Article

Le phénomène de l’imposteur, la peur qui mine la réussite

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Abstract

Seventy percent of people believe at some point in their career that they do not deserve their success. Discovered and identified in 1985 by Clance [1], the impostor phenomenon (IP) affects people who, through lack of clear and objective signs of success, are unable to take responsibility for their success. The impostor phenomenon, which has multiple etiological factors, specific characteristics and variable consequences on the well-being and psyche of individuals, has been the object of numerous studies in different countries. The aim of this article is to establish an inventory of identified data regarding the conceptual origins, definitions, causes and antecedents of the phenomenon, as well as a description of criteria, psychological consequences and possible psychotherapeutic treatment of the impostor phenomenon. The IP is defined by several specific notions: feeling of inauthenticity (thoughts, sentiments and actions judged to be fraudulent), fear of being exposed or seen as incompetent, inability to internalize own success, and self-deprecation (high level of self-criticism, high standards of personal success and evaluation). People suffering from IP have real abilities in spite of their beliefs to the contrary, but are not able to attribute success to their own merits, to the point of relativizing it to occurring by luck or by chance, and not through intelligence or competence. They demonstrate low expectations with regard to future success, think that their abilities have been overestimated by others and live in the fear of being exposed as a fraud. The origins of IP can be found in different factors including the nature of parental messages (focused on intelligence, success, competitive values, the need to please, the desire for approval), the developmental environment and family dynamics (lack of support, expressivity or attention, strong degree of control, conflict or overprotection) as well as personality traits (neurotic, anxious or perfectionist). The IP is marked by six characteristics: the impostor cycle, the need to be the best, success in all aspects of life, fear of failure, denial of abilities and fear of success. Not everyone who suffers from IP necessarily manifests the six characteristics but a minimum of two criteria must be present. People suffering from IP have a strong need to appear competent in many fields to avoid being found out, whilst having a particular relationship based on doubt, anxiety and worry with regard to current tasks, their fulfilment and the possibilities for success but also failure. IP can be associated with a wide psychopathological spectrum, with a real impact on psychological well-being (burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, psychological distress, suicidal risk). But the presence of a specific comorbidity or epidemiological risk has not yet been established. The tendency of IP subjects to overestimate the frequency of their errors causes them to have a low level of satisfaction in their performance and low self-confidence. They have low self-esteem and a deep feeling of inferiority. A certain number of maladaptive thoughts, which seem to be part of IP are also noted. In addition to the tendency to poorly estimate their competencies and abilities, the individual affected by IP also seems to exhibit dichotomous thinking which forces them to see their abilities as insufficient matched by a desire to be “the best” in all fields. Nevertheless, studies describing the therapeutic processes dealing with IP are rare. Fear of success, fear of failure, perfectionism, the need to be the best and generalization are all negative dysfunctional cognitions, which require in-depth and varied work. The challenges in the treatment of IP are centred on the possibility of the subject to come out of solitude (group therapy), the identification of dysfunctional attitudes (cognitive dissonance, superstitious rituals, self-disabling strategies), the construction of a better process of internalization (reconstitution and correction of relational experiences, weekly attribution tasks), the restitution of a realistic self-image (struggle against the false self, empathetic listening, non-judgement, authenticity) and the decrease of dependency by the subject on positive evaluation (representation of performance and intelligent, irrational beliefs, unconditional self-acceptance).

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... Pessoas com elevados sentimentos impostores são inseguras em relação às suas competências e habilidades e tendem a atribuir seu sucesso a fatores externos como sorte, acaso ou a atitudes workaholics (Clance & Imes, 1978). Dessa forma, o FI pode relacionar-se a autoestima, noção de autoeficácia, bem-estar subjetivo e demais emoções que são precedentes e antecedentes comportamentais capazes de impactar o convívio social do indivíduo (Clance, 1985;Spector & Fox, 2002;Chassangre, 2014;Matos, 2014). ...
... Ademais, pesquisadores (e. g. Thompson, Foreman, & Martin, 2000;Dudău, 2014) descobriram que o FI pode ser maximizado por características pessoais, como cor, gênero e pelo histórico do nível de educação familiar, consistindo em disfunções interacionais da pessoa com o mundo, podendo limitar o potencial sucesso e representar barreiras no uso das suas capacidades intelectuais (Ross & Krukowski, 2003;Chassangre, 2014 Esta pesquisa se justifica e apresenta contribuições nos diferentes âmbitos profissional, acadêmico, científico e social. Referente ao âmbito profissional, sentimentos impostores podem afetar a eficácia das organizações nas quais esses indivíduos estão inseridos por estarem vinculados ao comportamento pessoal e a interação do empregado com o ambiente e os colegas de trabalho. ...
