Imposter Syndrome Workshop with Kate Atkin


Imposter Syndrome Workshop with Kate Atkin

Imposter syndrome should really be considered a phenomenon, because it is not experienced all the time but is most prevalent during times of change. This was defined first in the 1970s by two academics who recognised that students are one of the demographic groups which experience this. The problems associated with imposter phenomenon mean that it may limit you from recognising your full potential and abilities, both in the working environment and in social settings. The imposter phenomenon can manifest itself during university: it may mean you are less confident to speak up in a tutorial, or shy away from applying for internships that you may actually be perfect for.

The workshop gave the audience the chance to challenge their own thoughts about the imposter phenomenon. Causes of the phenomenon can stem from being hypercritical of your own talents or having hyper critical, or even hyper supportive parents which may mean there is less resilience to criticism and failure during life: both extremes are negative. Often people think their achievements are because ‘I got lucky’ when actually you deserve your success, having applied your knowledge skills and abilities. Throughout your life you must be able to recognise your own success, and commonly women will tend to externalise their successes and believe the cause was down to external circumstances rather than their own doing.

Kate then shared her own experience of the imposter phenomenon throughout her life. She attended a Secondary Modern school and didn’t attend university, however she then completed a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology in her 40s where her research into the imposter phenomenon began. This was a huge success; but she says that she still experiences negative feelings surrounding her academic ability, especially as she is now undertaking a PhD to discover more about the phenomenon. This learning process has been the starting point for her challenging her own imposter feelings.

Through her research she realised that people wanted to combat imposter syndrome in new scenarios, to encourage themselves to try new challenges and to feel positive about opportunities, especially when they weren’t entering from a traditional route such as having an undergraduate degree. Additionally, there’s an academic paper that says 70% of people will experience this phenomenon in their lifetime and certain situations can exacerbate it. However, it is important to have an accurate sense of self, and not an inflated belief known as ‘Dunning Kruger effect’.