Ironically, everyone thinks they’re the only one that doesn’t belong. Despite external evidence suggesting the contrary, those suffering from Imposter Syndrome quake in a state of panic that they will be found out for the hack frauds that they truly are. Just about 70% of people will succumb to the psychological phenomenon at some point or another, each cursed to mourn an ever-changing goal post that defines competence. It’s an internal hellion immune to empiricism, but not solidarity.
A new study conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University posits that procuring a strong social network comprised of people that identify with chronic doubt but do not occupy the same field as you can be extremely helpful. “Those outside the social group seem to be able to help students see the big picture and recalibrate their reference groups,” lead researcher Jeff Bednar told BYU News. “After reaching outside their social group for support, students are able to understand themselves more holistically rather than being so focused on what they felt lacked in just one area.”
The new study was co-authored by professors Jeff Bednar, Bryan Stewart, and James Oldroyd and began with a series of interviews. “The root of impostorism is thinking that people don’t see you as you really are,” explained Stewart. “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.”
Because the condition is defined by a warped appraisal of aptitude, the team recruited students of an elite academic program. One in five students of this program reported suffering from “very strong feelings of impostorism.” Interestingly enough when respondents reached out to students in their program that felt the same way, they only felt worse about their intellectual fraudulence. When they reached out to friends and family that were in fields unlike their own, the internal disquiet was greatly reduced.
A follow-up survey confirmed the intimations of the first whilst concurrently introducing new considerations, namely that Imposter Syndrome doesn’t actually carry any negative effects to performance. In other words, the students that wrangled with self-doubt were still able to achieve high marks. It’s not a question of ability, it has all to do with the impression conveyed, that’s why the outside support is so important. Within a discipline, the way members comfort each other with relevant terms while loved ones can comfort us with a husky taxonomy of all the reasons we didn’t just slip through the cracks. Although the two studies focused on college students the authors are confident that their conclusions can just as effectively applied to the workplace.
“It’s important to create cultures where people talk about failure and mistakes. 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,” Bednar remarked to BYU News.
The study can be observed in full in The Journal of Vocational Behavior.