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Not faking it actually ...

Dr Raj Persaud
Consultant Psychiatrist at
The Maudsley Hospital, London

One is struck by the many charismatic individuals working successfully in nursing who outwardly appear extremely confident, yet could it be many are harbouring a dark secret? Scratch the surface of the high-performing individual at work and beneath might lie a more complex psychology.
 New research on the "Impostor Syndrome" conducted by psychologists Shamala Kumar and Carolyn M Jagacinski at Purdue University, USA, to be published in Personality and Individual Differences, confirms that women are significantly more likely to suffer from it than men. The term Impostor Syndrome refers to an extremely common psychological predicament, originally coined in the 1970s, as women began to penetrate the higher echelons of corporations and professions for the first time, to describe the frequent feelings of fraudulence reported by high-achieving women.
A lot of women, despite doing objectively well in their careers and appearing deeply impressive to the external observer, doubt their achievements are actually a result of their ability and talent, so instead attribute their success to other nonability-related factors such as luck or extreme hard work, and assume any personal success must have been achieved with nothing more than basic capability or flair.
This is in marked contrast to the more male-associated strategy of overassuming all success is down to personal skills; this pattern of assumptions may explain the generally greater confidence, indeed arrogance, of men despite little objective evidence of actual superior talent compared with women. The syndrome, however, could have a profoundly negative effect on wellbeing and confidence, no matter how high up the career or any other ladder these women climb.
In essence, "impostors" believe they have deceived others into believing they are something they are not, and this also explains why so many successful women don't put themselves forward for promotion or are not as assertive as much less able men when it comes to pursuing career or other recognition. "Impostors" are much less likely to achieve the recognition they deserve because their fears prevent them from aiming as high.
Kumar and Jagacinski found that women were much less confident in the level of their basic intelligence and consequently much more anxious in situations where feedback on performance was likely. Women seemed to be fundamentally motivated to avoid public failure and as a result did not take on tasks where shining and promotion were more possible consequences. This could explain the stereotype of women being better team players than men: the preference to hide individual performance in a team means you are less exposed to direct personal negative evaluation.
The research has a lot of implications for those who aren't necessarily trying to become the head of a large corporation but who are merely engaged in challenging tasks as would, for example, be found in nursing. The danger for "impostors" is they don't realise that the basic syndrome means no matter how successful they become - even if they rise to the very top - they will not be cured. Instead they could feel worse, for each impressive success merely deepens the "impostor's" stress and predicament. They fear even more of a collapse downwards when they are finally uncovered.
Kumar and Jagacinski's study suggests a change in strategy for women (and those men who also endure the problem) which could liberate them from Impostor Syndrome. This is to understand that taking on difficult tasks, whether you succeed or not, probably leads to personal growth. You learn more and improve basic skills. You personally benefit from the challenge of difficult responsibilities.
True confidence in life isn't about how you feel after a success, but instead how you respond to a failure, in not letting it convince you that all previous success must have been a fraud.