Impostor syndrome is more common than you think—study finds best way to cope with it

Impostor syndrome is more common than you think; Study finds best way to cope with it
A student experiences impostor syndrome in this photo illustration. Credit: BYU Photo

The impostor syndrome, a phenomenon that manifests when people feel like frauds even if they are actually capable and well-qualified, affects people both in the workplace and in the classroom. A new study reveals that perceptions of impostorism are quite common and uncovers one of the best—and worst—ways to cope with such feelings.

Findings of the study, co-authored by Brigham Young University professors Jeff Bednar, Bryan Stewart, and James Oldroyd, revealed that 20 percent of the in their sample suffered from very strong of impostorism. The researchers conducted interviews with students in an elite academic program to understand the various coping mechanisms students used to escape these feelings, but one particular method stood out above the rest: seeking from those outside their academic program.

The findings of their interview study suggest that if students "reached in" to other students within their major, they felt worse more often than they felt better. However, if the "reached out" to family, friends outside their major, or even professors, perceptions of impostorism were reduced.

"Those outside the social group seem to be able to help students see the big picture and recalibrate their reference groups," said Bednar, a BYU management professor and co-author on the study. "After reaching outside their for support, students are able to understand themselves more holistically rather than being so focused on what they felt they lacked in just one area."

Along with seeking social support, the study also uncovered negative ways students coped with impostorism. Some students tried to get their mind off schoolwork through escapes such as video games but ended up spending more time gaming than studying. Other students tried to hide how they really felt around their classmates, pretending they were confident and excited about their performance when deep down they questioned if they actually belonged.

In a second study, the researchers surveyed 213 students to confirm what was revealed in their interview study about seeking social support: reaching out to individuals outside the major proved to be more effective than reaching in to individuals within the major.

Surprisingly, the study also reveals that perceptions of impostorism lack a significant relationship with performance. This means that individuals who suffer with the impostor syndrome are still capable of doing their jobs well, they just don't believe in themselves. Researchers also explain that social-related factors impact impostorism more than an individual's actual ability or competence.

"The root of impostorism is thinking that people don't see you as you really are," said Stewart, an accounting professor at BYU and co-author on the study. "We think people like us for something that isn't real and that they won't like us if they find out who we really are."

Outside the classroom, researchers believe that implications from this study can and should be applied in the workplace as well. "It's important to create cultures where people talk about failure and mistakes," Bednar said. "When we create those cultures, someone who is feeling strong feelings of impostorism will be more likely to get the help they need within the organization."


Explore further

Impostor feelings fuel negative mental health outcomes for minority students, study

More information: Richard G. Gardner et al, "I must have slipped through the cracks somehow": An examination of coping with perceived impostorism and the role of social support, Journal of Vocational Behavior (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2019.103337
Citation: Impostor syndrome is more common than you think—study finds best way to cope with it (2019, September 24) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-09-impostor-syndrome-common-thinkstudy-cope.html
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Sep 24, 2019
snark:
Better a little modesty, a little caution, than a purblind, peroptimistic 'Master of the Universe'...

I know which one I'd trust !!
/

Sep 24, 2019
Tacit Knowledge - The ability of well-qualified students knowing the knowledge they know is correct

The Impostor Syndrome
A phenomenon
That manifests its self
When people feel like frauds
Even if they are actually capable
And well-qualified
Affects all people
Both in the workplace and in the classroom

When qualified students
Speak on subjects
They are highly qualified to speak
From the response from fellow students
Is that you are being called a fraud

Firstly you might be being bigheaded
Most probably
The information
You learnt for your hard won degree
Might be out of date
Therefore incorrect
Fore
This is where; your innate Tacit Knowledge comes into play
Fore
Tacit knowledge gives you this ability
1. Knowing when this Wool is being Pulled
2. Knowing whether the knowledge you have learnt is out of date
3. Tacit knowledge gives you this ability of the atoms inner structure of which were built

The Moral of this Fraudulent Feeling - Don't take for Granted - You're Highly Qualified

Sep 24, 2019
I wouldn't even consider impostorism a 'failure'. A mild form of this is Dunning-Kruger in intelligent people (i.e. intelligent people tend to see themselves as less intelligent than they are).
If you feel you are not good enough it motivates you to try harder - particularly in academia where you can't really hide if you're really incompetent.

Looking outside for validation/support is good - but if you do it specifically with the purpose of alleviating impostorism it may be counter productive to your growth within your field.

Sep 24, 2019
Impostorism - Dunning-Kruger in intelligent people: by AntialiasPhysorg

I wouldn't even consider impostorism
A failure
A mild form
Of this is Dunning-Kruger
In intelligent people
i.e.
Intelligent people
Tend to see them selves
As less intelligent than they are
If you feel
You are not good enough
It motivates you to try harder
Particularly in academia
Where you can't really hide
If you're really incompetent.
Looking outside
For validation
Support is good
But if you do it
Specifically with the purpose
Of alleviating impostorism
It may be counter productive
To your growth within your field

Fore AntialiasPhysorg, Dunning-Kruger effect, is the exact opposite, of your assessment of Dunning-Kruger effected individuals

AntialiasPhysorg, your grassy river bank is freshly mowed, your Bridge spring cleaned
Fore your quiet contemplation, of the true meaning, of Dunning-Kruger Effect

Sep 24, 2019
I'm so deep in impostor syndrome that I consider it funny. I think I have no knowledge of the chemistry or equipment associated with my work. Yet, everybody talks high on me because I'm a young just graduated engineer with know-how of everything. Most of the time I have no idea what my colleagues are talking about but I nod with them and try to put out something intellect sounding if I'm asked something. My favorite line here have become "I'm not sure right now but lets talk later after I have checked my notebook." Every project I've been part of including my current job has failed miserably. How could I even feel good about my job?

