IF I'M SO SUCCESSFUL, WHY DO I FEEL LIKE A FAKE? The Impostor Phenomenon by Joan C. & Cynthia Katz Harvey


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The Imposter Phenomenon (IP) describes people with intense, secret feelings of personal fraudulence in the face of success and/or achievement. The three symptoms: the sense of having fooled others into overestimating one's ability; the attribution of success to some factor other than intelligence and ability; lastly, the fear of being exposed as a fraud. The book says that upwards of 70 percent of all successful people today have experienced feelings of being an imposter or fake at some point in their careers, thus making IP a veritable epidemic. And one with a cruel paradox: virulent IP, implying a certain level of success, may keep its sufferers from rising any higher. Or so the authors would have it. Unfortunately, there is not much more to be said of this latent discovery of the Yuppie version of the inferiority complex. And rather than develop the idea, the authors just keep on insisting that it exists. Poorly integrated digressions on the self, childhood roles, etc. don't help. After chapters on ""The Terrible Secret,"" ""Hiding the Secret,"" and ""Feeling Like a Fake in Your Personal Life,"" a chapter titled ""Do You Believe You're an Imposter?"" urges you to ""get in touch with any imposter feelings you might have."" Chapter Five, ""How It Happens in the Family,"" says that roles played at home don't cause IP but may influence its manifestations. Chapter Six, ""How It Happens in the World Around You,"" startles with the revelation that women in men's professions (and the converse) are IP's likely victims. The chapter called ""Throwing Away the Mask"" includes suggestions that the book be given to therapists, friends, and others. Detailed case histories can add human interest to this sort of theraputic stew, but the ones here are too short and superficial to help. Those IP victims attributing their success to hard work, personal charm, connections, or just plain luck have a more realistic view than the authors display. An idea masquerading as a book.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's