National Society of Black Engineers (NBSE) - Defeating the Imposter Syndrome: Empowering Women to Success
Defeating the Impostor Syndrome:
Empowering Women to Success
• Who does it apply to
• What causes
Am I an Impostor?
• Practices to implement
• Things to remember
• Your directional statement
WOMEN DON’T GIVE THEMSELVES ENOUGH CREDIT FOR WHAT
THEY CAN DO. YOU SEE IT IN THE 21 YEAR OLD COMING OUT OF
UNDERGRADUATE, THE PH.D CANDIDATE COMING OUT OF
GRADUATE SCHOOL, AND YOU SEE IT IN THE PROFESSIONAL
WHO’S BEEN WORKING 10, 15, 20 YEARS.
- DIRECTOR OF MINORITY AFFAIRS, WOMEN'S COLLEGE
Impostor Syndrome Definition
People who have a persistent belief in their lack
of intelligence, skills, or competence. Unable to
internalize or feel deserving of their success, they
continually doubt their ability to repeat past
success. When they do succeed, they feel relief
rather than joy.
• The term "impostor syndrome" ﬁrst appeared in an article
written by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978
• Feelings pop up most during times of transition or when
faced with a new challenge
• Dr. Gail Matthews, conducted a study of successful people
and found that 70 % of the subjects reported feelings
associated with impostor syndrome
Only for women?
• Impostors are everywhere. They are people of all races,
religions, and socioeconomic classes
• Men experience the impostor syndrome too, but it aﬀects
• Men generally place blame diﬀerently. Where men will
blame external factors, women will tend to look internally
and put themselves as the problem
Do you ever credit your success to
luck, timing, or error?
Do you agonize over the smallest
ﬂaws in your work?
Are you crushed by constructive
When you succeed, do you feel like
you “fooled them again?”
Do you worry it’s a matter of time
before you’re found out?
Are you reluctant to accept
responsibility in fear that
• If you answered yes to any of these questions, then no
matter how many degrees you’ve earned, how high
you’ve risen, or how accomplished you really are you
think that you are an impostor, a fake and a fraud.
Reasons you might feel like an Impostor
• The environment you were raised in
• You’re a student
• