Imposter Syndrome: the strange fear of capable people

Imposter Syndrome: the strange fear of capable people

The impostor syndrome is the fear of competent people in some area of ​​not being enough. They overestimate the skills of others and underestimate their own

The problem with humanity is that the stupid  are  overconfident, while  the intelligent are full of doubts .

Bertrand Russell

The impostor syndrome is exactly what the philosopher Bertrand Russell talks about. The term was first used in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. They wanted to tell a very widespread psychological condition among successful people, defined by the inability to believe that success is deserved and by the constant fear of being exposed as “impostors”.

Every time, when one of my films is successful, I ask myself: how did I manage to screw them again?

Woody Allen

The syndrome is (or at least it was when Clance and Imes studied it) more common among women who worked in a male environment. In this case, perhaps thanks to a gender bias, women who achieved a lot of success, regardless of their career, experience that success as if it were undeserved.

The thought mechanisms underlying the impostor syndrome

The impostor syndrome does not vanish with success, paradoxically it gets worse. This is possible because it is a disorder caused by one’s own awareness in relation to that of others.

The main thought biases that cause and maintain impostor syndrome are as follows:

# 1 The confidence of others: People tend to be more confident in themselves than they actually are. When I was a student, my statistics professor seemed infallible to me and I even feared that perfection. I saw him again after going over to the other side, I was a professor too and he told me: “When I can’t answer the students’ questions, I tell them to look for the solution at home. So we’ll talk about it next time and I have time to prepare ”. When I see others bold in their skills and I am not, I think I’m unprepared. Instead maybe I’m just insecure.

# 2 The things you know increase along with those you don’t know: every time we dig deeper into a topic, ten things we could dig into that we had no idea open up. Those who have never opened a book in their life have very few doubts because they completely ignore the complexity of the world.

# 3 Dunning Kruger Effect: It has been hypothesized that competent people tend to overestimate the abilities of others, and in relation to this evaluation error they consider themselves less prepared than they are. They feel inferior to the abilities they imagine others possess. The error seems to be attributable to metacognitive abilities, greater self-awareness warns you of what you don’t know, poor self-awareness protects your ignorance.

I know that I do not know


Success does not improve the mood

The higher you get, the greater the fear of falling. The impostor syndrome is not necessarily linked to very prestigious positions, we also find it in the student who does very well on the exam, but it is frequent that at the top of the pyramid of success there are people who show themselves infallible. Whoever is aware of being able to make mistakes, in comparison with these people feels that it is only a matter of time: he will be unmasked.

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