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Impostor syndrome: what it is and how to solve this problem that affects many professionals

Students, professionals, actors; no matter the profession or trade, the feeling of “being a fraud” can evade anyone

For iProfessional

02/10/2022 – 9:50 p.m.

Impostor syndrome can be defined as the emotional upset associated with the feeling of not deserving the position held at work, academic, or social level. In other words, the person who suffers from it believes that he does not deserve to have the position he has, something that is generally not true.

Impostor syndrome is not a disorder with clinical entity, that is, it cannot be found in any medical or psychiatric diagnostic manual. However, under this term a set of symptoms are grouped that can cause significant discomfort.

To understand what this condition is about, it is necessary to know that an impostor is a person who pretends to be someone who is not voluntarily and whose behavior is due to a reason, which is usually associated with the achievement of certain objectives. Precisely the impostor syndrome implies the opposite: someone who is in a position that they believe they do not deserve, but has not set out to achieve dishonestly, as impostors do. In fact, they consider themselves a fraud and constantly fear that others will discover their lack of merit and competence, precisely because they suffer from what is known as the imposter syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is more common in women, but it can also affect men.

Impostor syndrome is more common in women, but it can also affect men.

The person who suffers from this condition is sure that if others knew that he is someone mediocre and that he does not meet the necessary requirements to be there, they would have a very different view of him. In this way, the privileges or benefits he has would cease, in case he had them, and he would have a bad image in the eyes of his peers or colleagues.

As a consequence of this syndrome, people spend their time devaluing their successes and abilities. This syndrome, which usually appears in students with good grades and, to a greater extent, in successful professionals, it has to do with low self-esteem and the poor self-concept that the individual has of himself. The contemptuous or critical attitude of people around the subject who envy the achievements they have obtained is a factor that can also contribute to the appearance of the syndrome.

Who is more likely to suffer from this syndrome?

This is a phenomenon that was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Although it affects 70% of people, according to the study “The impostor phenomenon”, which was published in the magazine known as the International Journal of Behavioral Science, women are more likely to suffer from it.

According to a report by Access Commercial Finance in the UK, women are 18% more likely to suffer from this syndrome.


Women are more likely to develop this syndrome

Experts attribute the greater risk of suffering from this syndrome to the historical difference between genders that existed -and still persists- in the labor market.

What are the symptoms of Impostor Syndrome?

People with impostor syndrome often have the following symptoms:

  • Belief that your achievements or successes are not deserved; they consider that they are due to luck, chance, or that others who they consider more powerful than they have helped them to achieve them
  • Lack of confidence in their own skills that have led them to achieve their successes
  • Fear that others will discover the fraud they think they are
  • Insecurity in academics, work, and even in social relationships
  • Expectations of failure in situations similar to those that have previously been successfully overcome
  • On some occasions there may be a reduced achievement motivation associated with lack of self-confidence
  • Negative emotional symptomatology without apparent cause: anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, etc.

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