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  • Even after writing eleven books and winning several prestigious awards,

  • Maya Angelou couldn't escape the nagging doubt

  • that she hadn't really earned her accomplishments.

  • Albert Einstein experienced something similar:

  • he described himself as aninvoluntary swindler

  • whose work didn't deserve as much attention as it had received.

  • Accomplishments at the level of Angelou's or Einstein's are rare,

  • but their feeling of fraudulence is extremely common.

  • Why can't so many of us shake feelings

  • that we haven't earned our accomplishments,

  • or that our ideas and skills aren't worthy of others' attention?

  • Psychologist Pauline Rose Clance was the first to study

  • this unwarranted sense of insecurity.

  • In her work as a therapist,

  • she noticed many of her undergraduate patients shared a concern:

  • though they had high grades,

  • they didn't believe they deserved their spots at the university.

  • Some even believed their acceptance had been an admissions error.

  • While Clance knew these fears were unfounded,

  • she could also remember feeling the exact same way in graduate school.

  • She and her patients experienced something that goes by a number of names--

  • imposter phenomenon,

  • imposter experience,

  • and imposter syndrome.

  • Together with colleague Suzanne Imes,

  • Clance first studied imposterism in female college students and faculty.

  • Their work established pervasive feelings of fraudulence in this group.

  • Since that first study,

  • the same thing has been established across gender,

  • race,

  • age,

  • and a huge range of occupations,

  • though it may be more prevalent and disproportionately affect

  • the experiences of underrepresented or disadvantaged groups.

  • To call it a syndrome is to downplay how universal it is.

  • It's not a disease or an abnormality,

  • and it isn't necessarily tied to depression,

  • anxiety,

  • or self-esteem.

  • Where do these feelings of fraudulence come from?

  • People who are highly skilled or accomplished

  • tend to think others are just as skilled.

  • This can spiral into feelings that they don't deserve accolades

  • and opportunities over other people.

  • And as Angelou and Einstein experienced,

  • there's often no threshold of accomplishment

  • that puts these feelings to rest.

  • Feelings of imposterism aren't restricted to highly skilled individuals, either.

  • Everyone is susceptible to a phenomenon known as pluralistic ignorance,

  • where we each doubt ourselves privately,

  • but believe we're alone in thinking that way

  • because no one else voices their doubts.

  • Since it's tough to really know how hard our peers work,

  • how difficult they find certain tasks,

  • or how much they doubt themselves,

  • there's no easy way to dismiss feelings that we're less capable

  • than the people around us.

  • Intense feelings of imposterism

  • can prevent people from sharing their great ideas

  • or applying for jobs and programs where they'd excel.

  • At least so far,

  • the most surefire way to combat imposter syndrome

  • is to talk about it.

  • Many people suffering from imposter syndrome

  • are afraid that if they ask about their performance,

  • their fears will be confirmed.

  • And even when they receive positive feedback,

  • it often fails to ease feelings of fraudulence.

  • But on the other hand,

  • hearing that an advisor or mentor has experienced feelings of imposterism

  • can help relieve those feelings.

  • The same goes for peers.

  • Even simply finding out there's a term for these feelings

  • can be an incredible relief.

  • Once you're aware of the phenomenon,

  • you can combat your own imposter syndrome

  • by collecting and revisiting positive feedback.

  • One scientist who kept blaming herself for problems in her lab

  • started to document the causes every time something went wrong.

  • Eventually, she realized most of the problems

  • came from equipment failure,

  • and came to recognize her own competence.

  • We may never be able to banish these feelings entirely,

  • but we can have open conversations about academic or professional challenges.

  • With increasing awareness of how common these experiences are,

  • perhaps we can feel freer to be frank about our feelings

  • and build confidence in some simple truths:

  • you have talent,

  • you are capable,

  • and you belong.

Even after writing eleven books and winning several prestigious awards,

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B1 US TED-Ed imposter syndrome einstein experienced skilled

What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? - Elizabeth Cox

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    shuting1215 posted on 2018/09/09
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