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Changing times

Yesterday, as a result of the end of British Summer Time, I manually changed the time on five clocks:

  • a wall clock
  • a decorative clock
  • an oven clock
  • an alarm clock
  • a car clock

This may only have taken a few minutes, but I was slightly surprised to notice the number of clocks involved. None of these clocks is new. I must have changed every one of them multiple times over the years, yet if you’d asked me how many clocks I change each autumn, I’d probably have said, ‘Maybe two?’

This is a wholly insignificant example of an interesting phenomenon: I underestimate the effort I put into things when viewing them retrospectively. I think many people are the same, almost dismissive of their own efforts.

It wasn’t until yesterday morning that I made the obvious connection between this behaviour and imposter syndrome. I suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time, which is unsurprising given its reported frequency among medics.1 I’ve always associated it with feelings of inadequacy related to the current situation: ‘I’m not qualified to chair this meeting,’ or ‘Most of what I have to contribute here is common sense,’ for example. These are both phrases I occasionally find myself uttering. Intellectually, I know that feeling as though ‘I’ve not earned my place here’ is part of the syndrome. However, I’ve never made the connection between that facet and mentally discounting the effort put into prior achievements.

This is a significant insight. Strategies like systematic, structured reflection could help to increase my recognition of my prior efforts. This could improve my medical practice by giving me greater confidence in my abilities and effectively addressing imposter syndrome.

I would never have guessed that the moment of changing the clocks would provide a moment of insight like this. They pop out of the strangest places sometimes.


  1. I have a particular bugbear about imposter syndrome being something that’s typically discussed as affecting women more than men despite clear evidence that the issue affects both sexes equally. But that’s for another day.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Health, Post-a-day 2023.

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