A professor with imposter syndrome

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A professor with imposter syndrome seeks psychoanalysis.

Mariana, an Argentinian, professor, asserts, “I’m a professor with imposter syndrome.” A newly tenured professor at a rigorous university, in Washington, DC, she adds; “I don’t deserve tenure. I fooled my tenure and promotion committee”.

Despite an extensive list of federally funded research grants, publications in top journals and a history of mentoring graduate students – who themselves – have obtained jobs at top tier universities, she asserts, “I put on a performance”. She calls a psychoanalyst, explaining that a friend told her that she has “the impostor syndrome” and that, “psychoanalysis might help her to overcome it”.  She reports, “I’ve thought about psychoanalysis for a long time. I’m Argentinian. We don’t look for ‘quick fixes’; in my country psychoanalysis is prized.  We are a people with a lot of depth.” She is interested in exploring the possibility that psychoanalysis, a long-term, four to five day a week, treatment might be helpful to her.

In describing her situation, she adds, “now that I think about it, this has been a pattern my whole life. I earned many honors and awards in graduate school, college and high school. Afterwards, I never felt good or competent. Instead, I felt a gnawing sense of intense pressure and emptiness. I was always waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop’.”

She adds, “I’m an immigrant. I am the first person in my family to go to college. I envy some of my fellow professors who can get help and advice from their families. During my professional odyssey the help I’ve gotten has come from my mentors who are not familiar with my culture. At times, I feel very different from others, especially, in light of the anti-immigrant sentiments that have escalated over the last several years. Sometimes, I’ve even felt truly afraid and unsafe.”

When her analyst asks her how she feels about talking with someone of a different race and culture, she replies, “It’s the story of my life. My education has made me feel very separate from my family; it’s lonely at times. Also, I feel like an outlier within my profession. I do have friends and colleagues. However, I believe my cultural and racial background has had a profound impact on me — but, not as profound as my educational experience has. I can’t find someone who is just like me. I don’t know if you can understand that if you haven’t lived through it. I don’t think of myself as a professor with, ‘imposter’ syndrome. To say that would be minimizing the complexity of the difficulties that I face; I want to work with a psychoanalyst with a more nuanced view.”

“I’m glad you asked about this. None of my mentors have ever felt comfortable talking about it. My parents do not understand. It is like a deep well of discomfort and sadness that I have had to manage all by myself. Maybe this will be a place where I can understand my feelings about it more fully”.

“This feeling that I am an imposter has troubled me for as long as I can remember. I am aware that ‘the imposter syndrome’ is not a real diagnosis. I’ve read the Harvard Business Journal article, Stop Telling Woman that they have Impostor Syndrome. Although I agree that many of my challenges are systemic and spring from a climate of racism and misogyny, I also recognize that some of my difficulties have been internalized. To construe my difficulties as either purely attributable to cultural differences or purely related to internal conflicts is a false dichotomy. Of course, both play a role.

Also, when I am treated unfairly, I have a hard time recognizing it let alone asserting myself on my own behalf. I’d like to feel more solid on the inside. I know that many of difficulties spring from my childhood experiences, it is not just about race, gender and feeling devalued by the so called, ‘majority culture’ – my challenges are partly due to my ‘family culture’ if you will. I see myself engaging in a two pronged process – addressing both my internal struggles while recognizing the reality of the external challenges too. As I mentioned, I’ve always thought about pursuing psychoanalysis. Now, that I have tenure, I’ve decided maybe this is the time.”

In addition to “a professor with imposter syndrome”, here, are more examples of the kinds of people who can benefit from psychoanalysis.


Here are some examples of the kinds of people who benefit from psychoanalysis? In addition to workaholic psychiatrists, what other kinds of people seek psychoanalysis:  Please note: All of these vignettes are fictional but represent the kinds of people who seek psychoanalysis. 

  • Don, repeatedly chooses unavailable partners. Although he’s an accomplished, Washington, DC, based professional who purports to want a family.
  • Paul, a very bright, lawyer, with an outstanding, academic pedigree, who is anxious and depressed.
  • John, a junior partner, in a prestigious law firm who is suffering from “imposter syndrome”.
  • Tom, a successful executive who is very unhappy at his job despite significant promotions and good pay; he’s sought career counseling many times but has found it ineffective.
  • Kim, a Vietnamese emigre, and professor, at a top Washington, DC, medical school,  who is unhappy in her bi-cultural marriage. She attributes her marital difficulties to the “cultural divide”.
  • Susan, a highly, successful doctoral student in a top-tier program who suffers from chronic anxiety and self-doubt.

Why do people seek psychoanalysis?

What kinds of people benefit from psychoanalysis?

Why seek psychoanalysis with a Training and Supervising Analyst?

If you are considering psychoanalysis with me, feel free to call, text or email me: 240.483.3530, drlynnfriedman(at)gmail.com. Please provide your name and contact information. To ensure confidentiality, please do not provide personal information via text or email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Why seek psychoanalysis with a Training and Supervising Analyst?

I’m interested in exploring a consultation with you, what’s my next step?

I provide psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and clinical clinical supervision to analysts-in-training and other mental health professionals. If you are seeking consultation from a psychologist, psychoanalyst on the Washington, DC border, feel free to reach out to me via: phone: 240.483.3530, text or email: drlynnfriedman(at)gmail.com  Because of concerns about confidentiality, please do not convey clinical information through email or text.



Dr. Lynn Friedman

Dr. Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., FABP, is a Clinical Psychologist, a Supervising and Training Analyst, and a Clinical Supervisor in full-time, private practice. She provides evaluation, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as supervision to psychoanalysts-in-training and other mental health professionals. Beyond this, she is a board certified, psychoanalyst who teaches at Johns Hopkins University and the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis.

I'm interested in exploring a consultation with you, what's my next step?

I am providing psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, clinical consultation, supervision & executive coaching. If you are seeking consultation from a psychologist, psychoanalyst, in DC, feel free to call me: 240.483.3530.