July 21, 2014

Update to Action point 3 on Becoming more Assertive

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My third and final action point from the Becoming more assertive workshop was to research further into Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter syndrome, coined by Pauline Clance and Tommy Cooper in 1978 and also known as Imposter phenomenon or Fraud syndrome, is a pyschological phenomenon in which sufferers are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Imposter syndrome affects a person in such a way that they are unable to receive praise for their achievements and hold beliefs that they are in some way a fraud.

Although it is not classified as a mental disorder, Imposter syndrome has been the subject of much research for many psychologists. Evidence suggests that the syndrome is not a personality trait of sufferers but is in fact a common reaction to certain social situations.

According to research, Imposter syndrome is predominantly, but not exclusively, suffered by certain minority groups who have achieved success in some shape or form. Research shows that women, ethnic minorities and even graduate students ending university and beginning a new line of work have all reported to have suffered from Imposter syndrome. As a postgraduate student myself, this realisation is particularly telling. Sometimes I feel inadequate to participate in any form of conventional work because I have been a history student for so long. However, if most grad students are in the same position as me, it has become clear that I should really think more positively about my position. After all there are plenty of students out there just like me.

This realisation is also the the exact form of therapy for Imposter Syndrome. According to my research, therapy begins with recognition that the syndrome exists followed by overcoming certain assumptions about yourself (e.g that one mistake is not the end of the world). The final step to therapy is to avoid negative and destructive thoughts which could hamper your emotional progress.

After having recognised the facts, it is then easier to relate your personal situation to reality and to become aware of the flaws in your thinking. It is said that even writing your accomplishments on paper can held one rethink their accomplishments. I have found this and even reflecting on my progress to help. Despite negative thoughts about my continued MA study over the last year, recently I have realised that if I can achieve a Merit in my MA History, achieve the Warwick Award, learn to drive and perhaps apply for as many internships I can, then I can safely say that this year was not wasted at all. Although I have no direct plans for the coming academic year, the fact that by September I will have two degrees from two excellent top ten universities (as well as my extracuricular activities to boost my CV) puts me in good stead for either future study (such as a PGCE course) or work (e.g the civil service).

Researching into Imposter Syndrome has not only made me learn about a psychological phenomenon I knew very little about, but has also helped me realise that thinking positively about my achievements and the future is a very important exercise in emotional maturity.

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  1. Hi David,

    Well done on your final action point.

    I am really pleased that you were able to research imposter syndrome and understand how it relates to yourself.

    I was also really glad that you were able to list your achievements and that you have two degrees from two excellent top ten universities. These facts that we can accumulate ourselves are powerful ammunition for when the imposter syndrome takes hold. Reminding ourselves of our past successes and achievements can be a powerful antidote when self-doubt starts to take hold. I am also glad that you were able to recognise some of the flawed thinking processes behind imposter syndrome. I sometimes get these distorted thoughts myself and I then have to remind myself the imposter syndrome is happening and then I have certain psychological tools at my disposal to counteract any self doubt.

    Well done on your work on this workshop and on these blogs and i wish you all the best for the future.


    23 Jul 2014, 06:37

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