This blog was partly inspired by communications I’ve had with close friends and family about confidence, imposter syndrome and the rational knowledge we have skills, whether we realise it or not. My best friend, Lou, has launched a new career as a photographer, while also changing her day job, and we talked about the gender issues connected with confidence, and whether those thoughts still hold in the 21st century. In that 2-hour meandering way that best friends do, we came to the conclusion that you just have to fake it till you make it. But how do you do that with integrity?
Now, I have to say, I have a roller coaster ride relationship with integrity. In my Civil Service days, I hadn’t even considered the need for it, and was quite happy to get down and dirty with and against my colleagues, stealing placings and whatever it took to hit target. Now, I see integrity as an ideal that, as soon as you accept that it can never be reached, you get a lot closer to attaining. It is impossible to get through life without telling small fibs, these are called tact and discretion. Nobody needs to know everything, all the time, indeed, if they did, it would be disastrous.
Integrity is about the small things. If you say you will be at a meeting at 9am, be there at 8.55. If you promise somebody some work in two years’ time, and then fall out with that person, as has happened in my working life once or twice, do the work anyway. Be the bigger person. You don’t have to become their best friend again, just keep your word to the best of your ability and move on.
Fake it till you make it
But what about that old career adage, ‘Fake it till you make it’. The problem is keeping control of the fakery. Dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have is all very well, but is it ok to tell people you already have that job when you don’t?
Well of course not. Is it OK to display confidence in your knowledge when you still have information to check? Yes, within limits. I always had more respect for my trainers when they answered one of my notoriously nitty gritty questions with ‘I’ll check that over lunch and get back to you’ than waffled on with what was obviously a shaky answer on a very narrow foundation.
There are times when you have total integrity but it feels like you are faking it. This is really the epitome of imposter syndrome. Here is mine: I am the world’s leading academic researching Joyce Grenfell. This is, at the moment of writing, a true statement, and has been for the last 5 years. There are 3 other experts on Joyce Grenfell: Janie Hampton, Maureen Lipman and James Roose-Evans. None of them are academics and none of them have done any active work on Grenfell for nearly 2 decades. Therefore, the statement is true because I am the ONLY Joyce Grenfell academic in the world. Other academics acknowledge the validity of my claim to the leading academic in this field, but it feels like a lie. So, we can say then that imposter syndrome is when you have integrity but it feels like you don’t.
I’ve been very fortunate in that I have a Joyce CoomberSewell who has, throughout our married lives, coached me in my continuing journey to building a stronger relationship with integrity, taught me skills to fake it till I make it with that integrity still in tact and has booted imposter syndrome out of my life on a weekly basis. If you would like her to do the same for you, CONTACT US today.