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"The King Is Not Real!" What Is Impostor Syndrome - Self-development, Society
"The King Is Not Real!" What Is Impostor Syndrome - Self-development, Society

Video: "The King Is Not Real!" What Is Impostor Syndrome - Self-development, Society

Video: "The King Is Not Real!" What Is Impostor Syndrome - Self-development, Society
Video: What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? - Elizabeth Cox 2023, June

The main trouble with the humanities is that, due to the vagueness of their subject matter, they regularly give rise to "centaurs". By "centaurs" I mean false discoveries, when something new is given out from a new angle of view on long-known facts

A scientific "centaur" is born when the gaze of some researcher arbitrarily selects from the total mass of facts accumulated in science, only a few facts and artificially unites them within the framework of some scientific concept or even theory.

In the mid - late twentieth century, stress became such a "centaur". And now "stress" (in the humanities) has become a metaphor, an artifact of pop psychology. As one of my colleagues said, “If you don’t want to delve into the psychological problems of the layman, write a note for him like“Ten tips on how to relieve stress”.

Today, the “impostor syndrome” successfully claims to be the next psychological “centaur”. You've probably already heard about it - the topic is very fashionable. Let us recall the definition: "impostor syndrome" is a phenomenon characteristic of highly successful people who doubt the authorship of their own achievements.

They feel that they are “just lucky” and that their own merits and efforts are minimal. They also think that there are more worthy people nearby who should take their place, and that after a while everyone will understand “who is who,” the “impostor” will be driven out in disgrace, and a more suitable person will take his place.

The phenomenon itself manifests itself as a distorted self-concept (low self-esteem; underestimation of their competencies and achievements; exaggeration of their weaknesses and failures, etc.) and emotional disorders (chronic anxiety, multiple fears, general anxiety and tension).

It is believed that "impostor syndrome" first turns a person into a workaholic and perfectionist, who actively tries to prove to everyone that he really deserves to take his place. But fatigue builds up over time, leading to burnout, job disappointment, depression, and a real decline in productivity.

To add another important touch: Pauline Clance and Susan Ames, psychologists from the American University of Georgia, who published an article back in 1978, entitled “The Imposter Phenomenon in Highly Successful Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” are called the authors of the term "impostor phenomenon". The phenomenon was identified by the authors on a sample of 150 women from the academic environment (teachers, graduate students, senior students, etc.). Identification method: interviews during psychotherapy sessions (individual and group).

The authors of the study argue that the “impostor phenomenon” (more precisely, “impostor”) is more typical for women than for men. And they explain this in the context of gender inequality: a person's attitude to himself is formed under the influence of gender stereotypes; and “success” and “high achievements” within the framework of the stereotype existing in modern society are attributed mainly to men. So women feel "unworthy" of success in this man's world.

Why am I writing about this in such detail? Understanding where the legs "grow" in the "impostor syndrome" explains a lot. For example, a sample of 150 subjects is very small to make any valid generalizations. Interview (in the context of psychotherapy) is also a dubious method, because the influence of the interviewer-psychotherapist on the interlocutor can be very strong. In fact, the therapist can dictate the “agenda”, directing the interview in the direction necessary for him. And the subjects just tried to "be correct" and said what the interviewer so wanted to hear.

Another sign of the “centaur” is the emergence of the “impostor syndrome” within the mega-actual gender theme. In theory, science should not be biased and should be done with a cold and objective mind. But where are the 150 male subjects in this study? Perhaps they are not less than women suffering from the "impostor syndrome"? Then it is incorrect to explain everything by gender attribution (attribution of certain qualities) …

It is also alarming that the sample included only "white collars" - ladies from the academic environment. But I wonder if there is an "impostor syndrome", say, for loaders? Or is this feature (lack of confidence in one's own achievements) characteristic only of a special professional and cultural environment? For example, for people of creative and / or intellectual professions?

I am sure that other scientists had similar questions. Nevertheless, the phrase "impostor syndrome / phenomenon" stuck, and the "centaur" is still continuing its triumphant march.

