Imposter syndrome constellates the gut-wrenching fear of being exposed as a fraud no matter how much we have learned or the successes we have demonstrated. In 1978 two researchers identified and explored a painful phenomenon among some high-achieving women. Despite their high levels of success, they were convinced they were not as competent, intelligent, or skilled as others might think. Instead of identifying with their capabilities, they often attributed their success to luck, personal persuasion, or an unanticipated burst of energy. Further research revealed this struggle was equally distributed among men and women.
Some common elements were identified:
Perfectionism: they often set remarkably high expectations for themselves and over-emphasized any slight mistake, disturbing their sense of competence.
Overworking: to hide their perceived deficiencies, they often worked harder and put in excessively long hours. This was done to prevent others from discovering their alleged incompetence.
Rejecting praise: they frequently discounted their successes which interfered with their ability to internalize their accomplishments despite ample proof of their abilities. They would brush off compliments and attribute talents to external factors.
Undermining achievements: they thought they had managed to deceive others into seeing them as more intelligent and capable than they believed themselves to be. Their avoidance of acknowledgment deflected proper credit for work they had rightly generated.
Fear of failure: they would excessively monitor for any evidence of failure, fearing that acknowledgment would expose them as cons.
Imposter syndrome has subtle intrapsychic dynamics. Its underlying inferiority complex is obscure and often based on early life experiences. It is natural for children to feel vulnerable and less capable than the adults around them; this usually motivates them to grow and develop competencies. They may fail to identify with their own agency if their efforts are scorned, ignored, or grossly mischaracterized. When these negative experiences are internalized, the relationship between their actions and results is fragmented. Interference between the child’s mobilized intentions and the visible outcomes they generate constellates a field of unknowing that leaves them anxious and unsure.
To compensate for feelings of anxiety and vulnerability, they can become overly ambitious, perfectionistic, and aggressive, striving for power and control. Unconsciously, they are simply trying to claim and internalize what they have legitimately created. The chronic interference with their natural capacity to place themselves accurately in the world can extend into many domains of life.
Healing from imposter syndrome begins with confessing their fears of exposure and accusation. They have desperately hidden the secret that they do not belong in the life they have created. Once they share the depth of their alienation, a new narrative can begin that includes being seen by another—through that, they can finally see themselves.
HERE’S THE DREAM WE ANALYZE:
“I’m sitting on the benches around the top middle row at a high school football game. People were around, but it was not crowded, so I had a good view. I was standing near my Ex-friend, a female. She and I had sort of a relationship about 10 or 11 months ago. It didn’t work out, and we don’t talk anymore. She was standing near me, on my right, one row below–so I was a couple of inches above her. In a group chat, she was texting something about her friends, and I saw my other Ex-girlfriend on her phone. All I saw was her social media profile. I was feeling confused and shocked. Why was my ex-friend in a group chat with my other ex? They’re two completely different people and go to different schools. I fell back asleep. I’m now on the ground floor beside the tall benches. In my peripheral vision, I see the football players come out. They were all running to the field like any normal football game, but I was running beside them on the left, going in the opposite direction. They’re going to the field, and I’m heading toward the school, holding an energy drink. Then I had flashbacks of running on the benches themselves.”
Philadelphia Association of Jungian Analysts, ADVANCED CLINICAL PRACTICE PROGRAM: A case seminar for experienced clinicians to read, explore and apply Jung’s concepts to clinical practice: CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION
BECOME A DREAM INTERPRETER:
We’ve created DREAM SCHOOL to teach others how to work with their dreams. A vibrant community has constellated around this mission, and we think you’ll love it. Check it out.
PLEASE GIVE US A HAND:
Hey folks — We need your help. So please BECOME OUR PATRON and keep This Jungian Life podcast up and running.
SHARE YOUR DREAM WITH US:
SUBMIT YOUR DREAM HERE FOR A POSSIBLE PODCAST INTERPRETATION.
SUGGEST A FUTURE PODCAST TOPIC:
Share your suggestions HERE.
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
INTERESTED IN BECOMING A JUNGIAN ANALYST?
Enroll in the PHILADELPHIA JUNGIAN SEMINAR and start your journey to become an analyst.