This post is to reflect some of my experiences and thoughts on imposter syndrome, which was discussed in great detail on yesterday’s #gtchat. Imposter syndrome gives a feeling of aloofness due to a lack of sense of belongingness to the peer group in terms of views and ideas. This phenomenon is independent of age. Christine Fonseca, in her post, has pointed out three basic factors which contribute to imposter syndrome. Although self esteem and praise contributes to imposter syndrome, I feel that giftedness forms the root for the other two. Giftedness leads to high self esteem and praise.
I had a gifted student last year in my key stage-level science class. I have the habit of asking the students for their take on a topic before I get into it in order to know their level of understanding. During such sessions, I noticed that she would keep mum and wouldn’t utter a word. In spite of me posing her with direct questions, she didn’t utter a word. I didn’t understand this at first and later, when I interacted with her, I was able to understand that she was scared that she might be wrong and that her classmates might look down upon her as a dunce! As I had discussed in yesterday’s #gtchat, a friend of mine has the same problem. We used to present seminars at our department and he would always come to me saying that he is going to blunder with it and always wanted me to go ahead with my presentation first.
With reference to gender differences, I feel that imposter syndrome is more common in women than in men. In India, it’s always been a trend that girls outshine the boys in academics. In this process, they develop a sense of self proclaimed responsibility (perfectionism) and seem to shy away from others. However, as Seabury School had mentioned, these people look to setting others’ expectations low to avoid feelings of failure, disappointment. Another phenomenon which I have observed is that these imposter syndrome people have the tendency to form their own small groups celebrating their habit. This not only worsens their condition, but also spread it to others.
However, I should also say that some of my gifted friends are real fun to be with. They have an air of confidence and warmth which attracts people. They become the centre of attention wherever they are. Such differences, I believe, are due to the lack of self realization in some gifted individuals. This is where these gifted individuals must be made to realize the importance of opening up. This can be promoted by allowing them to participate in “balanced” group discussions where the moderator sees to that every individual has contributed evenly to the discussion. They must be made to understand the importance of participation over winning. As Pierre de Coubertin said, the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle,the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
I have few other incidences of imposter syndrome, which I have reserved for the subsequent posts. I’d also like to hear about your experiences with imposter syndrome.