Psychological disorder: The fear of being a 'fraud'

Washington: Impostor syndrome -- a psychological pattern in which individuals doubts their own accomplishments and feel like frauds, even if they are competent enough -- is quite common, according to a study which suggests that the best way to tackle the feeling is to reach out to family and friends outside one's social group.

The study revealed that 20 per cent of the college students who participated in the study suffered from "very strong feelings of impostorism." The researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) in the US conducted interviews with students in an elite academic programme to understand the various coping mechanisms students used to escape impostorism.

They found that one particular method stood out above the rest -- seeking social support from those outside their academic programme. According to the researchers, the students felt worse more often than they felt better if they "reached in" to other students within their major.

However, they added that if a student "reached out" to family, friends outside their major, or even to professors, their feeling of impostorism was reduced. "Those outside the social group seem to be able to help students see the big picture, and recalibrate their reference groups," said Jeff Bednar, a BYU professor and co-author on the study.

The study also found some negative ways in which students coped with impostorism. Some students, the study noted, tried to get their mind off schoolwork through escapes like video games. However, they ended up spending more time gaming than studying. The researchers also noted that some students who tried to hide their exact feelings around their classmates, pretending to be confident and excited about their performance, also questioned deep down if they actually belonged.

The study also revealed that perceptions of impostorism lack a significant relationship with performance. Individuals who suffer with the impostor syndrome, the study noted, can still do their jobs well but they just don't believe in themselves.

Social-related factors impact impostorism more than an individual's actual competence, the researchers said. "The root of impostorism is thinking that people don't see you as you really are," said Bryan Stewart of BYU and co-author of the study.

--PTI

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