1-2-3: The CFP Digest on impostor syndrome and police reform

In this edition...1 question, 2 quotes, and 3 opinions on police reform, impostor syndrome and whack-a-mole

1 Question, 2 Quotes, 3 Opinions 

Welcome to the Collaborate for Purpose (CFP) Dialogues newsletter. In each issue, we try to answer 1 big question. We cover topics like self-improvement, collaboration, change, and social justice. To learn more about CFP Dialogues, click here.

You will also see an invitation to attend a ‘kitchen table’ conversation with a small group to dig deeper into the question. The dialogues are engaging because of the rich stories and ideas that come from each person.

1 Question

How do you handle impostor syndrome?

If you want to attend a “kitchen table” dialogue about this big question, click here to learn more about the next online event on Sunday, July 26th at 1:30 PM ET.



Maya Angelou on impostor syndrome:

I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’

― Maya Angelou, writer, poet, civil rights activist


Vincent van Gogh on finding your voice:

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

— Vincent van Gogh, painter, art dealer, visual artist

3 Opinions


How do we transform the Toronto Police Service? 

By Cheryl Nomdarkhon 

Re: June 28, 2020 event: How do we demilitarize the police to have more justice?

In late June, a dear friend of mine invited me to an online ‘kitchen table’ conversation (here) about how to de-militarize the police and have more justice on systemic racism and policing. After the conversation, I had feelings of resignation, perplexity, and a real commitment to learning about policing in Toronto.  This led to a recent conversation I had with a retired police officer.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Jim (not his real name) who is a former black police officer and retired with the Toronto Police Service after 31 years.     

“Police officers straddle the fine line between law and order and humanity.... they are not separate (entities).  They have to co-exist.”  

Powerful words to live by in theory.  Jim, who joined the service in 1987, recalled several instances where sergeants and fellow officers would openly use the “n” word around him.  He said one day his colleague said to him jokingly,

“When is a n**ger not a n**ger?  The answer is, “when he leaves the room.”

As a black officer, he was always ‘on guard’ – even though the mantra for belonging to this fraternity of being a cop is “you are one of us now, you are blue.”  It has always been us vs them.  As long as he donned that uniform, he was safe in blue.  Once he removed that uniform, he became a “them...” just another black man profiled while driving - waiting to be stopped, or maybe worse.

Jim says there has been a dramatic shift from his early days to where things are now.  There is sensitivity training and cultural diversity training. While well and good, systemic racism continues.

  “One thing I can say is, the police are open to the conversation with the public… especially on racism and policing.”  

The one question I wanted to ask him is why is a police officer rarely convicted after they are charged? Jim gave several reasons.

“Nepotism is rampant.  It is about protecting your own.  The people who are doing the investigating are typically former police officers, sometimes how the media reports the crime gets skewed.  The SIU (Special Investigations Unit) should be the ones investigating the police.”

On July 16 the Toronto Police Service hosted its 4th virtual town hall meeting on police reform.  This is a positive first step in the right direction, but where is the Toronto police really heading? Chief Mark Saunders is retiring at the end of July.  With talk to defund the police off the table, how will the system transform? Will the new police chief address this unraveling of the system or will he or she forget what’s happened since the George Floyd murder and continue with business as usual?  

I visited the Toronto Police Service website to view a snapshot of the 2020 Budget Request.  This includes a request to add 40 neighbourhood officers, 140 Priority Response Officers, body-worn cameras, 8 traffic officers and 5 new Equity Inclusion and Human Rights positions.   As a side note, 89% of the 2020 budget is salary-related.

One thing I want to see is a special task force (Priority Response Officers) who are trained to deal with wellness checks and citizens with mental illness, (re)build trust in lower-income and racialized communities, and higher screening and ongoing screening/psychological testing of police officers.

It’s time to hold police officers accountable. They need to practice law and order with humanity.   

Photo credit: Fair Use Creative Commons here.


Impostor Syndrome: How to get past a failure verdict

By Flavian DeLima

I always thought impostor syndrome affected everyone -- fear of being "found out" or exposed as a fraud.  Not so. A study by the International Journal of Behavioral Science found that about 70% of people can expect to have at least one episode of impostor syndrome in their lives. Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term in 1978.  They describe it as “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”

I wondered if Sidney Poitier ever felt like a fraud as an actor. He was the first African American actor to win an Academy Award for best actor in 1963 for Lilies of the Field. In his autobiography, The Measure of a Man, he describes how he got his start in acting at age 18. After a short stint with the army, he found himself unemployed and uneducated in New York. Despite a thick Bahamian accent with no acting training and barely able to read, he saw an ACTORS WANTED ad and auditioned at the American Negro Theatre.

If someone says you’re no good, find a guardian angel

Early in the audition, the guy in charge angrily took the script from Sidney. While throwing him out, he shouted:

“You just get out of here and stop wasting people’s time. Go get a job you can handle"...“Get yourself a job as a dishwasher or something.”

Sidney reflected:

“I knew I had to change it, or life was going to be mighty grim. There’s something inside me—pride, ego, sense of self—that hates to fail at anything. I could never accept such a verdict of failure before I’d even begun my life! So I set out on a course of self-improvement. ”

While working at a restaurant, he struggled to read newspapers. An older Jewish waiter tutored him. Every night, in the same booth, for six months, his  “guardian angel” helped him learn to read.

Sidney returned to the American Negro Theatre. The theatre admitted him the second time and he began studying. Since he was uneducated, he flunked his classes but convinced the theatre to keep him in exchange for becoming their janitor. 

