Clinical Psychologist Daniel Page tells this story:
“You’re on your way to an interview for a job at a company you’d love to work for. On paper, the position you’re being considered for fits perfectly with the experience you have under your belt. You’re more than qualified, and the team would be lucky to have you — the hiring manager even said so herself. But as you head in to meet with the company’s top dog, you start questioning whether or not you’re really capable of the job you’re vying for…..
The resume you pass across the desk to your interviewer lists job experience you know you’ve lived through, yet you feel like you’re an actor playing the part of someone qualified enough to take on this role — Your interviewer starts asking questions and you start to worry your performance won’t be convincing enough. Although you have the answers to these questions, your responses feel fake in your mouth as you form them.”
The term was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clarence and Suzanne A. Imes – who were looking for a better explanation as to why high achieving women often attributed their success to luck rather than accomplishment.
Impostor Experience, as Clarence and Imes called it, is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. Despite external evidence to the contrary regarding their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced they are pretenders, masquerading as top achievers. In short, they don’t believe they deserve all they have accomplished. And certain – soon – someone or many someones will discover this fraud.
Your Brain On Impostor Syndrome.
“The person who achieved this level of success begins to have negative thoughts the success was not really earned. These negative thoughts, which are often referred to as ‘cognitive distortions,’ are based on fear and anxiety and not based in objective facts. This is not a clinical diagnosis or mental illness, say Clarence and Imes. It’s a temporary state of being.
It turns out no one is safe from this syndrome. Including such famous people such as:
and many more. “Over the years”, says ‘Titanic’ star Kate Winslet, “the stakes have become higher for me. Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot and I think ‘I can’t do this, I’m a fraud’.”
According to a study from the Journal of Behavioral Clinical Research, they estimate nearly 70% of the U.S. population has experienced signs and symptoms of this phenomenon during their lives. It can be a result of a new academic or professional setting Psychologist Diane Dreher PhD tells us. And –
Furthermore, says Dreher, “They (imposters) may look successful on the outside, but when entering new chapters of their lives, the inner critic can come down hard, telling them they’re “not good enough,” they “don’t fit.” Dr. Dresher tells the story of arriving at the college she had been hired to teach at, heading into the teacher’s dining room, seeing tons of other highly educated professors, turning around and heading to the student cafeteria because she just knew she wasn’t as good as the other professors nor would she fit in.
According to psychologist Paul Gilbert, this constant self-criticism actually makes us feel that we’re being attacked, triggering the fight-or-flight reaction (Gilbert, 2009). That said, this stress reaction can sabotage us, says Gilbert; shutting down our capacity for clear and creative thinking when we need it most.
In your work, or professional life, the Imposter Syndrome can rear its ugly head at interview time and prior to and during job searching and conversations regarding promotions.
In her research, says Price, she’s determined 65% to 93% of gestures, etc, have more impact than spoken words. Former FBI agent and Behavior Expert Joe Navarro, says his research and work has determined similar percentages.
To be clear – the Impostor Syndrome often happens to perfectly qualified individuals during an interview. Although eminently qualified, and a perfect fit for a job, they appear as unqualified. For example:
* Improperly answer questions – questions you actually do know the best answers to. Yet, Imposter Syndrome sets in, you become anxious, sweat starts pouring down your forehead and face, as you try to formulate answers. But failing to provide the best ones.
* Fidgeting – constant moving of hands and arms; shrugging of the shoulder. In short using poor body language can cause an interviewer to think you’re lying.
* Pausing or taking too long to respond to questions and statements from an interviewer – making it appear as though you don’t know what you’re talking about. Hiring pros zero in on this immediately. It’s one of the ‘tells’ which shows you may be making up the info as you go along. On the other hand you may be overly qualified and making up statements to play down your experience because you’re feeling a fraud.
* Ask inappropriate questions. This is something else which tells an interviewer you aren’t qualified. The candidate thinks themselves such a fraud, they actually perform poorly to ‘lose’ the job offer.
* Volunteer inappropriate personal info. If you’ve worked long enough you know the personal information which should not be shared with an interviewer. Candidates, who do this, show their unprofessionalism; and will usually be disqualified immediately. You probably didn’t want that job anyway.
Imposter Syndrome can be experienced by anyone on any level.
For instance, aside from being well accomplished – having many achievements – those with Imposter Syndrome may hold high office or have numerous academic degrees. Yet, may regularly struggle with Imposter Syndrome. Doubting themselves – feeling, since they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think – this will soon be discovered. That, in fact, others will know the truth – they are a fraud.
Dr. Margaret Chan:
Forbes ranked Dr. Chan as 2013’s thirtieth most powerful woman in the world. She spent 2 terms working tirelessly as Director General of the World Health Organization; was WHO Assistant Director for Communicable Diseases; Director-General for Pandemic Influenza; Director of Health in Hong Kong. Plus Dr. Chan held several other top positions during her career as well. When told Forbes had chosen her as 30th most powerful woman in the world in 2013, she stated –
Those who frequently experience Impostor Syndrome:
* Apply for jobs they’re over-qualified for; in their minds they know they’re a fraud and
Why do people feel like frauds although there is abundant evidence of their success?
Instead of acknowledging their capabilities, as well as their efforts, they often attribute personal accomplishments to temporary causes, such as luck and momentary effort. Plus they tell themselves while they may have accomplished so many important things, like Dr. Chan there is so much they don’t know which makes them consider themselves a fraud.
The syndrome can be brought about by pressure.
This pressure can emanate from a supervisor, a family member regarding their expec-
Imposter Syndrome is also related to perfectionism – an individual is compelled to perform at the absolute best 100% of the time. When they don’t they feel incompetent and anxious.
Impostor Syndrome can occur in a variety of settings:
· A new environment
· Academic settings
· In the workplace
· Social interactions
· Relationships – both platonic or romantic
Good Support can help.
Turning to a colleague or mentor, who understands one’s feeling of insecurity, can be advantageous. However research suggests reaching out to people outside one’s academic or professional circle may be a better way in which to combat impostorism.