What Is Imposter Syndrome? Do You Have It?

What Is Imposter Syndrome? Do You Have It?
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When Jess came into my clinic in Manchester, she looked every inch the successful woman. Immaculately groomed, wearing a sharp suit and sporting an equally sharp haircut, accomplishment oozed from her every pore. A 42-year-old senior executive in a large international corporation, she had the salary, the car and all the perks that spelled ‘made it’.

So, why was she at my clinic? As she sank into a comfortable chair and began to explain her problem, her demeanor underwent a transformation. Her shoulders began to slump, her voice wavered, her knees shook, and her fingers began twisting around each other as she talked. Her entire confident manner crumbled before my eyes as she ‘confessed’ that it was all fake; all of her successes were built on luck, she explained, and she was actually really bad at her job. While she had managed to pull the wool over the eyes of her colleagues and bosses for many years, she was sure they would uncover her secret soon.

She stood to lose everything, but that wasn’t even the biggest problem; the greater issue was that she was struggling to live with being a ‘fake’ – she felt that she should quit her job before she was exposed, and go and do something more suited to her real abilities. It would mean less money and perks, but at least she would be being honest with herself.

Welcome to the world of the Imposter Syndrome. It is a secret world, inhabited by successful people from all walks of life who have one thing in common – they believe that they are not really good enough. They might be men or women, young or old. And imposter beliefs are not always related to work; I have met ‘imposters’ who feel they are not good enough parents, husbands, wives, friends or even not good enough human beings. These are all variations of Imposter Syndrome, especially when there is little objective evidence to support the sufferers firmly held self-beliefs that they are frauds.

So, What Is Imposter Syndrome?

The term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ or ‘Imposter Phenomenon’, was first coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in a paper entitled ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention’.

The condition was described as being ‘an internal experience of intellectual phonies’ that afflicted some high-achieving women. In their paper, Clance and Imes described their sample group of 150 women as follows, ‘despite their earned degrees, scholastic honors, high achievement on standardized tests, praise and professional recognition from colleagues and respected authorities… [they] do not experience an internal sense of success. They consider themselves to be “impostors”.’

They go on to explain that these women believe they have only achieved their success due to errors in selection processes, or because someone has over-estimated their abilities, or that it is due to some other external source.

Clance and Imes claim that there are three defining characteristics of Imposter Syndrome:

1. The belief that others have an inflated view of your abilities or skills

2. The fear that you will be found out and exposed as a fake

3. The persistent attribution of success to external factors, such as luck or an extraordinary level of hard work.

So, Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?

By now you may have recognized some of the signs and symptoms of Imposter Syndrome in yourself. It is likely that most of us will have some of the symptoms outlined above, but that does not mean we have IS. In fact, we should remember at this point that Imposter Syndrome is not a recognized mental health condition as such and thus there are no standardized professional criteria for having it.

However, below is a self-assessment quiz that I devised in order to give you some idea if any signs and symptoms you have might be enough to qualify you as having IS. This quiz is based on the common symptoms outlined above and is not meant to be a diagnostic mental health tool, but rather a quick and simple way to ascertain to what degree you feel like you are an imposter.

1. How easy do you find it to accept praise?

Very hard

Quite hard

Quite easy

Very easy

1

2

3

4

2. When you do something well, how likely are you to dismiss it as not really much (eg. it was easy, anyone could have done that, it was nothing special)

Very likely

Quite likely

Not very likely

Not at all likely

1

2

3

4

3. When you do something well, how likely are you to attribute your success to luck?

Very likely

Quite likely

Not very likely

Not at all likely

1

2

3

4

4. When you do something less well, how likely are you to attribute your failure to luck?

Not at all likely

Not very likely

Quite likely

Very likely

1

2

3

4

 5. When you perform poorly, or fail, how likely are you to attribute your failure to your own lack of skill or not working hard enough?

Very likely

Quite likely

Not very likely

Not at all likely

1

2

3

4

6. When you do something well how likely are you to attribute your success to other people’s input (‘they helped me’)?

Very likely

Quite likely

Not very likely

Not at all likely

1

2

3

4

7. When you do something poorly how likely are you to attribute your failure to other people (‘it was their fault’)?

Not at all likely

Not very likely

Quite likely

Very likely

1

2

3

4

8. How important is it for you to be the best at something that matters to you?

Very important

Quite important

Not very important

Not at all important

1

2

3

4

9. How important is success for you?

Very important

Quite important

Not very important

Not at all important

1

2

3

4

10. How likely are you to focus on what you have not done well compared to what you have done well?

Very likely

Quite likely

Not very likely

Not at all likely

1

2

3

4

11. How important is it to you to find a ‘hero’ to befriend and impress?

Very important

Quite important

Not very important

Not at all important

1

2

3

4

12. How often to do feel afraid to express your views lest people discover your lack of knowledge?

Very often

Quite often

Not very often

Not at all/rarely

1

2

3

4

13. How often do you find yourself unable to start a project for fear of failing?

Very often

Quite often

Not very often

Not at all/rarely

1

2

3

4

 

14. How often do you find yourself unwilling to finish a project because it isn’t yet good enough?

Very often

Quite often

Not very often

Not at all/rarely

1

2

3

4

15. How happy are you to live with a piece of work you have done that you know isn’t perfect?

Not at all happy

Not very happy

Quite happy

Very happy

1

2

3

4

16. How often do you find yourself thinking that you are a fraud?

Very often

Quite often

Not very often

Not at all/rarely

1

2

3

4

17. How worried are you that your lack of skill/talent/ability will be discovered?

Very worried

Quite worried

Not very worried

Not at all worried

1

2

3

4

18. How important is validation from others to you (e.g. praise)

Very important

Quite important

Not very important

Not at all important

1

2

3

4

How to score

The score range is18–72 and the lower the score, the MORE likely you are to suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

As a rough guide, scores lower than 36 probably indicate that you have some element of IS. Read on to see what type of imposter you may be.You will also find the rest of the book valuable for helping you understand where your imposter beliefs may have originated – and how to cope with them and build your self-confidence.

©2019 by Dr. Sandi Mann. Excerpted with permission.
Published by Watkins Publishing, London, UK.
|www.watkinspublishing.com

Article Source

Why Do I Feel Like an Imposter?: How to Understand and Cope with Imposter Syndrome
by Dr. Sandi Mann

Why Do I Feel Like an Imposter?: How to Understand and Cope with Imposter Syndrome by Dr. Sandi MannMany of us share a shameful little secret: deep down we feel like complete frauds and are convinced that our accomplishments are the result of luck rather than skill. This is a psychological phenomenon known as 'Imposter Syndrome'. This book examines the reasons why up to 70% of us are developing this syndrome-and what we can do about it. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)

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About the Author

Dr Sandi MannDr Sandi Mann is a psychologist, University Lecturer and Director of The MindTraining Clinic in Manchester where much of her material for this book is derived. She is author of over 20 psychology books, her most recent being The Science of Boredom. She has also written and researched extensively about emotional faking, culminating in her book Hiding What We Feel, Faking What We Do. Visit her website at

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