[Blackstudies-l] the Impostor Syndrome

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sun Apr 30 08:46:28 EDT 2017

Democrat and Chronicle
04/30/2017 - Page B08

Stereotypes amplify feelings of being a fraud, experts say

Ryan Brooks


Do you ever feel like a fraud when it comes to the things you’ve achieved?
You might be experiencing impostor phenomenon — and if you’re a college
student of color, these feelings may be behind significant psychological

Impostor phenomenon is the condition of feeling like a fraud because of an
inability to internalize success and a feeling of incompetence. The
phenomenon was first observed in a 1978 study of highly accomplished women
who felt like "frauds" in the workplace despite their accomplishments.

And nearly 40 years later, it’s still relevant — and prevalent. A new study
found that impostor syndrome is prevalent in minority students and is often
a factor in the relati! onship between discrimination and depression and

Specifically, the researchers found that high impostor feelings among
African-American and Latino students were a positive predictor of anxiety
and depression among Asian-Americans. These students’ awareness of racial
prejudices induced impostor syndrome and made them feel anxious and
depressed about it — even when they had achieved impressive accomplishments.

The study, by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin published in
the Journal of Counseling Psychology, collected results from 322 minority
students, including African Americans, Asian Americans and Latino Americans.

Kevin Cokley, one of the authors of the study and a University of Texas
professor of African diaspora studies and! counseling psychology, thought
impostor phenomenon in minorit! y students was important to explore.

"I believe that racial/ethnic minority students experience impostor
feelings in a racialized way because of the racial stereotypes that they
deal with," Cokely told USA TODAY College. He believes that awareness of
stereotypes — like lower intelligence associated with African-American and
Latino students and "model minority" stereotypes associated with
Asian-Americans — may amplify the phenomenon in these groups.

Like many of the minority students included in the study, Ashley Graham, a
senior at Emory University, has trouble internalizing her successes. Graham
is the editor-in-chief of one of her university’s student publications, has
been published by a well-known news outlet and has been admitted to three
of the top 10 graduate schools in her field, but she still gets that!
fraudulent feeling when people congratulate her on her accomplishments.

"I’m always comparing myself to my peers and classmates and sometimes to my
predecessors and their accomplishments, even though the circumstances could
be completely different," Graham told USA TODAY College. "I try to fit my
work and accomplishments into that context, and while it usually pushes me
to want to do more, most times it also makes me feel like I’m never good
enough or doing enough to deserve the praise I receive."

Jackilyn Fuller, a senior at Winthrop University, said she has similar
feelings. "When people ask me for help on projects because they ’ve seen
that I do a good job on my work, I wonder why because I feel like I have no
clue what I’m doing," she said.

Fuller said experiences in high school with classmates who would attribute
! her accomplishments to her race rather than her abilities influenced h!
er to secondguess her abilities today.

Cokely recommended that counselors and mental health professionals
routinely ask about "impostorism" during counseling sessions and that they
should particularly be monitoring these feelings in minority students as
well as talking these feelings through in peer groups.

Fuller said she’s working on overcoming these feelings by internally
recognizing her talents. She encourages other minority students to do the

"Don’t feel like you always have to prove yourself," she said. "I don’t
want anyone to feel like their accomplishments are only because of the
color of their skin."


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