“I have a strong suspicion that the walls are going to come tumbling down today, and I’m going to be seen for the charlatan that I really am.”*

*Dom Parker in 2019, when he appeared as a contestant in BBC Celebrity Masterchef.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Outlaws, available on BBC iPlayer, it’s worth checking out. I enjoyed every episode, and was very struck by a scene in Series 2, Episode 3 (28:51-32:35 below):

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0c70xwm

Darren Boyd plays John Halloran, a businessman and “right wing blow-hard” who struggles to impress his unloving father and keep his struggling business afloat. He is among seven strangers from different walks of life who are forced together to complete a Community Payback sentence, set in Bristol.

[blowhard (n.)

also blow-hard, “blustering person,” 1840, a sailor’s word (from 1790 as a nickname for a sailor), perhaps originally a reference to weather and not primarily meaning “braggart;” from blow (v.1) + hard (adv.). However, blow (v.1) in the sense of “brag, boast, bluster, speak loudly” is attested from c. 1300 and blower had been used since late 14c. as “braggart, boaster, one who speaks loudly” (in Middle English translating Latin efflator, French corneur). (Online Etymology Dictionary).]

Much as I applaud the lead interviewer’s challenge to Halloran’s use of the “glass ceiling” metaphor, there’s some dramatic irony here. The viewer who has seen his character develop through previous episodes is aware of the various ways in which his father keeps him in his place. Although it’s no help to him in an interview setting, John’s not as wrong as he sounds: he’s banging his head on the ceiling maintained over him by Halloran Senior, and it’s not apparent to anyone but John’s wife.

It was Marilyn Loden (July 12, 1946 – August 6, 2022), an American writer, management consultant, and diversity advocate, who was credited with inventing the phrase “glass ceiling”, during a 1978 speech.

Syndromes are often named after the physician or group of physicians that discovered them or initially described the full clinical picture. Münchausen syndrome is exceptional, being associated with Baron Münchhausen (Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen, 1720-1797), to whom fantastic and unreal stories about his life and experiences were attributed.

Asperger’s syndrome, once regarded as one of the distinct types of autism,was retired in 2013 with the publication of the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The term empty nest syndrome, although not an accepted diagnostic category, does have a cluster of symptoms to its name.

“Empty nest” was coined in this sense by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (February 17, 1879 – November 9, 1958), an educational reformer, social activist, and best-selling American author in the early 20th century. She employed it in Mothers and Children (1914), one of her many published titles. (Research in the 1970s popularised the term “empty nest syndrome”, and a 2009 study sought to demonstrate that the expression has lost its meaning over time.)

In the February 11, 2021 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey addressed the use of the term imposter syndrome,

“loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept, originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” (in the same year that Loden publicly spoke of the glass ceiling) in their 1978 founding study, which focused on high-achieving women…”

In the Christmas 2020 issue of The Spectator, Tanya Gold reviewed two newly published biographies of Cary Grant, born Archibald Leach:

“…He became more skilful and better shod; but when Elias was dying of alcoholism, he summoned Archie to Bristol to tell him Elsie was alive. He went to see her. ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘It’s me, your son, Archie.’ ‘You’re no son of mine,’ she screamed. ‘You don’t look like my Archie. You don’t even sound like my Archie.’ He freed her from the mental hospital, and supported her, but she never trusted him:

‘She always kept me at arm’s length, as if there was a part of her mind that was convinced I was an impostor. And, I suppose, in a way, she was right.’…

…(Mark) Glancy’s life is good; (Scott) Eyman’s is superb. Neither definitively answer what some – but not I – believe is the most pressing question: did he sleep with Randolph Scott? Having read two desolate books on the mother of impostor syndromes, I can only say – I hope so!”

BBC Radio 3’s Music & Meditation Podcast includes an episode in which hypnotherapist “Marisa Peer leads a guided meditation to help overcome imposter syndrome, which is when you feel like a fraud and doubt your abilities. Marisa is a therapist and author, and in this meditation helps you to be your own inner cheerleader and to start believing in yourself. The music that soundtracks Marisa’s guided meditation was composed by Alex Patterson and recorded by the BBC Singers exclusively for this episode.”

Tulshyan and Burey challenge this sort of approach, arguing that:

“The impact of systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, and other biases was categorically absent when the concept of imposter syndrome was developed. Many groups were excluded from the study, namely women of color and people of various income levels, genders, and professional backgrounds. Even as we know it today, imposter syndrome puts the blame on individuals, without accounting for the historical and cultural contexts that are foundational to how it manifests in both women of color and white women. Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work…

…The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals but to create an environment that fosters a variety of leadership styles and in which diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities are seen as just as professional as the current model, which Tina Opie, an associate professor at Babson College, describes as usually “Eurocentric, masculine, and heteronormative.”…”

“Mahalia Jackson (born Mahala Jackson; October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972) was an American gospel singer, widely considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century. With a career spanning 40 years, Jackson was integral to the development and spread of gospel blues in black churches throughout the U.S. During a time when racial segregation was pervasive in American society, she met considerable and unexpected success in a recording career, selling an estimated 22 million records and performing in front of integrated and secular audiences in concert halls around the world.
The granddaughter of enslaved people, Jackson was born and raised in poverty in New Orleans.”

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