- Peter Rubinstein
Although having the psychological syndrome known as “imposter syndrome” may shake your self-confidence, your feeling that you are not sufficiently worthy of the job you hold may give you an advantage over your colleagues and peers who feel more confident in their abilities.
People with what is known as “imposter syndrome” feel unworthy of their work accomplishments, and that other people are more likely to view them as “impostors” in this regard. Therefore, it is not surprising that these people consider that this psychological state harms their professional success. Feeling that a person’s professional accomplishments are not due to his merit or his abilities and that others will discover that sooner or later puts on his shoulders, of course, more unwanted pressures in his work.
But the results of a study conducted by Basima Tawfiq, an assistant professor of work and organization studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, revealed that the behaviors and behaviors of people with this syndrome, to compensate for what they consider a lack of their competence in their professional achievements, may in fact make them perform their jobs in a way. Best.
Accepting these “fraudsters” because they feel that they are not worthy of the achievements that are attributed to them instead of resisting or ignoring that feeling, and consequently making additional efforts to communicate with others in the field of work, can make them surpass their peers in terms of skills related to dealing with those around them. This means, according to the university researcher, that this psychological feeling that most of those who suffer from it hates, perhaps, in fact, an incentive for them to perform their jobs better.
The “imposter syndrome” course
According to the “International Journal of Behavioral Science”, a scientific journal on behavior, more than 70 percent of workers thought at some point in their lives that they were not worthy of what they achieved in their professional fields. While the forms of pressures that workers are subjected to vary from one profession to another due to this “imposter syndrome”, what may be called “internal symptoms” of this syndrome are usually similar among those with it, regardless of their occupations.
These people have a tendency towards perfection, and they harbor an urgent need to be the best in the fields in which they work. And when they fail to achieve their perfect and perfect goals; Often they feel that they are “frustrated and overwhelmed, and even consider themselves a failure, which is an over-generalization on their part.” This would put these people in a vicious circle, preventing them from accepting positive reactions to their work from those around them.
If people with “imposter” syndrome feel anxious about their poor professional performance leads them to over-prepare for a presentation, for example, the success of the presentation will not prevent them from having negative thoughts as well. In that case, they may feel that they have put in too much effort, and that they should have accomplished the task more easily. If they complete their mission on time, but accomplish it a little slowly, they will attribute that to their luck, not that it is up to their abilities and skills.
Currently, researcher Bassima Tawfiq is preparing to publish a report that will be the first of its kind in terms of indicating the existence of “tangible benefits” that could result from the suffering of some in the workplace from “imposter syndrome.” In this report, Tawfiq raises the assumption that one of the main definitions of this syndrome is that there is a gap between a person’s perception of his competence compared to his reality on the ground. Through her study, the researcher sought to identify the impact that this supposed gap may have on the career path of those who suffer from this syndrome, whether in relation to the quality of the work he provides or his position among his colleagues.
As part of her study, the researcher conducted three experiments. The first included people who worked in a company to provide investment advice, and for a period of two months, they supervised other employees in the company – some of them suffering from “imposter syndrome” – in order to determine their skills in terms of dealing with others.
Basima found that workers with this syndrome occupied, in fact, advanced positions on the list of those who were classified as more able to deal with others effectively, compared to others, who do not suffer from this psychological problem. Managers described these people as cooperating better professionally with co-workers.
As for the second experience, it involved a group of medical students, who were about to finish their studies, and were about to start the phase of physical visits to patients in hospitals, which is the last stage of qualifying these students to start their career. Some of those students were urged to test the experience of suffering from the thoughts that people with “imposter syndrome” have, by asking them to list, by writing, the details of one of the times they suffered from this matter.
Bassima says this actually creates the conditions for “imposter syndrome”, in a laboratory-controlled environment. Then, these students were asked to diagnose what actors trained to pretend they had certain ailments and ailments were suffering from. Here, too, Tawfiq found that the “fraudulent” students scored higher, in relation to their ability to diagnose what the “patients” were suffering from.
The researcher described these students by saying, “They were more sympathetic and better in terms of listening to patients, and they also asked better questions.” She also noted that it was observed that “fraudulent” students had more frequent eye contact with “patients”, and that they were getting closer to them.
