• Nour Ali Moussa
  • Helin Xezal Kizilkaya
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
The present master’s thesis aims to explore and examine how young adults experience imposter syndrome and the common characteristics that might play a role. We further aim to explore the possible roles of identity, self-actualization and social structures and whether these influence or mediate imposter feelings. The thesis formulation and research questions are investigated through a phenomenological and idiographic scientific lens, and the investigated data is empirical data obtained through six semi structured interviews.
We included a review of current literature and scientific research about imposter syndrome to illustrate the research area and what our understanding of the phenomenon is based upon. This literature is further used in the analysis and discussion of the thesis' own empirical data. The empirical data is furthermore analyzed through identity theory by Anthony Giddens and social identity theory by Henri Tajfel, self- actualization theory by Abraham Maslow, and theories about social structures, including discourse theory by Michel Foucault and intersectionality. The analysis is presented in a case by case manner in order to illuminate the individual and unique experiences and aspects of the participants' imposter feelings, as well as staying true to the idiographic standpoint, in which uniqueness and differences is particularly important. The case by case analysis is followed by a discussion of the methodological and methodical choices, the theories, the analysis and main findings, a general discussion of the term and concept imposter syndrome, and finally, a discussion about possible solutions and prevention.
The major findings in our thesis show that almost all participants experience classic imposter feelings, such as feeling incompetent despite success, feeling like success is based upon luck, being scared of failure, feeling like a fraud and a fear of being exposed to such. For different participants, different characteristics seemed to possibly play a role in accelerating imposter feelings; these are characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic background and educational background. Further identity, social identity, self-actualization, and social structures sometimes seemed to play a role in terms of expediting the participants' imposter feelings or protecting against them. The participants' experiences were however all unique, in terms of identity, self-concept, self-esteem, perfectionism, need for validation, social identity and experiences with othering, stereotypes and discrimination. These unique experiences seem to contribute to the different ways participants experience imposter syndrome. The findings highlight the importance of trying to create an understanding of each individual's experiences, as well as the importance of institutions such as universities and workplaces creating a safe space in which individuals can openly discuss insecurities and reach for help when in need. Further the importance of dealing with such imposter feelings in order to be able to perform your best and lessen possible negative feelings in performance is also shown. Working through possible imposter feelings, or in general, working on strengthening a sense of identity, and working through general problems, negative thoughts, and feelings, through therapy might help the individual deal with imposter feelings.
Publication date1 Jun 2023
Number of pages108
ID: 531614840