Friday, December 08, 2006

The Imposter

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As I recently completed my studies, I've been taking some time out and catching up on some pleasurable activities. Catching up with family and friends (remember me?), reading for fun rather than out of necessity, watching movies.

The photo above comes from the John Malkovich movie Colour Me Kubrick in which he plays Alan Conway, a man who passed himself off as the film director Stanley Kubrick. As an imposter, Alan Conway did quite well.

It made me reflect on earlier times during my practicum training where I experienced what my supervisor would call the 'Imposter Syndrome.' We would review my cases and, even though my asssessments and interventions would be well thought out and appropriate, I'd be plagued by self-doubt. In reports to referrers, I'd underplay my role in the treatment of the patient. I felt as if it would only be a matter of time before someone would catch me out, call me for being a fake.

An understandable response really when starting out. I was always afraid that my lack of knowledge would be found out. With time, and great supervision, my confidence grew and I realised it was not only acceptable to not have all the answers but realistic too. This stage was only a start point and I faced a lifetime of continued learning and development, along with many others in various career paths.

Now that it's time to move on from study and away from supervised practice, I sense that same feeling returning a little. This time I understand it a little better and can recognise it for what it is and where it's coming from. I'm ruminating about what to do next in terms of work, further study, this blog..and, of course, rumination is typically associated with poor problem-solving and little action. I'd have been a good case study for my rumination thesis!

Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon, often associated with high achievers (not that I'm including myself in that!!) I wonder how many of you have experienced something similar and how you dealt with it.

Oh, and if you haven't caught the movie, I highly recommend it. John Malkovich, as always, is fabulous.



Anonymous said...

interestingly, we have sonmeone who is claiming to have a diagnosis we so dont believe they have is that along the same lines ?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. I haven't even graduated yet and feel like I will never know enough to do even the basics of nursing care. That my patients will point the finger at me at yell out "What's SHE doing as a nurse??? She knows NOTHING!!"

Anonymous said...

Hey Healthpsych, I am very aware of the impostor syndrome because I have been suffering from it for nearly three years now. Some day I plan on making a full recovery, but it takes time I'm told.

Also, I am very jealous of your ability to read for fun!

Have a great week...

healthpsych said...

Hey JIP,
That's the flip side I guess - kind of more like the John Malkovich figure, pretending to be something you're not.

Hi Lorena,
Thanks for dropping by. Yep, that's exactly it! It's 'good' to see others go through this as well.

Hey Little Student,
When you work out the recovery, please let me know! :)
Reading for pleasure feels so longer a guilty pleasure. Hope you get to that space soon.

Anonymous said...

I hope so too Healthpsych!

Alison said...

HP, I vividly remember being 29 and in the midst of psychotherapy and walking out of my 2nd session feeling like a fraud. It was such a painful experience, I almost fainted on the way to the car. It descended on me and completely freaked me out.

My "imposter" was in relationship to my whole life at the time. I remember it well and reflect now, as a result of your post.

And you know what? The important thing to remember is this: It's a syndrome. It's not exceptionally accurate.

Alison said...

And I love John Malkovich, thanks for the flag to see this movie!

Psychosomartyr said...

A friend had a book that was being pursued by 5 publishers, 3 of them were very serious about it. One company even went so far as to employ an agency to tag the friend, find out his favourite foods and then serve them at lunch in the Publishing House when they invited him.

He was completely unnerved by all the attention. He said that he had never had a more explicit insight into imposter syndrome.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I enjoy John M. He is such a fabulous actor. He can terrify me and make me laugh out loud.

Swinging by early to send you Merry Christmas wishes.

healthpsych said...

Hi Alison,
Thanks. Always good to know others experience this. Hope you enjoy the movie.

Hello Psychosomatr,
Thanks for commenting. An interesting story - that must have felt so bizarre!

Hello Deb,
There's really nothing John Malkovich has done that I haven't enjoyed. This is a bit of an 'odd' movie but I loved it. Good to see you on the mend. Happy Christmas to you too.

sisiphusledge said...

You have very eloquently described what I still feel even after 15 years as a practising doctor. I continually feel paranoid when people remark on my achievements; I feel like I want to gather every scrap of evidence, certificates, film evidence, contracts, etc.etc and show them to prove that I am who I say I am and have done what I've said I've done. The most innocent of remarks can set it off.

By the way, thanks for visiting my site and No Way! Don't give up the day job. Even High Priestesses need something to occupy their minds!


sisiphusledge said...

Frequent visitors to my site get have been warned!

healthpsych said...

Hello Sisphus,
Seems like I am keeping good company. Part of me feels like it's not a bad thing in respect of it keeps me on my toes, probably a better option than 'knowing it all'.
Already blogrolled you. A very thought provoking blog. Thanks for adding me.
Best wishes,