Many have heard today about the imposter syndrome, which is a psychological affectation that prevents successful people from recognizing their achievements and makes them feel undeserving of such recognition. According to numerous studies, this originates due to a series of external and internal factors, such as constant comparisons, low confidence, and bad experiences, which converge within himself, making him doubt his abilities, talents, and successes.
As part of this analysis, it is necessary to point out that imposter syndrome can occur in anyone, regardless of age, gender, occupation, and level of study. Therefore, this problem should not be taken lightly because its lack of detection and attention in time can cause more complex psychological disorders that trigger severe levels of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety crises, and chronic stress among children, young people, and active adults, thus leading to a problem of social impact.
Considering the above and entering the educational context, the imposter syndrome can and should be identified as an emerging problem that limits learning. In this sense, teachers aware of this reality must be attentive to recognize and support, among their students, those who, due to bad experiences or lack of confidence, may lose their motivation to study, even after having demonstrated outstanding skills and talents, so that, within their scope and field of action, they can overcome such a complex scenario together.
In addition to the above, it is essential, both for those who suffer from imposter syndrome and their families and society in general, to recognize their symptoms. In this regard, authors such as Gabsby (2020) highlighted the following:
- Little or no assessment of one's skills and competences
- Attribute success to external factors
- Self-criticism and constant self-sabotage of one's work
- Fear of not being within expectations
- Constantly setting ambitious goals
- Depression, sadness, and anxiety
- Fear of being observed as a fraud
- Constant dissatisfaction
As a complement, Leonhardt, Bechtoldt, and Rohrmann (2017) pointed out that imposter syndrome manifests itself in various ways, among them the most outstanding: 1) the superman or the superwoman; his main symptom is in wanting always to have the approval of others, even if it implies overloading his abilities, all because he does not want to feel less than the rest. 2) the perfectionist, his symptoms are based on seeking excellence and to the detriment of it, he imposes goals that exceed his true scope, he is also very demanding with himself, which causes harmful stress and 3) the true imposter, his main symptom is the perception of negativity and pessimism towards himself and his abilities, which accentuates their distrust of their success, plunging into frustration and abandonment of personal, professional or academic goals.
It is considered, according to the above, the importance to have the accompaniment of relatives, tutors, and colleagues as the first circle of support, as well as health professionals, who should be called upon to evidence the background mentioned above since their rapid detection and treatment, will allow increasing confidence, self-control, and high self-esteem in those who suffer from this syndrome. Furthermore, particularly in the professional and university area, it will favor the achievement of better conditions in learning and better rates of professional performance.
Once the harmful aspects of imposter syndrome have been pointed out, the exception of specific considerations is then made to allow a better understanding of the subject; from these simple cases, 1) the lack of experience that many recent graduates experience when arriving at the labor field; it is a reality, which generates a lot of anxiety in front of their peers because they feel less prepared in practice, despite having professional degrees, this is a natural context that, within a good work team, will know how to overcome quickly, preventing the imposter syndrome from appearing. 2) past cultures that maintain that work is "effort" have caused many professionals, students, and talented artists to experience that having done their work naturally and spontaneously but with extraordinary results should not receive more significant credit; however, this approach must change, creating more openness and acceptance of the hidden talents that each person possesses and therefore manage to motivate themselves through the recognitions to promote them in favor of society.
Likewise, gender equality is brought up as point three since there are marked trends that induce women to give themselves little credit, despite the fact that they have made an effort to achieve it, and their already known skills, for example, when communicating with other people and empathizing with problems in their family environment and community. On the other hand, when a woman achieves outstanding indices in science or mathematics, little comes to light of her effort, but success is credited to external factors such as the influence of a male tutor who is more experienced; this minimizes her assessment of herself, however, currently the perspectives regarding it are changing, which is very positive to combat imposter syndrome, in these contexts.
As a closing of the above, but equally important, the role of the teacher will be vital in transforming the reality of the young people of the future, implementing from today the changes in their way of thinking, contributing in classes their knowledge on this subject, and thus empower young people in self-assessment, confidence, and self-esteem, whether the student obtains favorable results, motivating him to maintain them, as if the student lowers his school performance, to guide him and strengthen his skills, reinventing new goals until achieving his end-of-course objectives. Indeed, the most prepared and successful individuals could suffer from this disease. Still, it is paramount to identify the symptoms and make the evaluations in time, effectively leading and contributing to society to recover their confidence in the teaching-learning process.
Gabsby, S. (2020). Imposter Syndrome and Self-Deception. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. 1 (1), 1 – 12. 10.1080/00048402.2021.1874445
Leonhardt, M., Bechtoldt, M. y Rohrmann, S. (2017). All Impostors Aren’t Alike – Differentiating the Impostor Phenomenon. Frontiers in Psychology, 8 (1). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01505
by Christian Rafael Quevedo Lezama
4th grade homeroom teacher