The plague of the terminally humble
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Do you ever feel like a fraud? Do you feel as if all the accomplishments you have achieved are either not your own, or are simply not something to be celebrated? If so, you might be suffering from imposter syndrome, a psychological phenomenon that has risen to affect approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population, and acts as a gateway to developing anxiety, depression, and self-confidence issues.
Imposter syndrome (IS)—also called the imposter phenomenon, fraud syndrome, and/or the imposter experience—is a method of behavior in which people find themselves unable to internalize any form of accomplishment, and suffer paranoia pertaining to being exposed as someone who has deceived others into thinking they are more intelligent or competent than the sufferer believes themselves to be.
IS was originally identified in 1978 by research psychologists Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. They found that those suffering from IS would not only embody this belief on a personal level, but even go as far as publicly expressing a dismissive attitude towards personal accomplishment, often citing that luck, timing, or outside aid was the reason behind their success.
The dangerous thing about people suffering from IS is that, as technology advances, people have become more independent and therefore less likely to recognize the accomplishments of others. If you are unable to praise or recognize your own accomplishments in the face of your peers, these accomplishments will then go unnoticed in general. It also becomes very easy for sufferers to then talk themselves out of available opportunities as a result of believing themselves unworthy.
Unfortunately, IS is not a formally-recognized mental disorder, and therefore does not have a standard treatment available. However, psychologists and sufferers agree that talking about the syndrome and letting those in positions of power within your workplace know that you suffer from it can help greatly—as long as your boss is willing to give extra praise when appropriate. Experts say that group and writing therapy are also particularly effective, because they allow the sufferer to reflect and become hyper aware of when they exhibit IS symptoms.