The term impostor syndrome was originally coined by two research psychologists, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Eames, at the University of Georgia in 1978 (Taylor, 2020). These psychologists discovered a phenomenon in which people who have achieved certain successes have a secret feeling that they are not so smart, and those around them overestimate them. Such people also tend to attribute their successes not to their own abilities but to external circumstances and luck.
This common pattern was first discovered in very successful female students and professionals who, despite their achievements, failed to feel competent and talented. This may not be a bad thing in small manifestations, because it reminds us of the need to improve our competence (Hibberd, 2019). However, some people with pronounced imposter syndrome feel a heightened level of insecurity, which can lead to overwork and a paralyzing fear of failure.
Impostor syndrome is not considered a mental disorder and is not listed in ICD-10 or DSM-IV, but it has been the topic of research by many psychologists. It has been found that although some people are more susceptible to impostor syndrome, it is also not a character trait, although it has long been considered an innate quality. Since the 2000s, it has been studied as a reaction to certain situations and stimuli (Ritter, 2021). During studies, scientists in the U.S. came to the conclusion that, to varying degrees, signs of impostor syndrome are observed in about 60-70 percent of the population (Ritter, 2021). Most of all, representatives of the scientific intelligentsia and people who, by virtue of their profession or position, are forced to take on more responsibility were subjected to it.
Thus, the main task of psychotherapy with a person experiencing imposter syndrome is to reduce the client’s dependence on positive or negative evaluations of other people. From Rogers’ perspective, successful therapy would lead to a decrease in performance targets as the client’s locus of assessment shifted to the self. Therapy for imposter syndrome should reduce the need to manipulate the environment for support in different situations.
Hibberd, J. (2019). The imposter cure: escape the mind trap of imposter syndrome. Aster.
Ritter, C. A. (2021). The swan effect: thriving with impostor syndrome in the digital age. New Degree Press.
Taylor, T. (2020). Yes! You are good enough: end imposter syndrome, overthinking and perfectionism and do what you want. Taylored NLP.