Imagine the situation: you know a group of your colleagues is organising a get-together, nothing fancy, nothing formal and, in truth you’d rather not go. You’re tired, you’re busy and, if you’re honest, you just can’t be bothered right now.

But that same group of colleagues organising that little meet-up doesn’t actually invite you. Gosh. The pain. The rejection. You know you didn’t want to go but it would have been nice to be invited!

question marksThis is one example of a “do I – don’t I?” dilemma that many people are familiar with.

Another common scenario revolves around leadership. I’ve been doing some great work, I’m familiar with the area, it’s something I’m really interested in and yet, when the head of the group asks “Who wants to take the lead on this?”, you hesitate… “Do I? Don’t I?” and before you come to a conclusion, someone else has claimed the spot and you’re left, sitting on the sidelines, again.

Earlier in my career I was very familiar with this. There were times when I knew I had a genuine interest in an area, a topic or initiative, but I just hated the thought of taking the lead. I saw myself as a great team player, a contributor, a colleague. Because I didn’t see myself as an expert I didn’t see myself as a leader. I positively didn’t want that role.

It took me a couple of years to understand the consequences. Initially I thought that being a good contributor would create significant career capital. I could help people or projects, be helpful, make a difference. It did finally drop that being helpful wouldn’t get me promoted or my contract extended.

I’m not saying that “helpful” isn’t important. It is. I’m a great believer in collegiality and contribution. But being seen as someone with a voice, an opinion, intellectual ownership of an area is vitally important for career progression and being seen to lead or show vision is often the platform for advancement.

You might be thinking “Do I want to advance?” or even “There’s nowhere to advance to!”. In truth, in our careers we often have to progress even if we simply want to stand still, we need to learn, to develop, to grow. Many workplaces or career paths are uncertain – jobs for life are rare. If we want to be a player in the game, the people at the top need to clearly understand the value that we add to the team, the group, the project. We need to claim our place at the table, to share our gifts with the world.

I finally got to the stage where I became frustrated with myself. On good days I knew I had the ability to take a lead position but I wasn’t claiming it. I was frustrated that others were getting opportunities that I was not – because nobody knew that I wanted them. I’d spent so much time in the shadows or deferring to the lead of others that I was not seen as ambitious for that type of leadership.

I wasn’t getting opportunities, not getting experience and I knew it was me who was holding me back. The discomfort of being stuck on the “Do I want it? Don’t I want it?” dilemma finally became painful enough to move me into action.

My first decision was to choose to step into leadership – no, not the “build an empire and take over the world”-type of leadership – but willing to take the lead of myself and my career. I had to decide that I wanted to be seen as a player.

Maybe this was the first decision that really rattled my Imposter feelings. How could I step up into that space if I felt I didn’t deserve it, didn’t belong there. And this is when I discovered that action often comes before feelings. I have to act like a leader before I feel like a leader.

During my early postdoc years I’d never even heard of Imposter Syndrome feelings. I didn’t realise they were so common or where they came from. I had no idea that they could be changed or how to reduce their power over me.

Now older and wiser I spend much of my time and energy supporting others through the decision to step into leadership, to cultivate the confidence they need to make their difference in the world, to be acknowledged for the difference they make. And yes, it can take courage as leadership can be a risky business.

I created the Imposter Syndrome Sources and Solutions programme specifically to provide the tools.

When we really look at the price we are paying for treading water. When we see the opportunities that are out there or which can be created. When we now have to tools to help us take the next step forward, things really can change, even if you’ve been living this way for years.

“I got a huge amount out of this course. It has given me fresh perspective and insight so I can stop holding myself back so much. I had so many lightbulb moments where things about my life or why I feel certain ways suddenly made so much more sense. It was very liberating to develop that understanding and is going to make a huge difference to me in the future.” May

Are you ready to make your choice, to get off the “Do I – Don’t I?” dilemma and start the next phase of my life?

Watch out for updates very soon indeed!!

Take care and keep in touch!


The Imposter Syndrome Sources and Solutions programme is a four week group coaching programme designed for women like you. Registration will be opening soon so do visit the page to find out more!

“I was concerned about sharing my stories and feelings at the start of the course, but this was actually one of the best bits, as I was able to talk to like minded people and we were able to support each other. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone who wants to further their confidence both professionally and personally, it has increased my confidence in my self and given me some great skills and solutions to my imposter feelings.” Linda