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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

The joys and perils of not fitting in

The joys and perils of not fitting in…

The joys: you’re unique and others see it The perils: you’re unique and others see it


This week I learned about the Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori describing when adolescents or adults withdraw from social life to extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. I came across it while doing a little research on hermits.

Hikikomori has been linked to extreme social pressure and mental illness but, interestingly, it is thought to be more common in Japan because of its strict social norms.

According to a review in the Research and Advances in Psychiatry, modern Japanese culture is based on two major criteria: inclusion and mainstreaming, which predominate over individual self-expression.

In another words, you’re put under pressure to conform and fit in rather than explore your own unique ideas and values or express them.

So do hermits withdraw because they don’t want to sacrifice their individuality to fit in? I can see the logic: modern material wellbeing is sacrificed in exchange for an extreme kind of freedom giving space for the individual’s unique inner-life.


Moving over to Wharton Business School, Professor of management and psychology Adam Grant who wrote a book called Originals talks about how to speak truth to power and getting your ideas heard in the uber-competitive US corporate world…(See here for a few nuggets of his wisdom on the ins and outs of being an “original” in organisations:

Psychologists usually focus on what we can do at our individual level (which is the thing we have the most control over). However, hikikomori is not just a product of individual psychology but of the wider, country specific environment of Japan – so there’s more to the picture…Something happens at the interface between the individual’s needs and the organisation’s expectations that isn’t always to the advantage of the person…(we’ll explore some of this today on the webinar by the way. Get the Zoom link here, if you’re interested.)

But let’s stick with exploring what’s firmly within our control for now, knowing that there are wider factors at play.


When I started coaching, I worked mostly with doctors. Something that struck me pretty soon was that no matter who I was talking to, whether it be a doctor who had moved quite far along their career and ticked a lot of boxes doing big things by societal standards or a more junior doctor still finding their feet, they both were all affected by a similar, persistent concern: how do I know that what I’m doing is good enough?

Worse, it seemed that this concern stifled their ability to be spontaneous, playful and creative. It interfered with their enjoyment of life and diminished their opportunities and ability to move past obstacles.

It hit home.

That’s when I started looking into to this thing called Imposter Syndrome. See below for a video from a previous Wise Wednesdays on the topic.


Almost two years later, I’m convinced that, however you want to define Imposter Syndrome, it’s the biggest enemy to creativity and fulfilment AND it’s a form of withdrawing or hiding our true self…

It’s as though Imposter Syndrome keeps us safe. We can hide behind a diminished version of ourselves, so we don’t shine too brightly in fear of offending others or causing harm…

In fact, understanding this pattern of thinking and behaviour in ourselves at the experiential level is often a turning point in a transformational coaching process: when people take the Imposter Syndrome goggles off, they feel a rush of creative energy return and start doing things they’ve been wanting to do for a long time and enjoy it!

The great thing is that if people stick with the process, the joy can eventually become self-sustaining, fuelling more creativity, more wonderful experiences and more joy!

Legend in the making: Dr J is an extraordinary human being. She has an endless well of compassion and kindness where her heart sits and has done so much for health internationally that she’s been honoured by The Queen. Through coaching we worked to help her see the truth behind the Imposter Syndrome and trust her intuition as she moved along her career. As she’s released the grip of the imposter feeling, she’s reconnected with creative passions and channels of impact beyond the demands of her work whilst continuing to navigate her high-flying career. A beautiful thing is she’s given herself permission to explore how to set up a Foundation in memory of a loved one who passed away a few years ago. I see you Dr J! Keep shining your light. Thank you for being you.

I dare to dream of a world where the dreamers, non-conformists and originals don’t withdraw or hide – neither behind the closed walls of their home like the hikikomori folk nor behind the walls of the imposter syndrome trap…

How incredible would that world be?

Join me in finding out. See below for this month’s events.


This month’s transformation theme: Imposter syndrome - what it is, what to do about it and toxic work cultures

Two options for diving into this exploration:

1) Online webinar version (60 minutes): 15th of August at 6pm (Free). - register to receive the zoom link and further details here:

2) Seminar at Harley Street (2 hours): 23rd of August at 6.30pm. Get your ticket here:

The event will be limited to 8 people to keep the small group feeling so, please, sign up as soon as possible if you’re interested.

Seminar venue.


Event summary:

Do you ever wonder whether you're doing well enough in your job and compare yourself to others unfavourably?

Building on themes from previous circles we'll dive into imposter syndrome and use coaching tools to address the root causes.

Join this Leaders Circle at the sumptuous Harley Street to grow in self-awareness and develop strategies for a healthy relationship to performance at work.

You'll learn about:

what imposter is and the mechanism at its core the role that organisations have in the imposter syndrome epidemic develop tailor-made strategies that work for your specific situation

This is an interactive event in which you gain as much as you give. We'll practise the non-violent communication framework to create a safe, supportive space that facilitates powerful inner-transformation.

The framework will be explained a the start of the event.

You’ll also find out how other service-driven, high achievers like you have overcome the challenges you’re facing to develop their career and impact.

There’ll be an opportunity to be coached by me on an individual situation.

At the end, there’ll be a chance to talk about how Transformational Coaching can help you fulfil your highest potential with confidence, joy and ease.

Email me if you have any questions

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