Does Scotland, as a nation, have ‘imposter syndrome’? – Karyn McCluskey

Time to be a bit more 'rampant'? Karyn McCluskey says Scotland needs to shake off any sense of imposter syndrome (Picture: Bill Henry)
Time to be a bit more 'rampant'? Karyn McCluskey says Scotland needs to shake off any sense of imposter syndrome (Picture: Bill Henry)
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Scotland could be the best place in the world to bring up our children, but we need to stop doubting our ability to make life better, writes Karyn McCluskey.

I have a long career behind me (and hopefully ahead of me too) and I’ve seen success and failure. I’ve excelled in some things and less so in others. I’ve been a nurse, psychologist, in the police and now a chief executive in the field of community justice.

Karyn McCluskey is chief executive of Community Justice Scotland

Karyn McCluskey is chief executive of Community Justice Scotland

I’ve driven change, I’ve pursued innovation, I hope I’ve helped people and I’ve always, always brought my whole self to work. So why do I, every now and again (and sometimes more often than that), feel like a fraud?

I’m not alone. Imposter syndrome is everywhere. The psychological term for persistent self-doubt about your accomplishments and the fear that you are “getting it away with it” and in imminent danger of being found out is something I see in friends, family and colleagues – it’s absence in a new acquaintance is more startling than its presence.

READ MORE: Fiona Duff: How to cure imposter syndrome

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It’s corrosive, keeping you awake at night and strikes dread in you when you stand up in front of a crowd, speak in a meeting or, I must admit, when submitting this column.

It’s said to affect women more, and perhaps that’s true, but I think class, race, education and the many other facets of our identity and background can all serve to allow this parasite to eat away at our confidence, blunt our ambition and stunt our future.

Age-old evils

Considering this after some recent self-reflection (and self-flagellation) I wondered if it’s possible for a country to have imposter syndrome.

I travel extensively across our small country – as my colleagues will attest, I’m only fleetingly sighted at my desk in our Edinburgh office.

Every week I visit projects, speak at events, meet people who need help and meet others who are doing incredible things with the intention of making life better for everyone.

They work in justice, health, education and housing. They are sometimes government and public sector, often third sector and many are individuals who care about their community and just want to do something.

They are tackling the same problems that we fret about on a national scale in their own backyards. They are bold, unafraid of failure and willing to try new approaches to deal with age-old evils. They want to tear up systems that aren’t working and start again. They are legion and they are everywhere.

In a week’s time, Community Justice Scotland will launch the second part of its Second Chancers campaign and this time it features people who use their work to improve lives; a teacher, a sheriff, a youth mentor, a social worker, a GP, a community police officer, a custody nurse, an addictions support worker.

All these individuals do incredible work but they are representative of so many others who are shining examples of the best we have, who seek to institutionalise empathy, kindness and love. Our Scotland, the Scotland that we want, in miniature – a model of what we could be.

So what’s stopping us? We have expertise, knowledge and dedicated, committed people. We have, among others, world-leading innovations that have had incredible impact in reducing violence.

We more than have the ability. Why don’t we believe it can be done? We so often look to other countries, in particular Scandinavia, and it’s right that we should do – but the time for looking is long past. It’s now time for the doing.

Scotland has everything it needs to make this country the safest, healthiest and best place to bring up our children. We need to stop doubting ourselves, cast out the spectre of imposter syndrome and be the country that we know we are.

Karyn McCluskey is chief executive of Community Justice Scotland.