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Choosing Courage

Updated: Mar 8, 2023


Last week, I was in a professional development session linked to the book, The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias by Fuller, Murphy, and Chow and a major theme of the session was “Choosing Courage.” We learned about two different types of courage: Careful and Bold.

  • “Careful courage is the mental or moral strength to strive and persevere in the face of uncertainty, fear, or difficulty.” It’s what’s needed in high-risk, low-safety situations. It’s the type of courage whereby you take small actions but are still acting.

  • “Bold courage demands immediate change, action, and progress” It is shown in situations where your actions are visible and overt. This may occur in low-risk, high-safety, but it could also be high-risk depending on the act.

The authors state, “Effective courage is both careful and bold.” The image below represents how careful and bold courage are on a sliding scale.


Later on that same day, I attended a different session about imposter syndrome. If you’re not familiar with this concept, you are probably familiar with the feeling. “People suffering from impostor syndrome doubt their skills and accomplishments, live in fear of being exposed as not worthy of their position, and even downplay their success, attributing it all to luck or good fortune.” According to the article, “Are You Suffering From Imposter Syndrome?” by Nick Touley, generally, imposter syndrome manifests in five ways:

  1. Expert: You expect to know everything and feel ashamed when you don’t.

  2. Soloist: You believe work must be accomplished alone and refuse to take any credit if you received any kind of assistance.

  3. Natural/Genius: You tell yourself that everything must be handled with ease, otherwise it’s not “natural talent”.

  4. Superperson: You feel you should be able to excel at every role you take on in your life.

  5. Perfectionist: You set impossibly high standards for yourself and beat yourself up when you don’t reach them.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. In an April 2020 article, “Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Imposter Syndrome: A Systematic Review,” Brevata et al, shared in the Journal of General Medicine:

In total, 62 studies of 14,161 participants met the inclusion criteria (half were published in the past 6 years). Prevalence rates of impostor syndrome varied widely from 9 to 82% largely depending on the screening tool and cutoff used to assess symptoms and were particularly high among ethnic minority groups. Impostor syndrome was common among both men and women and across a range of age groups (adolescents to late-stage professionals).

I can’t help but link these two experiences of courage and imposter syndrome together. As someone who has experienced imposter syndrome, I know it has taken courage to (a) play a role I didn’t think I was capable of and (b) build the capacity to feel like I was no longer an imposter. In truth, as it relates to imposter syndrome, the biggest courageous act for me has been to challenge the belief that I was not worthy or capable in the first place. In other words, when I felt like an imposter, it felt like the conflict was between me and those with whom I worked. In reality, however, the conflict was not external; it was an internal conflict with myself and my beliefs about what I was capable of and what I expected from myself. Perhaps the greatest acts of courage then are those that challenge us to challenge our beliefs and to change our minds.


P.S. My Catch of the Week this week is an amazing infographic about imposter syndrome. It’s a great flowchart and even has suggestions on how to respond to the five different manifestations of imposter syndrome. It’s too big to include here, so I hope you click this link to check it out.

P.P.S. Please remember to...

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1 Comment

Mary Bieger
Mary Bieger
Mar 09, 2023

"Perhaps the greatest acts of courage then are those that challenge us to challenge our beliefs and to change our minds." Well said.

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