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josef k.
22-10-2008, 06:13 PM
Unsystematic investigations suggest that a great many people feel like fakes in the jobs, or their lives, on the verge of discovery. What is to explain this strange trend?

mixed_biscuits
22-10-2008, 06:28 PM
It's called 'Imposter Syndrome'

josef k.
22-10-2008, 06:48 PM
Interesting. I just looked at the Wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_Syndrome

All of the references seem to be to self-help manuals.

Dunninger
22-10-2008, 08:07 PM
I think I have that :eek:

vimothy
22-10-2008, 08:19 PM
Do you mean bad faith?

josef k.
22-10-2008, 08:21 PM
Bad faith? As in the Sartre thing?

vimothy
22-10-2008, 08:22 PM
Yeah.

josef k.
22-10-2008, 08:24 PM
Possible. But my previous comment included my sum total of knowledge on the subject.

vimothy
22-10-2008, 08:29 PM
As I understand it (extremely ropey undergrad reading many moons ago alert), if man is truly free, he is also free to deny himself freedom and choose to live as a mere thing in the world, a victim of circumstance, in fact as someone who is not free.

There's the famous bit with the waiter. It must be online somewhere...

vimothy
22-10-2008, 08:33 PM
Not as easy to find the actual text as I would have thought.


[+ (http://www.psychomedia.it/jep/jep-on-line/sharpe.htm)]Let us consider the waiter in the café...His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes towards the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly, his nose, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, tyring to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying the tray with the stiffness of a tight rope walker ...

... all his behaviour seems to us a game. He applies himself to chaining his movements as if they were mechanisms, the one regulating the other; his gestures and even his voice seem to be mechanisms; he gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. He is playing, he is amusing himself. But what is he playing? We need not wait long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a café ...

swears
22-10-2008, 09:25 PM
What's your "real self" though? There's always some element of self-consciousness in everything you do.

josef k.
22-10-2008, 09:43 PM
So, Joe (for instance) is only playing at being a plumber. He has not embraced plumbing to the depths of an existential choice, so his deep feelings of fakery are really accurate feelings of the true situation?

In a world of precarity, I can see the economic context for this kind of attitude. On the other hand, I find it very hard to believe in the idea of a truly committed plumber, who is nothing but a plumber, as everyone is always playing multiple roles.

It seems to me that there are issues of status here, in particular. Isn't the idea of being a fake ultimately to do with how others see you? Or, how you think that they see you.

nomadthethird
23-10-2008, 06:34 AM
Hmm is the feeling of being a "fake" at all related to a sense you have that you don't deserve your own "station in life"? Do you feel that your work and social obligations don't match up with who you really are or want to be?

Because if this is the case, I think many many people feel this way, especially in industrialized cultures and Fordist and post-Fordist capitalist cultural milieus.

Not trying to beat the dead horse, but Marx talked a lot about people being alienated from their "species essence" under capitalism. From wikipedia:


Marx attributes four types of alienation in labour under capitalism.[1] These include the alienation of the worker from his or her ‘species essence’ as a human being rather than a machine; between workers, since capitalism reduces labour to a commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a social relationship; of the worker from the product, since this is appropriated by the capitalist class, and so escapes the worker's control; and from the act of production itself, such that work comes to be a meaningless activity, offering little or no intrinsic satisfactions.

nomadthethird
23-10-2008, 06:43 AM
Btw, Josef, your blog reminds me of the Blue Octavo Notebooks :) I like that style very much.

Pestario
23-10-2008, 09:43 AM
So, Joe (for instance) is only playing at being a plumber. He has not embraced plumbing to the depths of an existential choice, so his deep feelings of fakery are really accurate feelings of the true situation?

What is a "real" plumber? If Joe fixes pipes and drains and does all the other things expected of a plumber then he is a plumber. If Joe does not feel as if he is a "real plumber" then there must be some discordance between what he does and his idea of what he should be doing. It might be because he has lofty ideas of what a plumber should be. Or perhaps he his deeply, disatisfied with his life but lacks the imagination or vision to consider not being a plumber and as a result projects his disatisfaction and insecurity onto his current role. I am plumber, I don't feel happy with it, I must be a bad plumber.

john eden
23-10-2008, 10:21 AM
Work - it obviously depends on what sort of job you have. If you're on a production line sticking widgets on something then it's simply a question of whether or not you can do it accurately and in sufficient quantity to the satisfaction of your boss.