... Apesar das experiências familiares serem apontadas como fomentadoras do Fenômeno Impostor, nem todas as pessoas que cresceram nesse tipo de contexto familiar apresentam tais sentimentos impostores. Outros fatores podem ser atrelados ao FI (Chassangre, 2014), tais como gênero (Clance & Imes, 1978;Langford & Clance, 1993;Cusack et al., 2013), etnia e cor (Craddock et al., 2011;Parkman, 2016), e condições socioeconômicas (Sonnak & Towell, 2001), e quando manifestados em conjunto podem fortalecer a perpetuação do impostorismo. ...
Article
Objetivo: Este estudo objetiva identificar os grupos de pós-graduandos stricto sensu da área de negócios que possuem níveis mais elevados de intensidade do Fenômeno Impostor (FI) a partir das características pessoais e do background familiar. Método: Foram obtidas 1.816 participações válidas que representam 11,37% da população de pós-graduandos de cursos brasileiros de mestrado acadêmico, mestrado profissional e doutorado acadêmico em Administração, Contabilidade e Economia matriculados em 2018. O FI foi mensurado por meio da escala Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale e as variáveis de agrupamento foram: gênero, cor e etnia, modalidade de Ensino Médio, nível de escolaridade da figura materna e paterna, e por fim, geração ao ingressar no Ensino Superior e na pós-graduação stricto sensu. Os dados foram analisados por meio do teste de Kruskal-Wallis com post hoc de Mann-Whitney. Resultados: A forma como o Fenômeno Impostor é vivenciado é diferente entre os gêneros, evidenciando a importância de abordar o FI como um constructo bidimensional. Para a modalidade de Ensino Médio verificou-se que alunos de escolas particulares possuem maiores níveis de impostorismo, assim como os que a figura paterna e materna possuem ensino médio completo. Discentes da segunda geração a ingressar no ensino superior também apresentaram maior nível de sentimentos impostores, enquanto a cor e etnia e geração a ingressar na pós-graduação stricto sensu não apresentaram significância. Contribuição: A bidimensionalidade do FI, a lente da Teoria da Atribuição, a confrontação com as premissas da literatura e as considerações práticas para minimizar o impostorismo apresentam-se como as principais implicações da pesquisa.
... Os impostores tendem a compartilhar atitudes comportamentais amparadas em sentimentos de inautenticidade e busca por aprovação social (Cokley et al., 2015;Kets de Vries, 1989;Li, Hughes & Thu, 2014;Parkman, 2016) que direcionam a manutenção dessa experiência interna. Nesse sentido, o FI tem múltiplos fatores etiológicos e características específicas que afetam o bem-estar e a saúde mental do indivíduo (Chassangre, 2014), como introversão, ansiedade generalizada, dificuldades em aceitar elogios, subestimação de suas habilidades, superestimação das habilidades dos outros, culpa pelo sucesso e medo de avaliação e de falhar (Chassangre & Callahan, 2017). ...
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The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between the impostor phenomenon (IP) and the academic behavior of stricto sensu postgraduate students in business area courses. Discussing the relationship between psychological variables and student academic behavior is a topic of interest as empirical evidence indicates that these variables affect the environment in which scientific research is developed. It is important to look for elements that help in understanding the IP in order to reduce its impacts on the performance, behavior, and feelings of students. Postgraduate students enrolled in stricto sensu courses may be refusing opportunities to advance in their professional careers and adopting behaviors that are discordant with those desired by universities because they feel like impostors in terms of their abilities. Besides the relevance of the relationships analyzed, this research also uses the Meurer and Costa Scale of Academic Behaviors - Stricto Sensu (MCSAB-SS), which can measure academic behaviors displayed in Brazilian postgraduate courses, enabling the development of new investigations into the topic. The population includes postgraduates enrolled in 2018 in academic master’s, professional master’s, and academic doctorate courses in administration, accounting, and economics, known as the business area. The data collection was operationalized via a survey carried out online, which obtained 1,816 valid participations. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis, and the Spearman’s correlation. Higher levels of impostor feelings are positively associated with displays of counterproductive academic behaviors and are mostly negatively associated with academic citizenship behaviors. After identifying the IP in students, actions to minimize these feelings can be implemented, given that postgraduate students with the IP may not be engaging in the activities that permeate stricto sensu, thus damaging the climate and culture of cooperation needed in academia.