Same goes to my musical career. I feel like I'm just turning random knobs and pressing buttons and occasionally something music like comes out but some people seem to think of me as some kind of a god of music. Yes, I do know a lot how things work but as a composer I just swing everything to place and throw in effects until it's good.

It's a real thing

Sep 24, 2019
Tacit Knowledge - The ability of well-qualified students knowing the knowledge they know is correct

Tacit knowledge has nothing to do with impostor syndrome neither does the fact that you know or do not know something. It's about the feeling that those around you think you of something else that you really are.

Sep 24, 2019
Can't do Science, can't play, sing like a croaking frog: by cortezz

Same goes to my musical career
I feel like I'm just turning random knobs
and pressing buttons
Occasionally something music

fore cortezz, If you can't sing or dance - Sign up to a well known band - For you will go far!

Sep 24, 2019
My favorite line here have become "I'm not sure right now but lets talk later after I have checked my notebook."

Well, do you then go on to check and learn the stuff you didn't understand in the meeting? Because that's what everyone does, and there's nothing to be ashamed about. No one is expected to know everything about everything.

Saying "I don't know at the moment - let me catch up and get back to you" is a perfectly valid response if you then actually do it, that is. (Just saying "I don't know" and then leave it at that is not a valid cop-out, though!)

If your part of the project is on time and works well (and you made every effort to support others in their tasks) then there's also no reason to blame yourself for failure of the project.

It's about the feeling that those around you think you of something else that you really are.

That's their problem - not yours. What do you care?

Sep 24, 2019
Impostor Syndrome - It's about that feeling, those around you, think of you

Tacit Knowledge - The ability of well-qualified students knowing the knowledge they know is correct

Tacit knowledge has nothing to do with impostor syndrome neither does the fact that you know or do not know something. It's about the feeling that those around you think you of something else that you really are.

You feel
Tacitly, instinctively, some is not right with the world
You cannot always put your finger on the spot
You feel
Everyone all around
Is making snide remarks
Behind your back
Is it something you said
Are you out of step with your mates
Are you at one with the crowd
Are you in the circle
Do you know instinctively
What your mates are on about
Do you have to have it explained more than once
For if you have to have it explained twice
Your mates have rejected you
You are no longer in this circle
You are no longer at one with your mates
You then feel an imposter

Imposter Syndrome

Sep 24, 2019
Impostor Syndrome - It's about that feeling, those around you, think of you

Cortezz and AntialiasPhysorg
When expounding your theories
Or given a lecture

To these bright young things
That emerge, each year
Out of this ethereal vacuum

For each year
These bright young things
Do not think exactly the same, as last year's, bright young things

For each year
So that you do not suffer this finrot, imposter syndrome
You modify, what you say, to keep in with this crowd

Even
Cortezz and AntialiasPhysorg
If it not exactly correct, in the literal sense

Then
You are, at one, with the crowd
Then you do not suffer this finrot, imposter syndrome

Sep 24, 2019
Public speaking is an Art, that like Fashion, changes each year

"When qualified students
Speak on subjects
They are highly qualified to speak
From the response from fellow students
Is that you are being called a fraud"

What was being said
Reading between the lines
Are these details expounded further in this thread

"So that
You do not feel
You are being called a fraud"

"For each year
So that you do not suffer this finrot, imposter syndrome
You modify, what you say, to keep in with this crowd"

"Even
Cortezz and AntialiasPhysorg
If it not exactly correct, in the literal sense"

In other words when you are knowledgeable
Think carefully what you say
Public speaking is an Art, that like Fashion, changes each year!

That is, unless you finrot is playing up, then you will suffer, imposter syndrome

Sep 24, 2019
Sorry, but...
This appears to be a (n invalid) rationalization of a "feeling" as a deprecating fact...
Get a thicker skin and more self confidence, please.

Sep 24, 2019
I have disaster of a memory and chemistry is pretty much memorising stuff so I have to often check something very basic like on the lines of "what the f was the formula of nitric acid". Or I feel like I'm lacking basic knowledge of the current project and I'm too lazy to look things up beforehand which leads to situations where its sometimes difficult to discuss even some everyday matters. Like names of some phase formations or in which temperatures they happen etc. I know it's only good to say that "I don't know but let me look up" but not if you'd need to do it in every conversation.

It isn't self-confidence either. I'm really confident in my doing and I think I could do any researchers job in the university if I put my mind on it. It's just... something. What can I really do? Follow instructions to the point and not hurt my self while doing it. I spent many years in college just for that.

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