Anxiety and the Imposter Syndrome


Student paper Varsity, The Times and many other media outlets are confusing anxiety and the imposter syndrome. While imposter feelings can cause anxiety, the syndrome is in fact correctly referred to as the impostor phenomenon and is not in the DSM. Kate Atkin says: "For the next 12 months I have decided to fundraise for Anxiety UK."

She writes:

First and foremost... it's not a syndrome!  It's not a mental health condition... but yes, it can cause anxiety and mental health is still not spoken about openly enough. 

What am I referring to? The "imposter syndrome" and the recent furore caused by the email send by a professor at Queens' College Cambridge to his students, alleging that some of them might not be up to the standard required for the course. This sent twitter into a spin with "snowflakes", "man up" and other unhelpful words being bandied about.  If you are genuinely highly anxious, then definitely seek help. 

If you fear you may be found out, and have a tendency to over work, or a desire to be perfect, then it could be a case of the imposter phenomenon (which is not a diagnosable mental health condtion).  There are some things you can do to support yourself and help diminsh the imposter feelings:

1. Talk about the "mask" with someone you trust to be supportive

2. Look at the objective evidence

3. Recognise your strengths

4. Seek to understand the cause of the feelings (a hyper-critical parent perhaps?)

and more... see links below.

To find out more about the imposter syndrome - that nagging feeling that we will be found out some day - do take a look at my website or see my guest blog post for the Oxford English Dictionary, where I explain the phenomenon in more detail. 

I'm just starting out on my five-year journey into the world of academia studying and researching the impostor phenomenon for a PhD.  Being a pragmatist, this will be based in the world of work, with a "what can you do about it?" attitude, so I'll be posting more about this as my research develops.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a speaker on the subject, do give me a call 07779 646 976.

Or if you'd like to support Anxiety UK and their work with those who do experience severe anxiety, you can donate here:

Image by:  Helena G Andersen

To read more information, click here.

Speaking and facilitating workshops on the impostor phenomenon / imposter syndrome, confidence and presentation skills. Both in-person and online.
For courses, workshops and coaching that help banish the imposter, build confidence, and ensure effective communication, contact Kate Atkin, inspirational speaker, facilitator and author.

Kate Atkin: Speaker (imposter syndrome) and Consultant