Feeling Fake? The Impostor Syndrome Is Alive and Well In Graduate Students and Early Career Professionals

Sunday, May 19, 2019
Barbara L. Goldsmith, Psy.D. and Valeriya Spektor, Ph.D.
Wynnewood, PA

Please note: Continuing education credits will NOT be offered for this brunch event, which is intended primarily for graduate students.

The impostor syndrome refers to the experience of doubting one’s competence and intelligence, to the extent of believing that one is deceiving others by appearing more capable or successful than she/they/he really feel(s). Individualswith this syndrome doubt their achievements and fear others will expose them as fraudulent. A large body of literature has examined the impostor phenomenon in women (Clance & Imes, 1978; Clance, Dingman, Reviere, & Stober, 1995) and other socially oppressed groups, such as first-generation students (Peteet, Montgomery, & Weekes, 2015) and people of color (Cokley et al., 2017) suggesting that many successful individuals may feel phony or fake as they navigate their career trajectories. Given these findings, the purpose of our presentation is to provide an overview of the impostor phenomenon as relevant to the graduate student and early career experience and to identify strategies to recognize and confront impostor feelings. Presenters will summarize relevant literature, assist participants to reflect on their own levels of the impostor phenomenon using a validated measure (Chrisman et al., 1995), and discuss strategies to mitigate the impact of the imposter syndrome on one’s career and quality of life. Our goal is to invite the audience to share some of their personal experiences with this phenomenon in graduate training and in the early aspects of their post graduate experiences as a new professional.

Learning Objectives: After attending this program in full, participants will be able to:

  1. Provide a definition of the imposter phenomenon
  2. Discuss major research findings regarding the intersection of the impostor phenomenon and sociocultural variables, such as race and gender
  3. Summarize research concerning the impact of the impostor phenomenon on one’s mental health and career outcomes
  4. Use a validated instrument to measure the impostor phenomenon
  5. Identify strategies for challenging imposter feelings and thoughts

Reference:  Clance, P.R., Dingman, D., Reviere, S.L., and Stober, D. R. (1995). Impostorphenomenon in an interpersonal/social context: origins and treatment. Women and Therapy, 16(4), 79-96.

Barbara L. Goldsmith, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Philadelphia and Rosemont, PA. She is adjunct associate professor at the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology and is on the faculty of the Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis in Philadelphia. She is a training consultant for the University of Pennsylvania’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and was founding president of the Philadelphia Center for Psychoanalytic Education. She is the director of the PSPP Mentorship Program.

Valeriya Spektor, PhD, is a licensed staff psychologist at the Counseling and Psychological Services of the University of Pennsylvania. Her professional interests center on psychodynamic therapy, training and supervision, immigration, and social justice. She has a part-time private practice in Center City and is an adjunct professor for Temple University’s Counseling Psychology master’s program. She is also the assistant director of the PSPP mentorship program.

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