Oppositional Gaze: The Impostor
Impostor syndrome was originally coined in the article, by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” published in the Journal Psychotherapy Theory, Research, and Practice in 1978. Impostor syndrome refers to the individual who experiences persistent beliefs that they are really not smart, intelligent, and accomplished. They believe that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Despite the numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample objective evidence of superior intellectual functioning, these do not appear to affect the impostor’s belief.
These individuals live in consistent and persistent psychic pain that can be debilitating. Depression, anxiety, and volatile moods impact daily functioning. Imposter syndrome is not listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual V as a disorder. However, the anecdotal experience of professionals has created several conversations about the phenomenon.
These are a few suggestions to assist with overcoming the barriers created by imposter’s fear:
Expose your fears: Journaling, talking to support, therapist, partners, and/or family about one’s fears can assist with taking the power out of the fear.
Talk to your critical self: Get to know your impostor. This assists with identifying the impostor’s voice versus your authentic self’s voice.
Inventory your intentions: Examine your motivations, objectives, and fantasies about actions. Are you working to prove to the boss that you can? Or is this work to achieve a personal goal for your future? Working to impress others can fuel the impostor’s fear.
Live according to your dreams and not what you feel others are saying, believing, and seeing in you: Releasing yourself from the prison of other’s perceived internal dialogue of what YOU feel that they are saying, believing, and seeing in you is the greatest gift of not living in the impostor’s fear. The relief of anxiety, stress, and depression is life altering.
Analyze your attributes, celebrate your accomplishments, and believe in your success: Shifting the focus from negative self-talk to affirming and bonding language with self can create a beautiful relationship with you.
Differentiate between anxiety and eustress of achievement and distress of negative self-talk: As you inventory your thoughts and motivations, embracing the natural occurrence of stress and being mindful of the body’s and mind’s response enables you to develop a natural alarm for dismissing the impostor’s fear.
Integrate all of you: Viewing yourself as having a professional persona and personal persona can create an unhealthy dichotomy that supports the imposter’s fear. Be authentic in all of your endeavors.
“Learn to metabolize external validation.” (From “The Empress Has No Clothes” by Joyce M Roche, page 188). This is a powerful statement. Have you met the person who has a difficult time accepting a compliment or negates a compliment with a negative statement about themselves? Learning to say thank you and internalizing the positive is powerful for self - esteem.