THMG286 – The Imposter Syndrome

A tucked away secret in the vault of the Haz Mat Guys. We get a chance to bring out this topic hoping that we can give you some insight as to the psychology of Hazmat

Thank you to our sponsor: First Line Technology and Argon Electronics

Register and enroll at THMG e-University here. Courses being added weekly! Our hazardous materials training manual is finally available on Amazon! Click here to get your copy.

Don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe. Thanks!

Thanks for listening and watching!

Don’t just get on the job, get into the job!

  • So we’ve all been there. Standing at your first or even the hundredth drill or roll call and you get the cold sweats. 
    • Someone had made a mistake, I am not supposed to be here.
  • You’re thinking, I am in a Haz Mat company or team, and everyone here is good at this, and I am supposed to be too. I’ve been to the classes, I’ve been in a company doing Hazmat for a while, but I am WAY out of my league.
  • So you start questioning yourself, rationalizing that, “Well…This seemed like the next step, but…”
  • Or maybe people said, “You should go to Hazmat, your smart”
  • All the while, Deep down in our minds we were thinking, “Someone made a mistake”
  • So you ask yourself, how did I end up with a such high performers? And the cycle continues.
  • This thought, along with feelings, things like fraudulence or self-doubt came with it.
    • This feeling sticks around for quite a while.
  • So we begin our endeavor with the thought that if I outperform them, I’ll keep up! So we play the part.
    • ***If you can’t make it fake it***
  • Maybe you begin to feel that you’ll never be able to compete with these guys on skills alone so maybe we began focusing on helping the bosses achieve their goals…more on that later.
  • What we find out is that this is a standard way of dealing with our “perceived” phoniness.
  • What I’m describing is something called imposter syndrome.
  • We didn’t make this up, this is a legit psychological syndrome that is more common than you think
  • It was first brought to light in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes
  • imposter syndrome describes the experience of being unable to internalize accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”
  • Those who experience these feelings of fraudulence tend to believe that they haven’t truly earned the success they’ve achieved — despite clear evidence of their intelligence and capability — and instead attribute their success to luck, or the ability to deceive people into believing they’re more competent than they actually are.
  • When you’re in the situation you have this fear of being “found out”. Surely, if they’ve managed to fool a boss, into believing they’re actually capable, then someone will discover the truth about them.
  • Multiple studies have shown that impostorism affects both genders, and occurs in people from all professions, cultures and levels of success
  • Clance later conducted a survey that found that about 70% of all people have felt like impostors for at least some part of their careers, while other researchers, like Joan Harvey, concluded that anyone can feel like an imposter if they fail to internalize their success.
  • Clance & Imes, who explain imposter syndrome in terms of three central behaviors that come from and even reinforce the imposter phenomenon.
    • The first one is Diligence and hard work.
      • The fear of being “found out” by someone important often causes the “imposter” to work even harder.
        • Putting in longer hours, studying harder or obsessing over quality of work result in strong performance and approval from the boss
        • That accomplishment validates the person and delivers some temporary relief from the feelings.
    • True fraudulence and inauthenticity.
      • In an attempt to avoid feelings of fraudulence, some people will work to game the system around their accomplishments by finding other ways to satisfy their authority figures.
      • For example, they may figure out the opinions the boss likes, then express those opinions to gain validation.
      • In this behavior, perceived fraudulence becomes real fraudulence. You give up yourself to be something that you’re not.
    • The use of charm and observation.
      • This strategy focuses on using charisma and perceptiveness to win
      • So this is the guy who makes friends with bosses outside of work in order to get in good graces. Don’t get me wrong, being friends with a boss outside of work is fine, but if it’s for the reason of having them overlook shortcomings, then you’re doing this.
  • I found this interesting, Family backgrounds play a role, too.
    • One team of researchers studied the links between parenting styles and imposter syndrome, and found that both lack of parental care and parental overprotection were linked with higher impostor scores.
  • So how do we cure impostorism?
    • Too bad, there’s no real cure.
    • You’ll probably deal with this multiple times in your life, due to different things that you’re involved in.
    • You can however strengthen your ability to cope with it, and try to get out from under the rock
  • So, tip #1, you need to Recognize impostorism when it shows up
  • Whenever a feeling of fraudulence comes up, whether it appears as anxiety or a feeling of not truly belonging take a moment to notice it.
  • If you don’t it may become something more than it is, getting worse
  • As they say in the self help books, recognition is the first step in fixing a problem.
  • Next be honest with yourself about it. Acknowledge it. If you do this, your false self will not make an embarrassing appearance. If we have nothing to hide, then there’s no reason to fake our way through it!
  • I would like to also point out that the feeling isn’t always accurate. Sometime we can feel like an imposter even if we are the real deal.
  • So ask yourself if the feeling is an accurate description of reality.
    • Are your achievements really undeserved? 
    • Is it actually possible that you have conned your superiors into getting to this point? 
    • Is your personality really the only thing that explains your achievements? 
    • Can you point to specific pieces of genuine positive feedback that you’ve doubted or denied? 
  • As you really investigate those thoughts, you’ll often find that your fraudulence is a fiction spun from the conditioning of your mind.
  • Next we can Discuss your experience with other people.
  • We don’t normally do this in our professions. It sets up a perception of weakness.
  • When we got here, we felt like we slipped through the cracks, that everyone else earned their spot and it was only a matter of time for them to find us out.
  • If you were to ask others if they felt the same, I will bet they all felt this way too.
  • So when the feeling creeps in, talk to someone discreetly that you can trust. 
  • Now we have to measure this a bit in our line of work, it’s great to acknowledge, and even quietly discuss it with the right person, but…
  •  It’s important to be authentic, but it’s also important to be prudent. Close friends, understanding family members are ideal people to share your experience with. 
  • Each can offer a new perspective
  • Impostorism researchers have identified two dominant beliefs in people who wrestle with fraudulence.
  • First, the people who feel this seem to believe that intelligent, maybe a better word of competence is a static trait.
    • They either have it, or they don’t
    • They are intelligent in a fixed quantity.
  • Second, They think that mistakes are a huge personal failure and inadequacy.
    • Mistakes turn into personalized attacks on your sense of self.
  • So here’s a few tips from THMG
    • Don’t think of the feeling as something that can’t change. It’s a fluid, dynamic thought and concept that can morph. 
    • This is something that can be modified with practice. Make your mistakes and learn from them.
    • There will be times where you’re firing at maximum output and others where you suck. Accept it, it’s a growing phase. You can’t be awesome all the time. Unless your us, then you can do this.
    • This also rephrases mistakes. Some people believe mistake are huge personal faults. To make up for this, we need to get approval in other ways, and this is where fraudulence sets in.
    • Look at mistakes as gifts in disguise. 
    • Second, create a sense of self worth. We have an innate desire as humans to please people. We begin to need validation of other people. This is a setup for fraudulence.
    • So shift this source of self worth from others to yourself. It’s your standards, your belief that counts. It’s really hard for impostorism to set in when you let this begin with YOU.
    • Ideally you want your sense of self worth to fall somewhere between outside sources (like coworkers) and internal (yourself)
    • At the end of the day, the best way to rewrite our fraudulent tendencies is to simply be ourselves, and see what happens.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

* indicates required