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Why self-help won’t cure impostor syndrome

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Do you feel as if your professional success is due to some kind of mistake? That you don’t deserve your grades, promotions, or accolades? That you’re somehow getting away with a fraud which could be uncovered at any moment?  We have a name for that cluster of anxieties: you’re suffering from impostor syndrome. At the heart of impostor syndrome is a mismatch between external measures of success – prizes or good grades, entry to a selective university or career, workplace progression – and internal feelings of self-doubt. It’s said that sufferers from impostor syndrome fail to “internalise” their success, that they ignore objective evidence which is apparent to their friends and mentors. Impostor syndrome is pictured as a form of irrationality, a psychological deficiency characterised by flawed thinking. If you suffer from impostor syndrome, then you’re in impressive company: Many celebrities have claimed the label, including Meryl Streep, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, and Maya Angelou. It features in Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling Lean In, which urges professional women to forge their own destinies by shedding or powering through impostor feelings. Lean In is only the most prominent of many self-help guides that feature impostor syndrome, and talk of impostor syndrome is a staple of advice for women and minorities in many professional fields. This balloon of cultural significance floats over a rather ambivalent basis of psychological research. There are many interesting individual studies, but little consensus about whether impostor syndrome afflicts women more than men, about how widespread it is (the most ambitious figure is that 70% of us suffer), or about its causes, correlates, or potential cures. Impostor syndrome is not a clinically-diagnosable mental disorder, and researchers prefer the term “impostor phenomenon”. Nevertheless, the high cultural profile of impostor syndrome suggests that it chimes with some common experiences. Learning about the apparent prevalence. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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