But most people have an element of the subjective in their work, which can give room for doubt. And bear in mind it is usually to people's financial advantage to work in a job which stretches them slightly.

I think there are always questions about whether one is working hard enough, or could have done something better. Which can give rise to doubt doubt doubt.

It's a good reason to have close friends at work - people who will be honest about the fact that, at one level, everyone is winging it.

zhao
23-10-2008, 11:07 AM
topic and avatar combo gets a perfect 10.

i think role-playing is such integral part of "modern" society that it's become second nature, but often i guess we still can't escape the feeling of pretending to be something we are not

Mr. Tea
23-10-2008, 03:36 PM
What's your "real self" though? There's always some element of self-consciousness in everything you do.
.

Searching for your true nature is like riding an ox in search of the ox

josef k.
23-10-2008, 03:58 PM
Work - it obviously depends on what sort of job you have...

I think that it might be a mistake to identify imposture syndrome too closely to jobs, since people can experience it in other walks of life as well - like sexual relationships, for example. "Does she know who I really am?" Or even, "Am I a real man?"

There is a clear "queer sexuality" dimension to this problem: I refer here to the notorious closet. Someone in the closet has a secret - they harbour errant desires - and nobody really knows this, therefore they are fakes. Then they come out of the closet by admitting and naming these. But what if there is no closet to come out of, or no community to join on emergence? This is what interests me, I guess.

slim jenkins
23-10-2008, 04:07 PM
In relation to work - many times in the past I've encountered the phenomenon of people becoming 'more themselves' when in the pub at lunchtime - more open, honest etc.

The work environment typically warps character, mood, behaviour patterns in response to its falsity, being a place where most would not choose to be (accepting that I'm talking about menial work, rather than career choices such as science or surgery). It did not render them robotic or morose, but in a state of passivity and reluctant fatalism rather than active engagement.

Anarchists might argue that work is the curse upon all mankind. The question arises: what would they do without this kind of work? Would they be able to 'find themselves' and begin a life of creativity and exploration - or simply languish on the sofa, dying slowly to the soundtrack of daytime TV?

Who is 'real' on this forum? To the extent that all present only sides of themselves, these sides being designed to give the impression of self-confidence, cleverness, 'cool', hip (!) etc. Because this is a public domain and even though no physical harm can be done to be 'real' still feels like an act of exposing your underside to attack.

To be honest, as opposed to 'fake', or not completely 'real' when it comes to being yourself, is to be braver than most. It reveals what faking it masks; that we are all prone to idiocy, ignorance, failings and a cartload of emotional responses which are either 'unacceptable' or render us weakened in the eyes of others.

john eden
23-10-2008, 04:07 PM
@ Josef:

Yes, I started with jobs because I think that is more straightforward - there are obviously larger issues. - Harder to put my thoughts down on that (obv. because I am scared you will all find out that I am a no-nothing charlatan... ;) )

josef k.
23-10-2008, 04:48 PM
The work environment typically warps character, mood, behaviour patterns in response to its falsity, being a place where most would not choose to be (accepting that I'm talking about menial work, rather than career choices such as science or surgery).

[...]

Who is 'real' on this forum? To the extent that all present only sides of themselves, these sides being designed to give the impression of self-confidence, cleverness, 'cool', hip (!) etc. Because this is a public domain and even though no physical harm can be done to be 'real' still feels like an act of exposing your underside to attack.

To be honest, as opposed to 'fake', or not completely 'real' when it comes to being yourself, is to be braver than most. It reveals what faking it masks; that we are all prone to idiocy, ignorance, failings and a cartload of emotional responses which are either 'unacceptable' or render us weakened in the eyes of others.

