Impostor Syndrome…ever heard of it? Let’s Google that…The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks now, reading about and talking about it to friends. Yesterday, I decided to write a post about it, but now I am questioning my ability to do that and wondering why anyone would give two shits about what I think on the subject. Who could have seen THAT coming??
Well, here’s a bullet list of things I find interesting about impostor syndrome:
- It seems to occur more commonly in women, or perhaps they are more willing to talk about it.
- It’s not a mental illness, just a phenomenon (a fancy word for a glitch)
- Whereas people with this habit attribute success to timing, luck or charm, people without it attribute failure to those flukes.
- The best remedy for it is talking about it. And avoiding procrastination. And writing. (which leads us here)
- (so far in this list, I have left off one period at the end of a bullet and begun two sentence fragments with conjunctions…didn’t want you to think I had let that slip)
- The opposite of Impostor Syndrome is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s the person who says they can speak Spanish because they once took a 3-day cruise to Cancun.
- It tends to flair up later in a career, because there’s a sense of “more to lose.”
- My friend, Rachel, who teaches gifted students and is/was one herself, says that it is rampant among gifted students. Maybe it’s because academic achievement comes more fluidly for them–they don’t feel like they worked hard enough?
Here’s the example I fell asleep thinking about. A few years back, I ran my first half-marathon. It took me a while to get a 13.1 sticker for my car because I felt like a fraud. After all, I didn’t run it that fast. Other people ran it so much better. I got a blister. How can an overweight person be taken seriously as a runner? I walked a little bit. What hit me last night is that the 13.1 is about the distance, not the speed. I covered the same 13.1 miles that the Kenyan dude who ran it in an hour and change covered.
Ever felt like that?
If you are interested in Impostor Syndrome, here are some links to further reading:
- 6 Strategies to Kick Impostor Syndrome to the Curb
- No, You’re Not an Impostor(science careers)
- Why do so many successful entrepreneurs feel like fakes? (business careers)
- Don’t Let Impostor Syndrome Sabotage Your Career (HuffPost article…so probably has a liberal bias?)