If you’re like more than 70% of people in modern society, you’ve probably encountered feelings of impostorism at one point in your life and were not aware of the “Imposter Phenomenon” (IP), that you were experiencing (Franchi et. al 2022).
It's the feelings of self-doubt when starting a new job, feeling like you’re not smart enough, or that you won't live up to the expectations of others- we’ve all been there.
While research tells us that feelings associated with the imposter phenomenon can subside with gained years of experience, we can’t help but wonder, can modern video feedback platforms help combat feelings of IP and reinforce learning?
The term “imposter phenomenon” (IP) also known as “imposter syndrome” (IS) was first coined in 1978 by Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., as an observation first among successful women and other marginalized groups. They found of the 150 high-achieving women they surveyed, these women did not experience an internal sense of success and many considered themselves "imposters" feeling they were not intelligent enough, or in fact, they fooled others into thinking they are. One chairwoman said, "Obviously, I'm in this position because my abilities have been overestimated" despite having earned advanced degrees and being a respected professional in her field.
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While there is no formal medical definition of IP, it can be summarized as a behavioral health phenomenon described as self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals and is most commonly diagnosed utilizing the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (CIPS) with higher combined scores indicating higher levels of IP experiences (Huecker et. al 2023).
Who does the imposter phenomenon affect?
What’s interesting about IP is it can occur in any person and is most commonly liked in groups comprised of high-functioning individuals with perfectionist personalities and is disproportionately prevalent in academia and healthcare. This could be indicative of the challenging work environments and highly accomplished peer groups combined with some of the professional norms of education and medical culture.
These cultural norms can often result in a lack of vulnerability with colleagues, leading individuals to believe that they are the only ones struggling which can also contribute to isolation and experiences of IP that may reinforce a lack of vulnerability with colleagues. Imposter phenomenon is commonly reported in both men and women with some studies suggesting it may be more prevalent in women.
Research shows a high prevalence of IP among students in healthcare professions putting them at high risk for burnout being a "perpetual novice" during transitional stages in their education. Further research is needed to understand better how IP impacts practicing professionals after medical education with some evidence indicating other factors like unfavorable patient outcomes, patient complaints, poor teaching evaluations, and patient satisfaction scores can lead to low self-valuation and feelings of disappointment in current accomplishments.
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6- Characteristics for identifying Imposter Syndrome:
Clance identified six criteria of interrelated characteristics that may or may not be present in an individual with IP: the imposter cycle, perfectionism, super-heroism, atychiphobia (fear of failure), denial of competence, and achievemephobia.
The imposter cycle occurs when individuals with IS face an assignment, obstacle, duty, or other achievement-related tasks and is usually met with over-preparation or procrastination. Upon completion of the task, there is a brief sense of success though there is a failure to internalize this sense of success. This can lead to experiencing a spectrum of fear, anxiety, fraudulence, and other pathology leading to the next task, effectively repeating the imposter cycle.
Originally described by Clance et al. as the 'need to be the best' perfectionism occurs when unattainable standards and goals are self-imposed by those with IS driving a detrimental positive feedback loop with impossible-to-reach benchmarks. These hyper-competitive and perfectionist behaviors can over-generalizing mistakes that are perceived as a 'lack of ability' and overly critical non-constructive self-feedback.
Often presented as a tendency to over-prepare for tasks to appear more capable of completing them, super-heroism is intrinsically related to the need to be the best and is a self-imposed standard that's often unattainable.
Atychiphobia (Fear of Failure)
When facing achievement-related tasks, individuals with IS experience anxiety, the fear of being shamed, and/or humiliated if they fail or do worse than a peer on a particular task; thus being exposed as an imposter if they were to fail.
Denial of Competence and Capability
Individuals with IS tend to discount their intelligence, experiences, skills, and natural talents, and internalize failure and relate success to external influence or random chance, despite evidence that the individual accomplished a particular task without these factors.
Achievemephobia (Fear of Success)
Describes the internalization of failures as a positive feedback loop and difficulty in internalizing or recognizing their successes, as succeeding may lead to higher expectations or increase pre-existing workload.
The Largest Study To Date
Stanford Medicine completed the largest study to date on Imposter Phenomenon in US Physicians Relative to the US Working Population and what they found is quite interesting.
Researchers concluded that nearly 1 in 4 physicians (nearly 23%) reported frequent or intense IP experiences with experiences being more severe among women, younger physicians, and those in Veterans Health Administration or academic practice settings. While occupational burnout among physicians is primarily attributed to problems in the practice environment, distressed mindsets can lead many physicians to engage in unhealthy levels of self-sacrifice manifested by excessive work hours, anxiety about missing something that would benefit their patients, and prioritizing work over personal health.
Standford Medicine concluded with recommendations for holistic approaches to instill a growth mindset during the training process, reducing the stigma associated with help-seeking, and creating a culture of vulnerability with colleagues as crucial efforts for reducing the prevalence of IP and the associated personal and occupational distress.
How can video feedback help?
Video feedback is highly utilized in education and is proven to support student learning while engaging their contextual knowledge through visual learning and self-reflection. Although additional research on the effectiveness of video feedback to combat IP is still needed, video feedback as a tool for providing evidence-based performance can reduce biases students feel and further support competency-based models focused on individualization and competence around clinical skills.
Video feedback also opens doors to foster mentorship in the teacher-student or peer-to-peer relationship by inciting more vulnerability around skill development making individuals feel like their advancements are being recognized helping boost performance confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Additionally, as students progress through undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate education, providing students with positive, detailed feedback can alter their perception of performance objectively uncovering positives that may have been breezed over due to self-doubt in abilities.
Lastly, video feedback can be an excellent option for providing students with the support they need to feel valued in their professional pursuits and provide consistent affirmation that their skills are adequate for the workloads ahead.
If you're looking for a platform to try with students, peers, or professional communities, Vosaic provides flexible options for video recording, sharing, and collaboration around duration-based moments within a secure, centralized timeline.