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People, planet, hope... and imposters at #Anthropy

It’s obviously rather a difficult time to be an optimist on too many fronts at the moment, but attending and speaking at #Anthropy UK at the Eden Project this week really gave me an injection of hope and energy... and, perhaps strangely, the drive to refresh and redirect the imposter stuff.

Three reasons. Being at the Eden Project reminds you of what’s possible with creative vision, huge energy and some sheer bloody-mindedness. Its entire story about being dug out of an old clay pit in an unpromising area (with associated building disasters along the way), its soaring biomes that still give you goosebumps every time you come over the brow of that Cornish hill, and its appeal as an inspiring visitor attraction in its own right as well as being an idea that can travel around the world. It required true grit to get it done through adversity and more grit to keep it going with the kind of impact it has.

Second, the Anthropy idea was also down to the vision and drive of one guy, John O’Brien MBE (with lots of enthusiastic support). Having the bold idea, tirelessly getting people and first funders on board…and getting over a thousand people to come to Cornwall for three days in November to connect and generate ideas on the future of people, the UK, the planet and how we can all create a positive future together. I am sure John will have had doubts, anxieties and exhaustion at various points. But he got a standing ovation at the close of the conference and it was difficult to keep a dry eye. Bringing together so many people from so many sectors, backgrounds and experiences to create a movement for a better, sustainable future (not sure whether the ‘UK Davos’ is quite the right descriptor but you get the picture…except that this one needs to be about big and practical action).

And thirdly, on the imposter thing, because we all need every gram of drive and personal influence to make the right things happen, in all our personal and professional roles.

I was on a few panels, and one of them was about the future of female leadership (like, we need a lot lot lot more of it if we’re to create a more balanced human future). There are obviously structural changes that we need to continue to make to the workplace to make it more equitable, but we also talked about the need to give confidence to a much more diverse range of people to go for leadership roles. Imposter syndrome can be a real barrier (for both men and women but tends to be more acute for women), and my big shtick is that we can learn to ‘use’ our imposter feelings as a drive to do more and make more impact if we would like to.

It's been two years since my ‘Love Your Imposter’ book was published and I have been incredibly affected by how many people have got in touch to say that it helped them in some way. Writing the book was a bit of a labour of love. But I have also discovered that, having done a book like this, you can then spend the next couple of years kicking yourself for the things that you didn’t say well enough, or for some of the feedback that you felt wilfully misinterpreted what you were trying to say. (I’m still working on that, and trying to manage my blood pressure…and no, I don’t mean Kardashianisation when I talk about the usefulness of thinking about your personal brand).

However….we all need to harness all our energies to help ourselves and others make better things happen. We all need more and different kinds of very human (and humane) leadership to make the difference in the world. Imposter feelings are very human feelings, affecting at least 70% of people. We are all human, flaws and all, and that is what makes us able to connect and be empathetic with other human beings. We all need to make the most of our own influence in a sustainable way; there are tools, techniques and therapies to help you make the most of yourself, and as you, yourself, and not some corporate construct.

So, I would say… recognise and acknowledge your imposter stuff. Recognise and acknowledge that we can all feel inadequate, insecure, not deserving and not capable of making the impact that we might. And then thank your imposter for giving you the drive to prove that you can. Put yourself forward to run that team, that organisation, that company. Nurture the others around you to do the same thing in a positive way. And let’s make sure the world works in a better way in the future, for people and for the planet.

Love that Imposter, love that planet, and love that #anthropy vibe….(and thanks for stocking the book in the Eden Project bookshop!)

Photo by Benjamin Elliott on

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