Self-help

Doyou feel your pro­mo­tion at­work­was­downto pure luck, or you’re wing­ing moth­er­hood – or even that you’re just a phoney in gen­eral? Chris­tine Field­house says you’re not alone

Friday - - Contents -

Do you of­ten feel like a phoney?

Ver­ity is in her first year of study­ing medicine at a top univer­sity but she shuffles along the cor­ri­dors with her head down be­cause she doesn’t feel as if she be­longs in such a pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion.

De­spite hav­ing the high­est grades in her exams at school and be­ing in the top five on her course, 19-year-old Ver­ity feels like a fraud and fears that any day now, some­one will knock on her door and tell her they’ve found out she isn’t bright enough to be­come a doc­tor. She pic­tures her­self hav­ing to pack up her things and head home, des­tined for a 9-to-5 job, her hopes of a ca­reer in medicine dashed.

“When I got ac­cepted into med school, I thought maybe they needed an ex­tra girl on the course, be­cause all the other in­ter­vie­wees I saw that day were boys,” says Ver­ity. “When my exam re­sults came through, I thought there must have been a mis­take. I half ex­pected to get a phone call or a let­ter say­ing there had been a re-mark, and my grades were con­sid­er­ably lower than I’d been told and I’d have to re­sit them if I wanted to carry on study­ing.

“I con­stantly have this fear that I’ll be ex­posed as a con, as some­one who’s pre­tend­ing to be some­one she isn’t. My mum and grandma are al­ways telling me how clever I am – they’ve done this since the day I started school – but I just can’t see it. I think I’ve been lucky in ev­ery exam I’ve ever sat, or the ques­tions have been in my favour, and one day I’ll come un­stuck and be re­vealed for the fake that I am.”

Ver­ity is a per­fect ex­am­ple of some­one suf­fer­ing from Im­poster Syn­drome, a phe­nom­e­non first de­scribed in the 1970s by Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, who wrote a pa­per on peo­ple who feel like phoneys, when in re­al­ity they are usu­ally just the op­po­site.

Peo­ple with Im­poster Syn­drome think they get a job be­cause the suc­cess down to good luck or be­ing in the right place at the right time, or other peo­ple per­form­ing badly. Dr Rose Lo­gan, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist at Light­House Ara­bia (www. light­house­ar­a­bia.com) in Dubai, says Ver­ity is typ­i­cal of peo­ple with Im­poster Syn­drome and they of­ten put their ac­com­plish­ments down to luck rather than abil­ity.

“It isn’t a clin­i­cally di­ag­nosed syn­drome but it is of­ten char­ac­terised by chronic low self-es­teem and self-doubt, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and per­fec­tion­ism,” ex­plains Dr Lo­gan.

“Th­ese peo­ple have their own belief sys­tems in which their suc­cess or abil­ity is at­trib­ut­able to luck, chance or er­ror. Un­for­tu­nately many peo­ple suf­fer in si­lence, due to their fear of be­ing found out. Any­one – from doc­tors and lawyers to psy­chol­o­gists – can be prone to de­vel­op­ing this syn­drome. It would be un­usual to see it in younger chil­dren, but by no means im­pos­si­ble.

“It was ini­tially thought that only women suf­fered from Im­poster Syn­drome but it’s now recog­nised that men do too. It can af­fect any­one in any walk of life, but it’s more likely to im­pact on some­one em­bark­ing on some­thing new, such as a grad­u­ate train­ing pro­gramme or a new job

The syn­drome is of­ten char­ac­terised by low self-es­teem, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and per­fec­tion­ism

in­ter­view panel felt sorry for them, or they’re cho­sen to lead a char­ity com­mit­tee be­cause no one else wanted the job.

Other times, they think another per­son with the same sur­name was meant to get their univer­sity place and the let­ter went to the wrong ad­dress by mis­take.

They dis­re­gard their qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ef­fort and in­stead put their

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