Twenty years ago I had a boss who loved a fun turn of phrase. I worked in an independent furniture shop, and I can remember the day that one customer spent two hours wandering up and down the store floor, looking over every piece of furniture. He sat on every couch, looked in every wardrobe and tested the springs on every mattress we sold. He asked questions about delivery dates, customisation options and whether or not we could take his old furniture away. He dropped hints that his house was very big, his car was very fast and his wallet had a lot of money in it.
And after two hours, he walked out of the shop without placing an order. We never saw him again.
“That man,” declared my boss, “Was all hat and no cattle.”
I wasn’t even twenty at the time, not wise to the world, and had to have the expression explained to me: the customer made a lot of noise, a great show of importance, you couldn’t miss him – but underneath it all there was no substance. He wasn’t mean or malicious, he hadn’t wanted to waste two hours of our time as he had wanted someone to think of him as very important. He wanted people to think he was great, but he would never be able to back that up. He was a man wearing a big cowboy hat with no herd behind him.
I share this story to contrast that man with YOU.
You’re not this person. That’s not your reality. I don’t know whether you’re loud or quiet, whether people know how good you are or not – but you are good.
You. Are. Good.
You must be. You’re finishing a PhD. You must have done something valuable. A thesis doesn’t just happen. It’s a summary of years of valuable research. You must be good.
Your hat could be big or small, but you have a herd of ideas, experiences, talents, skills and knowledge behind you. You can show that off in your thesis, and you can show it off in your viva.