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See Inside March / April 2011

Great Pretenders: People Who Feel Their Success Is Undeserved

People who experience the "impostor phenomenon" believe their successes are undeserved--and they live in constant fear of being unmasked

“That was a really impressive exam. Why don’t you write your dissertation on that subject? Let’s set up an appointment for you to come by, and we’ll talk about it,” said the professor to Nina after she completed a test.

Unfortunately, the up-and-coming mathematician was unable to take in and enjoy the compliment. Rather her head was full of thoughts such as “What a nice man, and he asked me such easy test questions. That was a close call! Now I’ve got to make sure not to talk shop with him because then he’ll realize that I faked it. He’ll see right through me.” By the time Nina had finished going through her well-worn mental routine, she realized that there was no way she was going to accept her professor’s offer.

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