If I'm so Successful, Why do I feel like a Fake (St Martin's Press, 1984; 246) by Joan C. Harvey and Cynthia Katz is a book about peculiar human behaviour. It discusses what has been referred to as the Impostor Phenomenon where a high-flier - in academia or work - think that he or she does not deserve his or her success. Usually, such individuals feel like they are fakes and have used some exceptional extrinsic values to deceive everyone into believing them and that it is on this that their success is based on. They never attribute their success and promotion or recognition to to their ability but to such things as hard work, beauty, communication and the likes. They see these as external to ability and therefore often feel like cons.
Harvey's book adequately discusses the signs and symptoms of the impostor syndrome and how it happens in the family and in the world. The three main signs of IP as discussed by Harvey are:
- The sense of having fooled other people into overestimating your ability;
- The attribution of your success to some factor other than intelligence or ability in your role;
- The fear of being exposed as a fraud.
According to Harvey, some of these problems are caused by family members who define roles for children and with time it becomes a burden. For instance, a child may be described as the 'helper'. If such a child grows with the idea that he or she is supposed to be the one who always offers help, it becomes his or her default trait and will go to all possible extent to fulfil this even if he or she is personally suffering in carrying it out. However, people might exhibit some of these traits and might still not be suffering from the IP syndrome. To know whether one is suffering from it or not, Harvey provides - in this book - the Harvey IP Scale, which is a likert type of questions with explanations. Answering the questions will show whether you suffer from it or not. It should also be noted that the IP syndrome is not a discrete or dichotomous measure where you either have it or not. It is on a continuum of differing strengths. The IP syndrome is pervasive and when one identifies with it, one should not feel isolated.
At just under 250 pages (for the hardcover type) this book presents all one needs to know about the Impostor Phenomenon and how to seek help. Note that the IP syndrome can prevent you from reaching or maximising your potential. It can lead to depression and other such psychological disorders and so help must be ought. This book is highly recommended.