Monday, March 2, 2015


The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.
I read, or skimmed through really, a book about this years ago when I thought that the idea applied to someone in my work life. I still think it was dead on accurate about this person although I have not seen her in many years and I do hope she is doing better.

I came away from my days studying psychology with a healthy disrespect for the field as it was at that time, 30 or so years ago. One of the things that plagued me and everyone else during this time was the specter of Medical Student Disease.
a condition frequently reported in medical students, who perceive themselves to be experiencing the symptoms of the disease(s) they are studying.This can go on throughout studying a psychology book (and probably a medical book). First you think you have one thing, then you realize that is not that but another. Logic soon prevails that you seem to have symptoms from each disease that you read about and logic pulls you out of any serious thought. Yet, as each disease confronts you on the page, there is that nagging thought that the symptoms fit in some small way.

It was harmless to me but had me up late at night a time or two vacillating between anxiety and hilarity at the idea that I had contracted everything.

The impostor syndrome seems to have some similarity to this. Of course as I was reading the book about the syndrome I was also just a little suspicious that I was an intellectual impostor, which meant I probably could not understand the book very well, which meant I probably was not an impostor as the book would be meaningless to one.

The idea stuck that each of us has a bit of every psychological disease and that it was just a matter of degree.  (I have a similar theory about viruses and many of the more common medical diseases.) Most people, I guessed, had only a small symptom here or there. But as I grew older I started to see that symptoms where all around me. Sometimes I find it surprising when a day goes past  in which I don't notice some rather extreme neurotic symptom in those around me, or in myself.

I noticed that I am far more comfortable with myself than others are. Others worry about one's neuroses too much. They are worriers.

[This was actually written a while back, but I was a little too neurotic to post it. But that is ok. I'm ok, you're ok.]

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