Defeating the Imposter

Introduce the concept of the Impostor Syndrome
 Explore how this has or can affect the life/work of a
new professional or graduate student
 Introduce techniques one can utilize to develop
competence and confidence in the work place
Impostor Syndrome (also known as Fraud Syndrome)
was introduced in 1978 by psychologists Pauline
Clance and Suzanne Imes.
 It was a term used to describe high achieving
individuals who lack self-confidence and often don’t
feel that they deserve the success they earned.
 Often times individuals feel that their
accomplishments are due to luck instead of their
actual abilities and competence.
Early studies first indicated that women felt like
this the most
 Now it is found that both men & women will
often feel this way
 Many graduate students/new professional often
have strong feelings of being an impostor
 Sense of incompetence
 Fear
 Stress
 Unable to take credit for accomplishments; dismissing
success as simply luck, good timing, or perseverance.
I avoid evaluations if possible and have a dread of others
evaluating me.
I sometimes think I obtained my present position or gained my
present success because I happened to be in the right place at the
right time or knew the right people
I rarely do a project or task as well as I’d like to do it.
I’m disappointed at times in my present accomplishments and
think I should have accomplished much more.
When I’ve succeeded at something and received recognition for
my accomplishments, I have doubts that I can keep repeating
that success.
I feel bad and discouraged if I’m not “the best” or at least “very
special” in situations that involve achievement.
Societal pressures
 Culture
 Family
 Class
 Age
 Gender
 Anything else?
Break into small groups of 3-4
 Answer the following questions:
› Reflect on a time where you felt like an
impostor at work:
 What caused this?
 Were you able to overcome it?
 How did it effect your job performance?
Accept it
› Most professionals question their competence now and then.
› Don't beat yourself up over it. Accept it as part of being
› Questioning yourself can ensure that you are self aware and
can identify ways in which you can grow.
Assess Your Skills
› Accurately assessing your performance is key to moving
past the impostor syndrome.
› Take Action:
 Document your competencies; document your successes.
 Each time you succeed, however small, take time to jot down
the specific actions that led to success as well as what
experience and qualities underlies your success at completing
each action.
 Set SMART Goals for yourself
Recognize that you are not alone.
› Talk with other students/professionals.
› Learn about their successes, failures, and concerns.
› Social comparison can help you undersrand that others
often have feelings of self-doubt or worry.
› The tough part is to not let those questions detract from
our work and our sense of competence.
Understand your resources
› Develop a strong and supportive network around you.
This can include family members, a partner, colleagues,
supervisors etc. This network will allow for you to lean
on them and will give you the reality check needed
› Identify a mentor
 Having a mentor is an important asset in your career. This
person can help you to identify areas of growth, capitalize
on strengths, and help you to plan out the next step. They
often have lots of experience, so they too can help you
adjust in times of adversity.
Creating Your Legacy
› Identify what you want to be known for; if you don’t
know, begin to actively explore
› Utilize your resources, mentors, and support group to
help identify goals and keep you on track
› Take advantage of opportunities that present itself for
professional development and movement. These can
include campus/departmental committees, projects, etc/
Accepting Failure
› Failure is a normal aspect of life.
› Being comfortable with it as well as being in an
environment that is okay with it is an important step to
feeling confident in the work place
› Look at failure as a learning opportunity
› “I look forward to failure”
Clance, P.R., & Imes, S.A. (1978). The Impostor Phenomenon in High
Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Interventions.
Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice, 15, 241-247.
Clance, P.R. (1985). The Impostor Phenomenon: When Success Makes You
Feel Like A Fake. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers.
Lawler, N.K. (1984). The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving
Persons and Jungian Personality Principles. Dissertation Abstracts
International, 45, 2693-2694B.

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