"I have written 11 books..."
Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Someone once shared, "I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh. They're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody and they're going to find me out.'"
I think almost everyone has had moments where they felt like an imposter. Imposter phenomenon is a term coined by Clance and Imes (1978) and their study on high achieving women. Since then it has been expanded to include experiences across gender, race, family educational background, and a variety of other identities and experiences.
First of all, knowing there is a name for this can be helpful. Too often we get in our heads and think things like, "Everyone gets this except me." or "I don't belong here." or "This is going to be class [or assignment or presentation, etc.] where everyone figures out that I don't know what I'm doing."
It's okay. Really. I suspect that no one in your classes has done a dissertation before. We all have to do it for the first time. It's not a checklist kind of experience. I mean, there are things you have to do, but this is a "Choose Your Own Adventure" experience, NOT a "one size fits all" experience.
Here is an article you might find useful as you move through your experience. Note that the authors use "imposter syndrome" instead of "imposter phenomenon." The use of syndrome is considered problematic by many for a number of reasons. The original authors used phenomenon and that seems like the more appropriate choice to me. That said, the article still has useful information.
And if you want to go back to the original study (which I highly recommend) here is the citation for that, as well.
Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women:
Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice,
One final note... That opening quote - "I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh. They're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody and they're going to find me out.'" - That's from Maya Angelou. Just a reminder that even the most creative and brilliant people struggle sometimes, too.
Go be creative. Showcase your brilliance.