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What is the imposter syndrome: Albert Einstein also suffered from it

Although it is not a real certified illness, the 'impostor syndrome' counts among its patients even illustrious historical figures, such as the father of modern physics Albert Einstein. It is, in general, a low opinion of oneself and one's work, which leads to embarrassment, anxiety and sometimes outright shame, often unmotivated by the recognition received.

An expression coined in 1978, this syndrome often manifests itself in people with a university education or higher, and who hold sensitive and socially recognised roles in fields such as medicine, finance and education.

Over the years, it has been associated with a number of recurring psychological traits, and the help of a psychotherapist is essential to try to get out of it.

Di Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870-1928) - Edited version of Image:Einstein1921 by F Schmutzer 2.jpg., Pub
The impostor syndrome
Although it is not a real certified illness, the 'impostor syndrome' counts among its patients even illustrious historical figures, such as the father of modern physics Albert Einstein. It is, in general, a low opinion of oneself and one's work, leading to embarrassment, anxiety and sometimes outright shame, often unmotivated by the recognition received.
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Where does the term come from
This term saw the light of day in 1978, thanks to psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Working as a psychotherapist, Clance noticed that many university students did not feel they deserved a place at their prestigious universities or even firmly believed that their application had been accepted by mistake.
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Imposter syndrome: who it affects
Research since 1978 has shown that this syndrome affects both men and women. Generally, it occurs in people with a university education or higher, and who hold sensitive and socially recognised roles in fields such as medicine, finance and education.
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The distinguishing features
Imposter syndrome has been associated with a number of distinctive typical traits. These can range from introversion to trait anxiety, from low self-esteem to a propensity to shame, to conflicting family experiences or poor emotional support. Low self-esteem and high self-control are two typical features of people with this syndrome.
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The importance of talking
At the origin of the impostor syndrome there may also be a prejudice, called 'pluralistic ignorance'. Everyone doubts himself in private, but believes that he is the only one who thinks this way since no one else verbally expresses his doubts. In this regard, experts agree that the best way to overcome this atavistic insecurity is to express it in words: if we all confided in each other, we would realise that our role models probably also suffer or have suffered from it.
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Imposter syndrome can become almost disabling in life
Indeed, this syndrome can have many consequences in everyday life. The aspects of life where it most influences range from work to family life, to developing anxiety or depression disorders and avoidant or dependent personality disorders. Seeking the help of a psychotherapist is essential more than anything else to learn about one's own thoughts, reactions and functioning.
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It is not defined as "disease"
Statistically, about 8 out of 10 people are thought to have experienced impostor syndrome. However, despite its name, it cannot be called a disease and does not even appear in the 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)'.
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19/04/2024
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