Nothing wrong with number two

Sidney improved but was disappointed after losing the lead role in a bigger production to a good looking Caribbean kid, who could also sing. He got the understudy role. On the first night of the production, the lead guy, who was Harry Belafonte, couldn't make it. Sidney played the lead and got a call from a prominent casting director who liked him. The director wanted him for a Broadway show called Lysistrata, with a mostly white audience. 

When things get rough, stay in charge

Prior to going on the first night, Sidney was, "scared shitless."  After the performance, he was mortified:

“The word bad cannot begin to accommodate my wretchedness. I mean, I was BAD. The stage fright had me so tightly in its grip that I was giving the wrong cues and jumbling the lines, and within a few moments the audience was rolling in the aisles." ...“My career was over before it had begun, and the void was opening up once again to receive me. I didn’t even go to the cast party, which meant that I wasn’t around when the first reviews appeared.”

The critics trashed the show, but liked Sidney for his "fresh, comedic gift". Regardless, he felt like a failure and faced self-doubt. He decided he would stay in charge of his life, and move forward no matter how it played out. The play ran for four days. Even though he felt like a failure, it led to his next acting job and so forth.

The next time you feel like an imposter or a fraud, talk to a friend you admire and share the doubts you have about your achievements. It’s likely they will share similar feelings of self-doubt and failure about their success. The more you do this, the less you and others will feel alone and isolated.

— Source: Clance, P.R. (1985). The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the fear that haunts your success

— Source: Sakulku, J. & Alexander, J. (2011). The Imposter Phenomenon. International Journal of Behavioral Science

Poitier (left) at the 1963 March on Washington, alongside actors Harry Belafonte and Charlton Heston — Photo credit: By U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 - ca. 1978) Photograph by Rowland Scherman, Creative Commons here.


How to whack your self-doubt into oblivion

By Flavian DeLima

Amy Cuddy interviewed Neil Gaiman in her bestselling book "Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges". She has a Ph.D. in social psychology focusing on how stereotypes predict patterns of discrimination.

Neil is the mega-successful bestselling author of children's books, fantasy and science fiction novels, comic books, and short stories, that have been adapted into films, television, and video games.

The knock on the door

For the first ten years as an author, he felt like a fraud. He shares a fantasy in Amy's book that repeatedly played in his head. It started with a knock on his door from someone in a suit:

“Are you Neil Gaiman?”  “And I would say yes. “Well, it says here that you are a writer, and that you don’t have to get up in the morning at any particular time, that you just write each day as much as you want.” And I’d go, “That’s right.” “And that you enjoy writing. And it says here that all the books you want—they are just sent to you and that you don’t have to buy them.” ... “And that people like what you do and they give you money for just writing things down.” And I’d say yes. And he’d say, “Well, I’m afraid we are on to you. We’ve caught up with you. And I’m afraid you are now going to have to go out and get a proper job.”

At which point in my fantasy my heart would always sink, and I’d go, “Okay,” and I’d go and buy a cheap suit and I’d start applying to real jobs. Because once they’ve caught up with you, you can’t argue with this: they’ve caught up with you.”

The cruel irony of success

Amy believes a cruel irony accompanies success. Like Neil, the more we succeed and accomplish, the worse we might feel. She writes:

"We can't reconcile a lofty version of ourselves with our secret knowledge that we don't deserve it.  Worldly success introduces us to others who will hold us to a standard we can’t possibly meet, thus revealing our true weak, incompetent selves.”

Each new accomplishment makes imposter syndrome feel worse because the gap widens between our basic view and the lofty standard that society expects.

Work it out, one obstacle at a time

Neil tells the story of how his recurring fantasy ended in Amy's book. 

“I was writing a book called American Gods, and it was a big ‘imposter-syndrome’ book because I wanted to write this giant book about America, but I’m English – And I wanted to talk about these, ya know, just gods and religions and ways of seeing the world. But I finished American Gods and it took me about 18 months of writing, and I was very pleased with myself. And I ran into [my friend] Gene, and I said (bear in mind, this is my third or fourth novel) ‘I finished my first draft of my book American Gods and I think I’ve figured out how to write a novel.’

“And Gene looked at me with infinite pity and wisdom in his eyes, and he said, ‘Neil, you never figure out how to write a novel; you just learn how to write the novel that you’re on.'” 

Get your whack-a-mole game on

The lesson is that you might never get rid of your fear and self-doubt. Instead, just work each one out as they come, one by one. Amy uses the analogy of the whack-a-mole game. Each time self-doubt pops into your head, follow the same steps by shrugging it off and whacking it into oblivion. Pretty soon, you'll get good and start seeing the winning part of your story every time.

Source: Cuddy, Amy (2015). Presence: bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges

Gayla's Wack-a-mole high score of 140 — Photo credit: By sa_ku_ra / sakura - Source: Flickr image., CC BY 2.0, Creative Commons

Contributors to Opinions Section

— Cheryl Instagram

— Flavian TwitterInstagram, LinkedIn

The newsletter is published every 1-2 weeks excluding holiday periods. If you want to write a short opinion piece for the newsletter about a takeaway or action you took after attending an event, please contact Flavian or hit reply to the newsletter email.

Leave a comment below about any topic or idea in this newsletter

Leave a comment

Share this newsletter


Subscribe to the CFP Dialogues newsletter if you want to catch future issues and ‘kitchen table’ events.