There is the fake/real distinction, but then also the "I don't belong here" condition, which Burroughs talks about in the introduction to Queer. k-punk wrote some posts on related themes to this idea a while back, saying that it the working class who felt such unbelonging, whereas the ruling/middle class didn't, which is a line that clearly doesn't make a great deal sense in Burrough's case.

There is a class thing here, though, to do with the difference between the kinds of jobs where the people who do them are, in a sense, most fully themselves (who is Dick Cheney, for instance, apart from his position) and the kinds of jobs which are understood instead as "something which I am just doing for a while" - for instance, bar jobs, or restaurant jobs. Then again, people doing bar jobs don't get anxious about them, as there isn't the same level of existential/psychological involvement.

Which is maybe why Sartre's famous waiter is sort of nonsensical - or at least, seems like it today. He is playing at being a waiter, says Sartre? But who are the real waiters - the waiters to the core of their souls? Maybe someone like Stevens the butler from Remains of the Day?

A further point - I get a very strong sense of "I don't belong here" whenever I contemplate going into any location where I haven't been before, or - even in virtual space, posting on a board where I've never posted. I wonder if anyone could report similar.

Finally, I salute your apologia for honesty.

slim jenkins
23-10-2008, 05:27 PM
I think Burroughs' sense of not belonging was as real as we can guess - being queer back then, a reluctant writer then driven by demons after killing his wife - to write his way out in defiance of the evil spirit that threatened to kill him - psycho-drama mythologising or fact? Who knows.

On the class thing - working class will always feel like being at 'the bottom' for those who are in 'menial' jobs - quotation marks because, somehow, these jobs are given dignity by others who aren't doing them...? I've done enough, the feeling deep in me being one of personal failure rather than concerns over how I was seen by the rest of society 'above' me in the structure. Some can work as go-getters and claw their way out of that class - so they think - the Sun/Mirror-reading 4wheel-driving golfer? Or whatever.

To have a 'decent' job/career instils belief that you belong where you are because you've found an agreeable position. Trad working class belonging used to be on the terraces, in the 'rough' pubs...and all together in the same shitty ghetto, I suppose.
Nowadays the thing is to aspire, at least to home ownership - and fake tanning with bling for the ladies to get that celeb kinda feeling? Oh dear, maybe I'm too cynical...or plain wrong.

I didn't belong at school...at the jobs I did for so many years...felt more at home on all the dancefloors...the search for young like-minded soul rebels and so on.

How much you belong depends on your type (if that's not too obvious) - to fit the bill for mainstream types. But lots of individuals seem to be looking for others...the tribe with no name...a band of outsiders? You don't have to be socially inadequate or 'weird' to find yourself in that place.

This is a good forum because it's diverse. But I don't know anyone here. Seems like a load of detached/abstract voices! There's another whole issue of privatisation of the self, inward-bound, isolationism at the hands of either society or for personal reasons...blame Thatcher...it's easier than trying to delve into that mess.

I've posted on a few other boards...but...well...all the writers wrote stuff I couldn't relate to...the readers read stuff I didn't rate...and the jazz fans raved over second-rate sessions and the skill of the bass-player because long ago they covered Coltrane, Monk, Ellington and all the other greats. Huh. Chin up, though, Slim - Chelsea are playing well.

vimothy
23-10-2008, 08:41 PM
Trad working class belonging used to be on the terraces, in the 'rough' pubs...and all together in the same shitty ghetto, I suppose.
Nowadays the thing is to aspire, at least to home ownership - and fake tanning with bling for the ladies to get that celeb kinda feeling?

And in a similar manner, trad working class belonging is also something to aspire to, wouldn't you say?

matt b
23-10-2008, 09:52 PM
this will all seem very passe, but as i'm teaching it this week, the work of:

cooley 'looking glass self'
goffman (NOT the inventor of goths) 'the presentation of self in everyday life'

are somewhat enlightening- we are not isolated islands of 'self', and our perception of self is negotiated and constantly changing

Slothrop
24-10-2008, 12:04 AM
There is the fake/real distinction, but then also the "I don't belong here" condition, which Burroughs talks about in the introduction to Queer. k-punk wrote some posts on related themes to this idea a while back, saying that it the working class who felt such unbelonging, whereas the ruling/middle class didn't, which is a line that clearly doesn't make a great deal sense in Burrough's case.
I'm not at all convinced by that argument as regards the current topic to be honest. I can see why there would be an extra layer of "this isn't where I should be" if you're working class in a predominately middle / upper class environment, but I've known a lot of essentially middle class people who were eg studying at Cambridge and who admitted to a constant fear that someone's going to tell them that they only got where they are by mistake and would they mind leaving to make way for someone who's actually good enough...

slim jenkins
24-10-2008, 11:10 AM
And in a similar manner, trad working class belonging is also something to aspire to, wouldn't you say?