If, for the sake of curiosity, look into the database of scientific articles Google Scholar, then for the query "the phenomenon of the impostor" we will receive more than 18 thousand links, and on the topic "impostor syndrome" about eight thousand. Of course, this is much less than that of "psychological stress" (2,800,000 links), but the "impostor syndrome" has only begun to gain popularity in the last five to seven years.

impostor syndrome
impostor syndrome

It is unrealistic to review even some of the most popular (most cited) studies on the "impostor syndrome" in a short note. Here are just a few key conclusions that modern researchers come to:

  • 1. The existence of the "impostor syndrome" as a separate, special psychological phenomenon / phenomenon has not been proven. The "syndrome" is variable (it manifests itself in different ways in different people); it is not a mental pathology.
  • 2. This is a career phenomenon that arises in situations of increasing status, the emergence of new duties, opportunities and responsibilities, associated with adaptation to a new role / status.
  • 3. The prerequisites for the "impostor syndrome" are personality traits, such as:

    • low self-esteem;
    • high motivation for achievement (“success” is a key value in life);
    • high prosociality (the desire to follow the norms and meet the expectations of others);
    • high emotional sensitivity ("vulnerability");
    • an increased level of anxiety;
    • emotional immaturity;
    • introversion.
  • 4. If we proceed from the "Occam's razor" (that is, do not produce unnecessary scientific entities unless absolutely necessary), then the "impostor syndrome" can be explained as a special case of low self-esteem (in the professional sphere) combined with increased anxiety (directed at oneself).
  • 5. Perhaps the popularity of the term "impostor syndrome" is due to the fact that it is more politically correct and less stigmatizing than the terms "low self-esteem" and "increased anxiety", which have a connotation of a medical diagnosis.
  • 6. There is no convincing evidence that the "impostor syndrome" leads to any negative consequences for the psyche or destroys the successful career of the "impostor".

    Experiments were conducted in which people with a pronounced "impostor syndrome" competed in solving difficult problems with "ordinary" (without the syndrome) people. There were no significant differences in the results, from which the authors of the study concluded that "impostor syndrome" is just a kind of so-called "defensive pessimism." That is, a person simply pre-scrolls negative scenarios in his head ("What will happen when everyone knows that I am a deceiver …"), prepares himself for them in advance, which allows him to act effectively in the present.

    People with "impostor syndrome" are a valuable find for any exploiter. They are perfectionists, workaholics, and try very hard to “be good” to others.

  • 7. That is why they very often become victims of manipulators, who, skillfully stirring up the fear of inappropriateness, begin to appropriate the work and merit of people with the "impostor syndrome".

    Emotional burnout in "impostors" usually occurs not as a result of work overload (workaholism), but precisely as a result of destructive relationships. Their psychological boundaries are too permeable, they are too dependent on feedback and assessments of their manipulating colleagues. Trying to please everyone, they finally lose understanding of their own uniqueness and value.

  • 8. There is no special "psychotherapy for impostor syndrome." There are three key areas of psychological assistance:

    • correction of the self-concept and increase in self-esteem;
    • reducing the level of anxiety and teaching emotional self-regulation skills;
    • teaching social skills and communication techniques to help build more constructive relationships with others. There are many specific psychotherapeutic methods and techniques to work through these areas!
  • 9. And the last fact, which will surely console many. Every culture and every organization has a view of a normal, typical career. From early childhood (on the example of relatives and friends), labor attitudes are formed in the minds of each person, including ideas about how professional growth occurs, how success is achieved in work. Any misalignment with these social and individual norms triggers an emotional reaction.

Emotional responses vary. If a career lags behind the "norm", a person may feel like a failure or start looking around to blame. If a career is ahead of the "norm", then a person either feels like a "star" (by the way, "star syndrome" is much more dangerous than "impostor syndrome"), or feels like an impostor. All these emotional reactions are natural, and usually they pass quickly, as adaptation to a new status inevitably occurs.

But in some cases, normal adaptive responses are superimposed on specific personality traits. When professional success unexpectedly falls on a person, everyone can feel like an impostor for a short time.

But whether this sensation will linger for a long time and whether it will take the form of painful self-criticism ("Am I worthy? And won't they expose me tomorrow?"), Depends on how anxious the person is and how adequate his self-esteem is.

The conclusion is very simple. An unexpected success fell? Feeling like an impostor? Take your time, live with this feeling. Everyone adapts to a new status at different rates, from three months to a year. But if even after six months - a year, disturbing thoughts that you are not in your place do not pass, then it makes sense to contact a psychologist. And there it is no longer to deal with the notorious "impostor syndrome", but with low self-esteem, anxiety, etc.

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