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Christy A. Walker Assistant Director University Career Services The Impostor Syndrome: Helping Students to Face their Fears and Finish Strong.

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Presentation on theme: "Christy A. Walker Assistant Director University Career Services The Impostor Syndrome: Helping Students to Face their Fears and Finish Strong."— Presentation transcript:

1 Christy A. Walker Assistant Director University Career Services The Impostor Syndrome: Helping Students to Face their Fears and Finish Strong

2 “I feel like an impostor here with all these really bright people.” “I feel like a fraud” “If I'm so successful, why do I feel like a fake?” “I am not as good as other people think I am, and I have them fooled now but I may be ‘found out’ later.” "Obviously I'm in this position because my abilities have been overestimated." “I did not want people to think I thought I was something I was not.” “My family expects me to make some massive impact upon this world and I live in constant fear of disappointing them.”

3 Background Assistant Director - UNC University Career Services Former UNC Academic Advisor STEM Graduate Doctoral Student

4 Session Goals Define Imposter Syndrome Detail characteristics of Imposter Syndrome Identify student issues Discuss – How to support and empower student – Support services – Implications – Best Practices

5 What is the Impostor Syndrome? … an intense feeling of intellectual inauthenticity that is frequently experienced by high-achieving individuals --- Clance and Imes, 1978

6 What is the Impostor Syndrome (IP)? Researchers Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes “Fear of Failure” Sometimes known as “impostor phenomenon” Origin – graduate students Common in graduate students, transfers, underrepresented populations, adult learners

7 Clance IP Scale & Harvey’s IP Scale Both scales contain items that identify : Fear of failure Attribution of success to luck, error, or charm The desire to stand out The feeling of having given others a false impression Clance’s scale includes measures that identify: Fear of evaluation Fear that successes cannot be repeated The feeling that one is less capable than peers

8 Characteristics of Impostor Syndrome “The cycle” Introversion Fear of Evaluation Fear of Failure Guilt about success Difficulty in accepting positive feedback Anxiety Overestimating others while underestimating oneself Skewed definition of intelligence False family messages

9 Impostor Syndrome Shows Up As… Lack of self-confidence Low self-esteem Depression/anxiety Suicidal thoughts Increased drop out rates

10 Impact of Impostor Syndrome on… Women Graduate students Minorities/Underrepresented students STEM students Transfer students Adult students

11 Women Women may be more likely than men to experience impostor behaviors Family messages Societal messages Gender socialization Some women choose to hide their own opinions

12 Graduate Students Seen as “higher achievers” in literature More likely to self-sabotage their efforts Greatest fear is failure

13 Minorities/Underrepresented Cultural Suicide brings to mind cultural conflicts (i.e., "acting White," "putting on airs") experienced by people of color. – Cultural suicide happens to learners "who are in the critical process and who are seen by those around them to be reinventing themselves" and are at risk of being ostracized (Brookfield, 2005). Tinto’s (1993) framework emphasizes the importance of social integration (i.e., participation in campus activities, interaction with peers). Carpenter (1991) contends that international students often face a particular set of transfer problems in the transfer process that are caused by cultural differences.

14 STEM & Underrepresented Students Four sets of factors necessary to enhance minority students’ success in STEM Academic and social integration Knowledge and skill development Support and motivation Monitoring and advising -- Maton, Hrabowski, & Schmitt, 2000

15 Transfer Students Students commonly reported a "self-reliant" role in transfer process Self- reliant because they perceived that institutions failed to communicate with them “Survival of the fittest“ attitude toward community college students Barbara Townsend - perceptions among transfer students that relate to IP:

16 Adult Learners Four emotional states within adult learners: Impostorship Cultural Suicide Loss of innocence Peer support- students feel a need to belong to an emotionally sustaining learning community of peers -- Brookfield, 2005

17 Resources Mentoring programs Transfer services Alumni network Leadership development programs Civic engagement Academic advising Career services Counseling services – a key referral! Others

18 How to address the Impostor Syndrome 1.Break the silence 2.Separate feelings from fact 3.Recognize when you should feel fraudulent 4.Accentuate the positive 5.Develop a new response to failure and mistake making 6.Right the rules 7.Develop a new script 8.Visualize success 9.Reward yourself 10.Fake it ‘til you make it --- Dr. Valerie Young

19 Closing Thoughts Christy A. Walker Assistant Director University Career Services University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

20 References Brookfield, S. D. (2005), Overcoming impostorship, cultural suicide, and lost innocence: Implications for teaching critical thinking in the community college. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2005: 49–57. Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The impostor phenomenon in high-achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15, Clance, P.R. & O'Toole, M.A. (1987). Impostor phenomenon: An internal barrier to empowerment and Achievement. Women and Therapy, 6, King, J. E., & Cooley, E. L. (1995). Achievement orientation and the impostor phenomenon among college students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, Kolligan, J. Jr. (1991). Perceived fraudulence in young adults: Is there an "impostor syndrome"? Journal of Personality Assessment, 56, Maton, K.I., Hrabowski, F.A. III, & Schmitt, C.L. (2000). African-American college students excelling in the sciences: College and post-college outcomes in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37,

21 Web References Dr. Valerie Young – The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women – impostorsyndrome.com Pauline Rose Clance – paulineroseclance.com – Impostor Phenomenon Reference List


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