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Extensive attention has been paid over the past three decades to the stressors involved in training in the health professions. Although empirical studies have identified demographic subgroups of students most likely to become distressed during training, less research has been carried out to evaluate the impact of students' personality characteristics on their adjustment. Severe perfectionism is one such personality trait that has been shown to increase the risk for anxiety and depressive disorders in other populations. Another set of personality traits linked to increased psychological problems has been labelled the `impostor phenomenon', which occurs when high achieving individuals chronically question their abilities and fear that others will discover them to be intellectual frauds. Both perfectionism and the impostor phenomenon would seem to be pertinent factors in the adjustment of health professional students; however, these character traits have not been empirically examined in this population. In the present study psychological distress, perfectionism and impostor feelings were assessed in 477 medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy students. Consistent with previous reports, the results showed that a higher than expected percentage of students (27·5%) were currently experiencing psychiatric levels of distress. Strong associations were found between current psychological distress, perfectionism and impostor feelings within each programme and these character traits were stronger predictors of psychological adjustment than most of the demographic variables associated previously with distress in health professional students. Implications for future research, limitations of this study and clinical recommendations are discussed.
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This study examined the utility of attachment and entitlement as predictors of the impostor phenomenon in female graduate students. Findings suggested that individuals with high levels of self-reliance/self-assurance entitlement are able to associate positive feedback with stable internal attributes. Those with anxious attachment and narcissistic expectations/self-promotion entitlement, however, were unable to openly accept positive feedback because of perceived deficits in self-worth. Implications are discussed for addressing these issues with female college counseling clients. (Contains 3 tables.)
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Reviews research on the impostor phenomenon, an experience of feeling incompetent and of having deceived others about one's abilities. Impostor feelings are shown to be associated with such characteristics as introversion, trait anxiety, a need to look smart to others, a propensity to shame, and a conflictual and nonsupportive family background. The findings are discussed in terms of self psychological theory, with the impostor phenomenon seen as a result of seeking self-esteem by trying to live up to an idealized image to compensate for feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Therapeutic approaches drawing on self psychology and cognitive therapy are suggested. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The Impostor Phenomenon (IP) has been identified as a contributor to distress in some high-achieving individuals. In spite of evidence to the contrary, these individuals do not accept their abilities and achievements but believe that the approval and recognition they receive are a fluke and undeserved. Thus, they agonize and fear to the point where they manifest clinical symptoms. This study determined if the IP was manifested in 104 honors English high school students. Results show that the IP was present in 21 Ss (impostors) and absent in 83 Ss (nonimpostors). Discriminant analysis on the Adjective Checklist (ACL) and Irrational Beliefs tests showed that 75% of the Ss were correctly classified on the basis of personality characteristics. Regression analysis showed that the Adapted Child scale on the ACL accounted for 29% of the variance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
The term "impostor phenomenon" is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women. Certain early family dynamics and later introjection of societal sex-role stereotyping appear to contribute significantly to the development of the impostor phenomenon. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample objective evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief. Four factors that contribute to the maintenance of impostor feelings over time are explored. Therapeutic approaches found to be effective in helping women change the impostor self-concept are described. (7 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The purpose of this study was to develop a State Impostor Phenomenon Scale (SIPS). Participants (344 graduate and undergraduate students) were asked to complete the SIPS, the State Self-Esteem Scale, and the State-Trait Anxiety Scale in three situations, followed by the Trait Self-Esteem Scale. Results showed that the SIPS had stable factor structure, and adequate reliability. In addition, the predicted correlational patterns among the scales demonstrated the construct validity of the SIPS. Moreover, the SIPS was responsive to different situations, as evidenced by significant differences between the scores in the three situations.
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Female (N = 51) and male (N = 53) marketing managers, which included 10 African-Americans, 15 Hispanics, and 79 Caucasians, with salaries ranging from 25,000 to25,000 to 350,000, were assessed for fear of success (FOS), fear of failure (FOF), and the imposter phenomenon (IP). Based on Homer’s (1968) theory that FOS is related to gender roles socialization, it was hypothesized that FOS would be greater among female managers than among male managers. However, based on the conceptualization of FOF presented by Birney, Burdick, and Teevan (1969) and the description of the IP offered by Glance and Imes (1978), no significant differences were expected on these dimensions. This study seeks to clarify the relationships between gender, in relation to FOS, FOF, and the IP, among marketing managers. FOS was measured by the Fear of Success Scale (Zuckerman and Allison, 1976), FOF was measured by the application of the Hostile Press Scoring system applied to stories written by responding managers in response to verbal leads (HP System; Birney et al, 1969), and the IP measured by Harvey’s (1982) IP Scale. Results were as expected. Female managers were significantly higher than males on FOS, but there were no significant gender differences on FOF or the IP. Among both female and male managers, significant positive correlations were observed between FOF and the IP. FOS was not related significantly to either the FOF or the IP. Results were interpreted as indicating differences between culturally based and intra psychic fear of succeeding.