In the last experiment, Tawfiq noticed a group of people pretending to be looking for work. The focus of the process of observing these people during the chat, which usually took place between them and the officials in charge of recruitment, to determine whether they were worthy of being selected from among those who will be interviewed for personal evaluation or not. The choice of who will be subject to these interviews depends on his ability to show during the informal chat period that he is qualified for the job offered, and his success in arousing the admiration of those responsible for the recruitment. The results of this experiment were consistent with the findings of the previous one. It was found that the respondents who were pushed to evoke the thoughts and feelings of those with “impostor syndrome” were classified as being more effective and able to communicate personally with those responsible for employment, compared to their peers who did not experience these feelings. They chose to ask more attractive questions, and also provided attractive answers.
In addition, despite these respondents’ feeling that they are “fraudsters” and are not really competent, the preliminary analysis of the results of the chat that took place between them and the recruiting officials who were included in the experiment showed that their performance during this period did not match that of their colleagues, and that they were not perceived as less. Of others the ability or qualification to contest personal interviews. This was shown by the experience that also included medical students, as the “fraudulent” students and their counterparts who did not suffer from this syndrome were equal in the number of times the correct diagnosis of the symptoms displayed by their “patients”.
Researcher Bassima Tawfiq commented on this by saying: “Many people portray (imposter syndrome) as something that hinders you in some way, which makes us expect, for example, that you will perform poorly in accomplishing a particular task. But there is not, in fact, any perceptible difference in competence, between whom They were pushed to evoke feelings and thoughts associated with this syndrome, and those who were not pushed for it. “
The idea proposed by Tawfiq’s study is that the “perceived competency gap” that people with “imposter syndrome” suffers from and makes them perceive that they are less competent than they really are, may not affect the quality of their job performance at all. This study also indicates that people with this syndrome make greater efforts to improve their personal relationships with those around them, in order to overcome the doubts they harbor in their abilities in this regard, which may help them to perform better than their “non-fraudulent” colleagues.
Bassima Tawfiq concludes by saying that the conclusions she reached in this regard make her “full of enthusiasm. This may constitute a positive result (for having ‘impostor syndrome’) and we may have to start thinking about benefiting from it.”
Celebrating one’s skepticism about one’s abilities
Although the “imposter syndrome” has been the subject of research and studies for many decades; Little research effort has been devoted to looking at the role it might play in achieving professional success for sufferers. Until the time Basima Tawfiq unveiled the new findings that she had reached in this regard, it was widely assumed that a person suffers from this syndrome negatively rather than the other way around, says Adam Grant, an expert in organizational psychology, and a professor at the Wharton School of Business in University of Pennsylvania, USA.
Grant says that the studies conducted by the researcher Basima Tawfiq, open new horizons in the way of shedding light on the possibility that the incidence of “impostor syndrome” becomes a source of motivation to make greater efforts, to “prove ourselves, and push us to work more intelligently, to fill the gaps that arise.” We suffer from it in our knowledge and skills. ”
But on the other hand, despite a number of recommendations aimed at helping workers to try to overcome the negative feelings that they feel, if they suffer from “imposter syndrome”, experts believe that the real goal, should be to review the assumption, which says that this syndrome It involves nothing but harm. Although there are those who already believe in themselves, that they display a competence that they do not in reality, for most of us it is nothing more than – as Grant says – feeling the usual doubts, about whether or not they are up to the challenges they face.
Although these doubts can lead to feelings of tension and fear or to a decline in self-confidence, the study conducted by the researcher Tawfiq reveals – according to Grant – that “these feelings of doubts are normal and even healthy, and they can push us forward, not restrain us.” .
Scott Galloway, an entrepreneur and professor of marketing at New York University, says that the best practical way in which workers can take advantage of this newly discovered feature of “imposter syndrome” is by seeking to transcend the negative emotion component of this psychological state and focus. More on the “supposed competency gap” between one and his colleagues, so that each of them devotes their energies to bridge this gap, which may give them the advantage they are looking for in their workplace.
In the context of his commentary on the studies conducted by Bassima Tawfiq, Galloway points out that the moment you feel that you are a “fraud”, you realize at the same time, that there is something that you need to prove, and that you are not satisfied with yourself. And the man adds, “Perhaps this will be a moment of confident humility, during which one will acknowledge the smallness of what he knows, without refuting his deep-rooted conviction in his ability to learn.”