Understand Impostor Syndrome

impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome

Coping With Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever had a feeling that any minute now, they are going to see through this charade and realize you are a fraud?

Do you ever find yourself hiding a feeling of inadequacy behind a bravado of confidence?
Inside you feel like an imposter who is about to be discovered. You fear being revealed for the incompetent and under-qualified person that you feel yourself to be.

If you can relate to these feelings then you may suffer from imposter syndrome.

In 1978, Dr. Pauline Rose Clarence and Dr. Suzanne Imes spoke about the phenomena of experiencing constantly recurring self-doubt even in the face of evidence that shows competence.

Pauline Rose Clarence Ph.D

Pauline Rose Clarence Ph.D

Dr. Clarence identified a set of recurring symptoms and coined the phrase “Imposter Phenomenon” which you may know more commonly as imposter syndrome.

When I began to teach at a prominent liberal arts college with an excellent academic reputation, I heard similar fears from students who had come for counseling. They had excellent standardized test scores grades and recommendations. One of them said, “I feel like an impostor here with all these really bright people.” In discussing these students, Dr. Suzanne Imes and I coined the term “Impostor Phenomenon” and wrote a paper on the concept. Dr. Pauline Rose Clarence

The debilitating effects of imposter phenomenon are often seen in high achievers. Symptoms include an inner state of high anxiety, an irrational fear of failure and a feeling that all may come crashing down like a house of cards.

The paradox is that symptoms remain mostly hidden behind a fake show of confidence.
Sufferers fear that by sharing how they feel, they are, in fact, proving they are frauds.
Therefore they suffer in silence, feel alone and dare not ask for help. What a nightmare!

Causes of Imposter Syndrome

To understand the roots of fraud syndrome, I would like to introduce you to a key theory of the Person Centered Approach called “Conditions of Worth.”

hide behind a mask of confidenceThe theory suggests we, falsely, measure our own self-worth based on how other people value the things we do.

An example: A child at school is praised when she achieves a high grade.
The psychological message she receive is “you are more worthy of love and praise when you get a certain grade.”
This reinforces a false belief that love and praise are conditional – if you do a certain thing (meet a condition) then you are valued as more worthy. Thus the term conditions of worth – you are worthy when certain conditions are met.
The conditions of worth are adopted as truths and the child grows up valuing her own self-worth based on how she perceives she is seen and valued by others. Her perceived self-worth is therefore externalized, i.e., decided by others based on how well she is able to perform. The reinforced behavior causes imposter syndrome. There is a belief that if she fails to meet expectations, she is worthless.

Imposter syndrome is caused by an irrational and false belief that others’ view of us matters. 
We become so entangled in this belief that we adopt the external view as our own and lose the ability to value who we are based on our own values. Our self-worth becomes distorted as we view it through the perceived perceptions of others.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming imposter syndrome is about identifying and challenging your own conditions of worth and reclaiming your self valuing system.

You can do this by self-examination to identify what conditions of worth you hold as truth. Speaking with someone you trust can help this process. If you wish to speak to me then please feel free to get in contact. I offer Person Centered Coaching, which is an ideal environment to explore and challenge self-limiting beliefs. I offer a first session for free so that you can evaluate if Person Centered coaching feels like a good fit for you.

We can set an initial “taster” session time and date that suits us both to give you the opportunity to see if person centered coaching with me feels like a fit. There is no charge for the taster session – it is an opportunity for us to meet and discuss what you are looking to get from your coaching and you can ask any questions you may have.

Like what you read?

Ken_Kelly

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  • Christine Maentz Reply

    Was surprised to learn that there is a name for a condition that I suffer from…My mantra has been for years “What people think of you is none of your business”… easier to say than to believe!

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