

Five practical ways to increase wellbeing

Here is a short explanation of the New Economic Foundation’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing:


Connect – social distancing, should really be physical distancing. We still need social contact. How are you connecting? If managing others, do more now. Informal, phone, text, Zoom/Skype/Teams, quizzes, virtual cuppas.  Wobble Rooms – to download/offload/ just wobble & recover. Wellbeing Hubs.


Be Active – government advice was to exercise once a day right from the start of lockdown. Why? Because the importance of being active was recognised. Not just for physical health, but for mental well-being too. Small activities as well as longer runs/walks, games of tennis or golf, gardening.

Do whatever works for you, but don’t stay in front of the TV to relax!


Be Curious – this used to be called “take notice” but has been renamed. Curiosity encourages a state of wonder, of seeking to understand rather than of knowing. What are you curious about? Where could you ask more questions? What small things can you look at and wonder, rather than know? Flowers, sunsets & sunrises, birdsong, as well as work issues, your clinical skills and people.


Keep Learning – at the start of the lockdown, so many people were signing up to learn a new language, complete an online course, learn how to sew etc… While it is likely that working for the NHS you had enough on your plate already!

Not everyone has kept to those, a little like new year resolutions. Nor has everyone had the time to do this.

But what have you learnt? It migth not have been on a fromal course or workshop but we have all learnt new skills and new ways of working in the past few months. We don’t often stop and reflect on the skills we’ve learnt. Take time to acknowledge the new ways of working, the online processes, the methods of coping and many other things you will have learnt over the past few weeks.  And post-pandemic, we will continue to learn. New skills at work, new skills outside of work new recipes to cook, new routes to work, new ways of being rather than just doing.


Give – we can give gifts to each other, and research indicates that the giver benefits from this as well as the receiver. Many have also volunteered their time in the last few months. Time is a precious resource and giving it, even in the terms of listening to a colleague, is hugely important.


Other things that are important to give is praise, feedback and thank yous. Give these to others, to recognise them, not just for what they do, but also for who they are. Saying a heartfelt thank you, with reasons, is hugely important.

Strengths Questionnaires

Via Strengths Survey

Gallup’s StrengthsFinder

StrengthsProfile Assesssment

StrengthScope Assessment

Talks and Interviews

Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on Body Language

Brene Browns’s TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability and her follow-on TED Talk on Listening to Shame

Christine Porath’s TED Talk on Incivility

Susan Cain TED Talk on The Power of the Introvert

Viola Davis behind the scenes Oscar interview

Inga Beale on R4 Desert Island Discs

Other reading, books and references

What to say when you talk to Yourself: Shad Helmstetter
The Impostor Phenomenon: Dr Pauline Clance
The Pursuit of Perfect: Tal Ben-Shahar
Inferior: Angela Saini
The Gift of Imperfection: Brene Brown
The Confident Manager: Kate Atkin
Quiet: Susan Cain

Alternative Energy Exercises

Many of you have asked how to manage the impact of the negativity coming from others. While it is easy to say “don’t let them get to you”, it’s not as easy to do. These two short videos are of exercises are from the alternative field of Energy Medicine and may, or may not, suit you (could all just be placebo, but if it works…)

Prune Harris – daily energy routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN2uq78Y2bE

Prune demonstrating the “zip up” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVWCjgNDKC8

Resilience & Wellbeing

You’ll find a diagram of some areas of resilience via this link: Emotionally Resilient Living

This link will take you to Liggy Webb’s “Little Book of Resilience” in pdf form.

TED talk by Jane McGonigal – at 12min 20 secs she covers 4 key ways to build resilience

Also see the Action for Happiness website

And the New Economic Foundation’s Five Ways for Wellbeing


Useful links and support for Wellbeing and Mental Health

Mental health Apps:

NHS ‘Supporting Our people’ website: people.nhs.uk

NHS Horizons: horizonsnhs.com/caring4nhspeople

MIND – advice on taking care of your staff: mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/useful-resources

Rethink mental health charity: www.rethink.org

BMA – Counselling and peer support for doctors and medical students: bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/your-wellbeing/wellbeing-support-services/counselling-and-peer-support-for-doctors-and-medical-students

Dr Rachel Morris podcast: youtube.com/watch?v=j2LQEpJPfcM&t=1973s

Dr Rachel Morris’ wellbeing toolkit shapes-toolkit.mykajabi.com/free-team-wellbeing-toolkit

What Works Wellbeing – Burnout and Wellbeing: whatworkswellbeing.org/blog/burnout-and-wellbeing

WHO evidence for burnout: who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out

Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28977041

Supporting the Health Care Workforce During the COVID-19 Global Epidemic: jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763136

If you would like to keep in touch, then you can connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or sign up to receive my occasional newsletter on my home page .

Remember… #bekind especially to yourself.

Best wishes



If you would like to keep in touch, then please connect with me on LinkedInTwitter or sign up to receive my newsletter.

With best wishes.


#BeKind (especially to yourself)