Do you feel like an impostor? You’re not alone.

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Included between The Tinder scammer and Invent AnnaNetflix enjoys a new genre of true crime from self-serving real-life imposters whose gripping stories are filled with deception and manipulation, but convoluted with grand aspirations. The Tinder scammera documentary about an Israeli con man claiming to be “the prince of diamonds” who ended up scamming several women out of millions of dollars. Invent Anna, a Netflix series based on the true story of Anna Sorokin, the daughter of two working-class Russian immigrants who posed as a German heiress defrauding banks and wealthy individuals in New York to finance her dream, a club -private house for social elites. A similar story takes place in Silicon Valley with Elizabeth Holmes; Once a rising tech star set out to revolutionize healthcare, the young tech entrepreneur in a black turtleneck is now convicted of fraud.

If you’re like me, it’s hard to know what you think of these people. Are they visionaries who have followed their dreams to a state of madness and illusion? It would be easier to judge them as psychopaths with little empathy for others and overlook the ways our culture rewards impostor behaviors, the ways we present ourselves inauthentically for acceptance and approval. social.

Source: Thiago Matos/Pexel

Narrative Editing and Ego Filling

Our culture encourages narrative editing and ego padding to make our public identities more appealing to others and pave the way for success.

Before the age of social media, every moment of life was as fleeting as the next. No one could see what we ate for breakfast, no one else had access to the intimate moments of our birthdays or weddings. With social media, life feels less like a movie and more like a carefully edited montage. We take hundreds of vacation photos just to select a few winners to post on social media. With each “like” on our Instagram posts or change of Facebook status, an influx of dopamine is released (Macït, Macït, & Güngör, 2018).

In the process of curating our online identities to receive more likes and validation from others, life is reduced to an algorithm; we’re getting better at choosing content that would get more likes on Instagram or more matches on dating apps. From Myspace to Facebook, social media has lost its connection-promoting innocence and morphed into an attention-seeking Tamagotchi with separation anxiety: we work around the clock to create content to feed his insatiable appetite. . The “Tinder Swindler” and fake heiress knew exactly how to manage their online identities to earn more social currency. They posted fancy dinner parties, extravagant vacations, intimate photos with celebrities and social elites. They figured out how to appeal to others’ desires intuitively, make others want what they have and associate with them.

Outside of social media, another form of “ego padding” occurs in professional settings. Our society’s “faking it until you get it” attitude fuels the culture of self-promotion and storytelling. In a simple search on LinkedIn or any professional network, everyone seems to have an intimidatingly powerful title, especially if you live in San Francisco: CEO, co-founder, executive, budding entrepreneur. According to a consulting service that evaluated a large number of resumes, approximately 43% of the sample contained material inaccuracies (Cullen, 2006).

Similar to the fashionable shoulder padding trend, resume padding is an inflated self-presentation that galvanizes desirability and competence in an increasingly competitive job market. Impression management can take many different forms, from putting “fluent” in a second language despite only being proficient at a conversational level, to extreme length the “Tinder Swindler” continued to create a fake site Web, leading others to believe him as the heir to a diamond empire.

Identity fragmentation and inauthenticity

The culture of self-promotion and unhealthy social comparison can lead to fragmented social identities and feelings of inauthenticity.

On social media platforms, we hold multiple identities, our hobby identity on Instagram or Facebook, our professional identity on LinkedIn, and our private identity behind closed doors. In my clinical experience, the greater the gap between our private and public identities, the greater the degree of identity fragmentation and inauthenticity that we suffer by suppressing parts of ourselves. When we edit our narrative to appeal to a different audience, we lose the connection to our authentic selves. We are driven by the constant need to impress and haunted by the fear that one day someone might find out how much of a “fraud” we are.

Our society idealizes confidence and success, but the pathological worship of success can lead to unhealthy social comparison and a lack of acceptance of our limitations or compassion for failures. The Tinder scammer, Invent Anna, and Elizabeth Homles’ cautionary tale are not isolated incidents; their stories are just threads woven into the fabric of a problematic cultural narrative about success and fame. In the age of digital media, relentless self-promotion and inflated self-image have replaced the virtue of humility and distracted us from focusing on the quality and value of work.

At every moment, we have the possibility to decide to go where we want to be rather than where we should be. The culture of self-promotion makes us vulnerable to the virus of inauthenticity and the impostor phenomenon, and we can protect ourselves by making conscious and intentional choices on social media platforms: when you post on social media, ask yourself if it’s something you “want”. » to share with others to promote the link or pressed by the « need » to impress and keep a certain image. On dating apps, note whether you raise your profile by adding an extra inch to your height or pretending to enjoy a hobby to appear more interesting. On your next LinkedIn profile update, note whether you are “upgrading” your skills to attract a potential employer or colleagues in your network.

Our identities are not defined by social media but by our actions. Social media is a tantalizing mirage in the middle of an endless desert; admire it, appreciate it, but don’t get too attached to it because it won’t quench our thirst for authenticity.

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