Dumping Imposter Syndrome and being a tall poppy…


Have you ever entered a room and thought, what am I doing here, why am I putting myself in this position, what can I offer as a meaningful contribution to these discussions that will add value? 70% of people experience ‘imposter syndrome’ ie the feeling we don’t have a ‘right’ to be there at sometime in their lives, it’s always good to know I’m not alone!

But how do we dump this feeling, as ‘Jenny the M’ @JennytheM would say, do we, ‘spread on some courage butter’ step forward and perhaps speak positively to ourselves too?

Graphic with thanks to @TerryCulkin1 @WendyMinhinnett @RollercoasterPS @JennytheM

I had the privilege of being at Westminster Abbey this week to celebrate Florence Nightingale’s birthday and the fact it was 100 years since Edith Cavell’s funeral occurred, the address reminded us of the words ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am Woman’ perhaps repeating this mantra may be helpful for women and men when we’re feeling a bit wobbly?

Perhaps it’s also about exposure? The more we put ourselves in situations that are outside our ‘comfort zone’ the less we’ll feel as if we don’t belong….

I remember when I first started a lead nurse post for children in Hertfordshire, I wrote to Judith Ellis, @Ellisjmellis the then chair of the Association of Chief Children’s Nurses (ACCN) asking if I could join them. I wasn’t the ‘typical attendee’, I came from a District General Hospital Children’s Service, I knew I needed a network of support and the ACCN seemed like the right forum. Judith welcomed me and when I looked around and saw Directors of Children’s Nursing from Children’s Hospitals across the UK, we had a shared purpose, but I felt out of my depth, should I be there? What became clear however when I returned to my workplace were the benefits that being part of those conversations offered. I remember the Clinical Director looking over at me as I spoke with a refreshed confidence after attending the ACCN meetings, exposure to more experienced colleagues helped me grow, mature my thinking and think more broadly.

15 years on I still find the ACCN meetings hugely helpful in sharing ideas and it’s helped retain a network of likeminded colleagues who are some of my ‘go to’ people including @lorraine_tinker and @datt_colette. If I hadn’t been prepared to have gone back I’d have never dumped that feeling of imposter syndrome. What’s been particularly helpful is the ACCN has grown its membership in recent years recognising the need to grow and mentor future Children’s Nursing Leaders. Do follow the chair @Sally_Shearer and @CYPNurseLeaders for great insights and connections to others.

Another way to address imposter syndrome is seeking out a potential mentor in a likeminded colleague, there will always we someone to connect with at events or meetings. It’s worth taking a deep breath, being brave and introducing yourself, more often that not, someone will not only share a bit of themselves but also introduce you to some they know too, offering another opportunity to broaden networks.

Many years ago I heard the phrase ‘tall poppies’ describing those people who stood out and had impact. Perhaps we need to consider how we become brave enough to stand tall, weather the challenges, always accept responsibility for our actions, learn, and move forward?

I also wonder how we can support those who are growing to be tall poppies, our future generation of leaders, do we give them opportunities to shine? Perhaps we can all work to be more collaborative, inclusive, at making ourselves approachable and relatable? The leaders who role model these approaches, who encourage, open doors and nurture others I respect hugely.

We grow into the opportunities that we create, as-well as those that are presented to us. We’re all on a journey, always learning, developing and maturing, some days are tougher than others, and some parts of our careers are harder than others, but no matter what there are always colleagues we can call on to banish those feelings of imposter syndrome and help us stand tall, after all using our voice to improve things for and with others, helping them to flourish is what nursing leadership is all about….

PS thanks to @AnnalBray @Kady85 @darby_darren @Nurse_Green for important conversations this week….

More on #CourageButter here thanks Jenny https://jennythem.com/2015/04/04/courage-butter/

thanks Jenny @JennytheM for these thoughts on courage …..

Author: @kathevans2

I’m a Children’s Nurse who is passionate about improving healthcare and life with people who use services. I love getting out in the countryside or to the seaside to promote my mental health and well-being. On a journey to doing 100 marathons (slowly!) & part of team #NHS1000miles (new members always welcome!) I also love charity shopping, cooking and healthy eating too 😉 Sharing thoughts on a range of things that interest me. Comments, challenge, links to further thinking and research are most welcome. Learning and thinking together is always more fun!

7 thoughts on “Dumping Imposter Syndrome and being a tall poppy…”

  1. You have the amazing knack Kath of focusing your blogs on things that I am/have been personally concerned about. In my previous posts – and especially moving into the charity sector – I was certainly aware of feeling at times that I was an imposter! It was not unusual for me to turn up to a formal meeting and feel that I needed to justify myself and my experience. However in most cases I need not have put myself through the angst and worry as the warm and welcoming support helped to dispel any concerns. Even now as I embark on my ‘new chapter’ a little of this still filters through at times. What we can learn from each other and the impact of the support we can provide to others should never be underestimated. I have learnt so much from so many fantastic people along this fantastic journey and am always so happy to share this with others – especially during the difficult and challenging times that we all experience. You are correct in that we all have a voice and the ability to stand up for what we believe in, especially when it results in improving care and giving confidence to leaders of the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, your kindness, support and guidance over the years has been so valued Linda, admitting and sharing that we all feel like this sometimes can hopefully help colleagues too.


  2. A great read and resonates I’m sure with many. Despite all my years as a nurse I still can feel like this . One Senior Nursing colleague a CNO was hugely influential and supported me to develop. We all need that go to person whom we can trust. I talk to my team of nurses about this a lot . I think a great trait is to remain humble. Lead by example. But we can still be fierce.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for writing this – your recent blogs are such an inspiration (like you!) and I really appreciate your kindness in sharing your experiences and supporting others. Thanks Kath.

    Liked by 1 person

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