“Eternal” doubt, a sense of wrongdoing, and a terrible fear of being “exposed”: some at work suffer from “Imposter Syndrome,” an insidious evil that can be tamed with technical means.
“We imagine we are manipulating everyone to make people believe that we are very competent,” Julien tells AFP. Participating in the “unattainable race”, the 37-year-old young man hoped to no longer doubt with each new diploma: but even passing his dissertation, he was convinced that he was “lucky”.
This phenomenon, theorized by two American psychologists in the late 1970s, is not considered pathological. It “is not part of the DSM, the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” which serves as a reference, Anne-Francoise Chaperon, a psychotherapist and psychosocial risk prevention consultant, explains to AFP.
But it’s nonetheless a topic that touches “a lot of people” and serves as “a breeding ground for burnout,” she says, noting that it’s implicitly listed as part of anxiety disorders (under the term “performance anxiety”).
This phenomenon is especially true for people with “great professional value”, often overskilled, she notes. “They do what in psychology is called + external attribution +, that is, their success is never due to them: it is always luck, the fact of coming at the right time … Which means they cannot capitalize on self-confidence.”
– “Run out on the spot” –
According to a December YouGov survey by Management magazine, the phenomenon is widespread, with 54% of women already victimized, 45% of men, and among managers the figure has risen to 62%.
For Julien, who is aware that it is “ridiculous” with “a few masters, a doctorate”, “there is a very frightening side to say to yourself + in fact, I am an impostor. The day it’s revealed, it’s going to be good to be something absolutely terrible.” “All of a sudden we get really tired of trying to prove we can do it,” says the 30-year-old data scientist.
“It’s pretty brutal every day,” confirms Fred Christian from Reunion. This 42-year-old computer designer always gets the impression that “others are better”, that he is “not competent enough”, “the eternal question”.
Like him, who points out that his parents are “not encouraging enough,” 33-year-old Camille Gillet credits his education with this complex.
“The problem is that it can block,” tell yourself “it’s lost in advance,” or push you to “develop some things into a neurosis,” explains a girl who works in the field of web marketing.
– “Fennel” or “Lucifer” –
A recent “live coaching” hosted by Management presented methods to stop this self-sabotage.
She was there herself, Sara Zitouni, engineer and trainer, suggests, for example, giving a name to a voice that says + you got there by the greatest chance +. It’s a hateful food with a “slightly funny side” like “fennel” or “semolina”, “negative archetypes like Diablo, Lucifer” or even the name of an enemy.
“Name your syndrome. This gives you the opportunity to tell him: + listen, decoy, I have an important meeting, and I don’t want to hear from you, ”she insists.
To counter this “mental trap,” Anne de Montarlo and Elisabeth Kadoche, authors of The Imposter Syndrome, also recommend that you list your own successes with the “skills” that helped you achieve them.
For some who suffer from severe pain, psychotherapy can also be helpful in identifying those “supporting factors” that are blocking the situation despite the person’s success, notes Anne-Françoise Chaperon.
In general, according to the therapist, this is the very behavior of a person in relation to work with “avoidance strategies”: procrastination, “overpreparation”, developing “strategies to control anxiety about doing work.”
“The more control strategies people have, the more they feed this syndrome,” she says. Therefore, we must help them “break this vicious circle.”