Many of you may remember the film “Catch me if you can!” which portrayed the real story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (impersonated by Leonardo Di Caprio) who between the ages of 15-21 managed to successfully assume the identities of and airline pilot, a teaching assistant, a doctor, an attorney and many others. You may also have read about the recent case in Greece of a woman who managed to fool journalists and anchor men and women on national TV that she was the psychiatrist of the tragic case of the Roma Bulgarian father who killed his 4-year daughter. This woman simply picked up the phone and ‘claimed’ to be a psychiatrist that specialized in substance abuse cases and was treating the father. Of course, she was found out a few days later. “Wearing a fur coat without knickers” is the way that a friend of mine, bluntly but poignantly describes this phenomenon.
These are two extreme examples of impostors and there are of course various shades of this syndrome. All of us, to a greater or lesser extent play various roles in our private of public life and that does not automatically make us impostors. Extreme cases usually have a mesmerizing effect on their audiences, they are able to capture them immediately, feel what they feel, and give them exactly what they need. Their followers view them as ‘saviours’ of some kind that can provide them with exactly what they need in a very short period of time. These individuals tend to have a distorted image of reality to such an extent that they manage to convince themselves and hence others that they are for REAL. They also portray elements of grandiosity and they fabricate new ‘truths’ to hide their real truth, which serves as a self-defense mechanism to avoid internal conflicts that come from their pasts. Many of them also have a great ability to use language and words and manipulate as well as fabricate illusions. In times of crisis we are all more susceptible to impostors because we may be looking even more intensely for a way to be ‘saved’ by someone.
Less extreme cases are the cases of individuals who may just be FEELING AS impostors even though these individuals ARE actually successful. There is research indicating that this may be more pronounced in women than men while other research claims that this is a phenomenon that takes place equally in both men and women. People who have these feelings tend to attribute their success to pure luck, or other uncontrollable factors, they tend to discount their success, and go though incidents of fear of being found out. These thoughts or beliefs may come from messages, attitudes or beliefs that we have ‘inherited’ from our parents or other authority figures during our early years. When we get into this mindset it is important to do our own reality check to separate feelings from HOW we are INTERPRETING actual reality. Being self-aware of our own blind spots and reflective of what is happening in our own head is really important. When we meet someone who may be promising immediate results, instant gratification and total resolution of all our troubles, even though it may be hard to resist to those ‘saviours’, applying some critical analysis of what we hear versus what we WANT and NEED to hear is always helpful.