Well, nothing to be ashamed of, I'd say...but you don't aspire to it...you're either part of it or you're not. Unless you're middle looking for working class 'cred'. I used to be working class...but I'm better now...ha-ha. Still can't afford to go to football... my misfortune for being raised to support Chelsea.

Tanadan
24-10-2008, 11:29 AM
I'm not at all convinced by that argument as regards the current topic to be honest. I can see why there would be an extra layer of "this isn't where I should be" if you're working class in a predominately middle / upper class environment, but I've known a lot of essentially middle class people who were eg studying at Cambridge and who admitted to a constant fear that someone's going to tell them that they only got where they are by mistake and would they mind leaving to make way for someone who's actually good enough...

I think there's an implicit assumption (this is just a blanket statement - not pointed at anyone in particular) underlying this discussion that doubt, feeling 'fake', or like you have something slightly to hide are bad, things to be avoided, and the ideal state would be one of perfect confidence in yourself and your actions and thoughts. But doubt can drive you to achieve things you wouldn't otherwise, to improve your life. I don't just mean in a traditional, 'CV'ish way, but also inspire you to reconsider your attitude to life and do things that wouldn't have occured to you if you hadn't doubted yourself.

I suppose what underlies my point is the assumption that life (overall, rather than momentarily) cannot be perfect, that 'zen' and nirvana aren't achieveable...

josef k.
24-10-2008, 11:33 AM
I'm not at all convinced by that argument as regards the current topic to be honest. I can see why there would be an extra layer of "this isn't where I should be" if you're working class in a predominately middle / upper class environment, but I've known a lot of essentially middle class people who were eg studying at Cambridge and who admitted to a constant fear that someone's going to tell them that they only got where they are by mistake and would they mind leaving to make way for someone who's actually good enough...

This seems to me a good point... "I don't belong here" comes down to: there is a Them, and there is a Me, and I am not like Them...


Well, nothing to be ashamed of, I'd say...but you don't aspire to it...you're either part of it or you're not. Unless you're middle looking for working class 'cred'...

I'm not sure it's that simple. Working class individuals don't slot into working class culture any more naturally or organically then any individual slots into any culture. Belonging isn't pre-given, but firstly desired... Better to say, you're a part of it, and you're not.

slim jenkins
24-10-2008, 11:46 AM
I don't think the Cambridge example is relevant - that's getting through to a position and winging it - you got in - very few of us are as 'professional' or capable as the facade of the workplace demands we pretend to be.

On class - the culture is based around what individuals do...I think you're kind of suggesting a cart-before-horse scenario? The people create the culture. Still some are born into without fully belonging.

josef k.
24-10-2008, 12:00 PM
On class - the culture is based around what individuals do...I think you're kind of suggesting a cart-before-horse scenario? The people create the culture. Still some are born into without fully belonging.

But culture is also based on history, the inherited weight of traditions, certain distributions of spaces... carts last longer then horses, and tend to precede them.

slim jenkins
24-10-2008, 01:04 PM
Um...quite...heh-heh.

I currently exist (and have done for at least 30yrs) in another place...I don't think it's the Acid-induced 'otherness' of altered reality...although I may have found myself on the other side of that door marked 'perception' by observation and feeling. Sometimes I feel I've more in common with Sun Ra...a mental inhabitant of Saturn, perhaps? I'm faking it in a large company when I Work...I suspect many others are too...being in the place, but not part of It. Alienation...I suspect many feel it...swimming against the tide of culture, mainstream or otherwise.