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The role of perceived parental rearing style, parental background, self-esteem, mental health and demographic variables upon impostor phenomenon [IP; Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice, 15, (1978) 241–247] intensity was investigated using a cross-sectional survey design, with 107 subjects (78 females, 29 males). A regression analysis revealed that both greater degree of perceived parental control and lower levels of self-esteem emerged as significant predictors of impostor fears, together accounting for 50% of the variation in impostor scores. Parental care score, parental educational and occupational level and subject's mental health and demographic information did not show a significant relationship to impostor scores. A post-hoc regression analysis indicated, however, that in addition to parental protection, lower care and poorer mental health was significantly related to increasing levels of impostor scores and with subjects having attended private school reporting lower levels of impostor feelings. In addition, subjects classified as impostors were found to report significantly higher GHQ scores (poorer mental health) than non-impostors. These findings, which are interpreted in terms of parenting styles, indicate that the role of parental overprotection may be especially implicated in impostor fears.
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Individuals who suffer from impostor fears harbour secret intense feelings of fraudulence in the face of achievement tasks and situations. This study investigated affective and attributional reactions of impostors following success and failure feedback. N = 164 undergraduate students were presented with a vignette depicting either hypothetical success or failure outcomes in a 2 (feedback: success, fail) × 2 (impostor fears: high low) between-subjects factorial design. Participants then responded to post-vignette items which assessed their cognitive, attributional and affective reactions, and completed several personality measures including the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale [Clance P. R. (1985). The impostor phenomenon: Overcoming the fear that haunts your success. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers]. Elements of perfectionism were evident in a propensity on the part of students with high impostor scores to externalise success and hold high standards for self-evaluation, while being intolerant of their failure to meet these standards. Impostors' greater reporting of negative emotions, together with their tendency to attribute failure internally and overgeneralise a single failure to their overall self-concepts underscore the veracity of clinical observations which suggest links between impostor fears, anxiety, and depression. These findings are important to an understanding of the dynamics and treatment of impostor fears.
Article
Self-handicapping, the creating or claiming of obstacles to one’s performance to influence explanations given for subsequent outcomes, has been shown to have a host of attitudinal and behavioral consequences. Given the wide ranging impact of self-handicapping, it is important to understand the conditions under which self-handicapping is more or less likely to occur. Accordingly, the present study tested the hypothesis that people will be less likely to engage in self-handicapping if they have previously engaged in self-affirmation. The results of this study found that self-affirmation was more effective in reducing self-handicapping behavior when individuals experienced non-contingent success than when they experience contingent success. Theoretical contributions to the self-handicapping and self-affirmation literatures are discussed, as are practical implications.
Article
Both imposter fears and ability-avoid achievement goals are assumed to be grounded in fear of failure and a general lack of confidence in one’s abilities. This study investigated the relationship between imposter fears and achievement goals. College students (N = 135) completed the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (Clance, 1985) and several measures relevant to achievement goal theory. Both imposter fears and ability-avoid achievement goals were positively related to test anxiety and negatively related to confidence in one’s intelligence. Women expressed greater imposter fears than men and were also higher on ability-avoid goals. Using hierarchical regression, we examined the pattern of achievement goals that related to imposter fears for men and women. Among men, imposter fears were primarily associated with ability-avoid goals. In contrast, among women, imposter fears were positively related to ability-approach goals and negatively related to task goals. Further, among women, but not men, endorsement of an entity theory of intelligence was associated with imposter fears. Implications for well-being are discussed.
Article
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of South Florida, 1983. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 115-120).
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--Temple University, 1981. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 85-95). Photocopy.
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Typescript. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Georgia State University, 1990. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 102-111).
