Are You an Impostor?

Papotia Reginald Wright, of Brooklyn, New York, said that he was proud of his 25 years in the Army. He served as a Special Forces Green Beret. He told stories of his military days including one where a person cut out his kidney. He was living with one kidney. When in uniform he was an impressive Green Beret. Wright became a well-respected military figure in his community. He founded an organization in Brooklyn to help veterans. However, his personal history wasn’t true. He was recently exposed as an impostor. One veteran who worked for this organization said he was “played for a frigging fool” after learning that Wright was a fraud. To add insult to injury, Wright was behind on rent for the organization.

There are legal consequences for this kind of deceit. Wright is being investigated for possible violations of the Stolen Valor Act. The Stolen Valor Act states that fraudulent claims about military service is subject to a fine, imprisonment up to a year or both.

We’d all like to be someone else from time to time. We fantasize of a life where we’re rich, famous, or a hero. We may embellish our accomplishments and stretch the truth on occasion in an effort to impress. Imposters not only embellish their traits. They are pathological liars.

Pathological liars suffer from a mental illness or personality disorder. The lies bring attention to the person and make the person or situation look better. One probable cause for pathological lying is low self esteem. The person is trying to make themselves feel better about themselves in terms of their accomplishments. It is a rare condition that affects a small percentage of people.

On the flip side, it is more common to have a fear of being found out to be an impostor. The impostor phenomenon was developed in 1978 by psychologists Clance and Imes. In spite of being competent, one is convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Common signs that someone feels like an impostor are perfectionism, excessive work hours, undermining achievements, fear of failure and discounting praise. Examples are “I feel like a fake,” “I just got lucky,” “They’re going to find me out.”

70% of people feel like an imposter at times. It is particularly common among high-achievers. When severe, people who experience this condition are subject to anxiety, stress, low self-confidence, depression and shame. This condition robs you of the satisfaction that comes from your accomplishments.

So what can you do? Accept that you have some role in your success. If your condition is severe, seek psychotherapy.

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