The impostors and the meek

I have previously noted my enjoyment of AFR BOSS, the monthly magazine of the Australian Financial Review.

The October 2005 issue on personality is particularly interesting. I know it’s a little bit late, but there are two articles about which I would like to comment. Perhaps it’s because I am one of those shy, allegedly smart types.

My life as a fake

In My life as a fake, Manfred Kets de Vries describe the phenomenon of “neurotic imposture”. Put simply, these are high achieving people who, despite their success, feel like they are impostors and do not deserve the success that they are getting. They fear that they will eventually be “exposed” as a “fraud”. Thus, they turn to self-destructive behaviours which are then exposed, so the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is not to be confused with humility. Neurotic imposture is more like thinking more lowly as one ought. It is particularly prevalent in gifted people who exhibit a perfectionist personality. I would imagine that it is not that difficult for a neurotic impostor to become depressed.

Update: I found the original paper.

Bashful business

The blurb for Bashful business summarises it nicely: The meek may inherit the Earth but they have a tough time in the modern firm, where extroverts thrive. But there is a cure.

The article notes that despite media headlines, the best corporate results are often achieved by … people who exhibit classic shy traits. So there is hope for us, after all.

Tips for shy people noted by the article:

  • Smile and maintain eye contact
  • Open posture (don’t cross arms, etc)
  • Learn to make small talk
  • Give compliments, learn how to receive them gracefully
  • Practise speaking in small groups
  • Challenge negative thoughts
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