Article
This investigation consists of two studies designed to examine perceived fraudulence, its measurement, and the personality traits associated with the experience in young adults. For Study 1, the Perceived Fraudulence Scale (PFS), a new measure constructed for this study, was administered to a sample of 50 college undergraduates, along with several other self-report measures; a semistructured interview and thought-listing exercise were added to provide convergent assessments of perceived fraudulence. Correlational patterns and regression analyses supported the investigators' conceptualization of perceived fraudulence as involving a combination of fraudulent ideation, depressive tendencies, self-criticism, social anxiety, achievement pressures, and self-monitoring skills. Study 2, in which 100 college undergraduates completed several personality questionnaires, replicated the factor structure of the PFS and provided some evidence for the discriminant validity of the construct of perceived fraudulence.
Article
Written shortly before his death, Heinz Kohut's last paper opens with a discussion of the paper 'Introspection, empathy, and psychoanalysis', written in 1959, which he presented at the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Meeting of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. In his first essay on the role of empathy in psychoanalysis, an essay that according to Kohut provided a foundation for many of his subsequent investigations in the field of depth psychology, he advanced the thesis that the introspective-empathic stance of the observer defines the science of psychoanalysis. The author explains that he was moved to propose this operational definition of psychoanalysis twenty-five years before because he felt that the introduction of the psychobiological concept of the drives (as well as various social psychological concepts) had not led to a true integration of psychoanalysis with biology or medicine but to a psychological and moral view of 'Guilty Man' that worked to distort the analyst's perception in the clinical and applied field. Kohut asserts that by defining itself operationally, psychoanalysis can accept itself as psychology, a psychology that studies man in terms of a self attempting to realize the programme laid down in his depth during the span of his life. The final section of the paper is devoted to a re-examination of man's intergenerational relationships in light of the shift Kohut advocates from psychobiology to psychology. The Oedipus complex is not to be understood as the end product of the uninfluentiable conflict of basic opposing instincts but as the result of interferences that impinge on man's development. Acknowledging the mythic power of Freud's formulation of the Oedipus complex, the author offers a dose of mythical counter-magic (to which the 'semi-circle of mental health' in the paper's title refers) and a re-interpretation of the story of King Oedipus. Kohut believes that the essence of human experience is not to be found in the biologically inevitable conflict between generations but in intergenerational continuity. Access to this essential nucleus of man's self can best be gained if psychoanalysis shifts from psychobiology to psychology. In this way, Kohut concludes, psychoanalysis can return to its own nuclear self, can realize its own essential programme of action.
Article
Three studies tested theoretical assumptions regarding the impostor phenomenon. In Study 1, participants completed measures of impostorism, rated themselves, and indicated how they thought other people regarded them. Contrary to standard conceptualizations of impostorism, high impostors were characterized by a combination of low self-appraisals and low reflected appraisals. Study 2 was an experiment designed to determine whether the behaviors associated with the impostor phenomenon are interpersonal strategies. Participants were told that they were expected to perform either better or worse than they had previously predicted on an upcoming test, then expressed their reactions anonymously or publicly. High impostors expressed lower performance expectations than low impostors only when their responses were public. When expectations for performance were low, participants high in impostorism responded differently under public than private conditions. Study 3 examined the possibility that high scores on measures of impostorism may reflect two types of impostors--true impostors (who believe that others perceive them too positively) and strategic impostors (who only claim that they are not as good as other people think). The results did not support this distinction; however, evidence for the strategic nature of impostorism was again obtained. Although people may experience true feelings of impostorism, these studies suggest that the characteristics attributed to so-called impostors are partly interpersonal, self-presentational behaviors designed to minimize the implications of poor performance.
Article
The purpose of this study was to relate the impostor phenomenon (IP) to the Five-factor model of personality. A sample of 190 college students (79 men, 111 women) completed the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (Clance, 1985), the Perceived Fradulence Scale (Kolligian & Sternberg, 1991), and the NEO-Personality Inventory-Revised (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Results of correlational and regression analyses support the predicted relations of imposter measures with high Neuroticism and low Conscientiousness. Facet-level correlations showed that depression and anxiety were particularly important characteristics of those with imposter feelings as well as low self-discipline and perceived competence. Implications for treatment and future research on the IP are discussed.
Article
The Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS; Clance, 1985) was compared to the newly developed Perceived Fraudulence Scale (Kolligian & Sternberg, 1991). The two scales were found to have high internal consistency and to correlate in a similar manner with other measures. Further, discriminant validity evidence for the Impostor Phenomenon (IP) was provided by comparing the CIPS to measures of depression, self-esteem, social anxiety, and self-monitoring. The IP was related to, but substantially discriminable from, these constructs. Finally, construct validity evidence for the CIPS was provided through principal components analysis that yielded three stable factors: Fake, Discount, and Luck.
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