Impostor syndrome: do you sometimes feel like a fraud?

Clancy Martin in The Economist 1843:

The feeling of being a fraud isn’t new, nor is our preoccupation with it. “All the world’s a stage…And one man in his time plays many parts,” wrote William Shakespeare. The principle of “fake it till you make it” has long propelled incompetents to greatness. The success of phoneys is endlessly fascinating. In the 2000s “On Bullshit”, a book by Harry Frankfurt, a Princeton philosopher, spent many weeks at the top of the New York Times’ bestseller list. But recently we have become fixated on a particular aspect of fraudulence – impostor syndrome – the sense that we are always posturing, that our accomplishments are in some way undeserved, no matter how consistent the evidence to the contrary. Impostor syndrome seems to have become an epidemic. That is partly because we have given the phenomenon a name. Two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, are credited with coining the term in a landmark study in the late 1970s, in which they identified the “internal experience” of feeling like an “intellectual phoney”. But our growing preoccupation with impostorism is also a result of profound social change. In the past most people were employed to make things – and it’s fairly easy to distinguish an expert chairmaker or bricklayer from a novice. Many more of us now work in the service economy: our lives are spent creating impressions rather than tangible items. There is no objective standard for providing a “great customer experience”. To be an excellent manager is a nebulous thing. At every level of every field, the number of roles where achievement is neither entirely measurable nor objective has grown.

Professional life today leaves us straining to redefine ourselves. We no longer have “a job for life”, but instead search endlessly for promotion and variety, which leads us to promise things we don’t yet know how to do. “Pitch culture” has created an environment in which each of us is almost required to be an impostor in order to succeed. The breakdown of class structures has exacerbated this phenomenon. The demise of the feudal system is a good thing, but when we are no longer born into a role, or when we find ourselves in a job that would have been unfamiliar to, or even impossible, for our parents, it’s hardly surprising that we worry about whether or not we deserve it. These social factors also help to explain why the authors of that first academic paper on impostor syndrome immediately identified its greater prevalence and intensity among women rather than men (a finding that later studies have supported). They suggested that both early family dynamics and “societal sex-role stereotyping” meant that many highly successful women they interviewed attributed their achievements to luck, mistaken identity or faulty judgment on the part of their superiors. These same social expectations also probably contribute to the frequent feelings of being an impostor that many people from ethnic minorities also report.

More here.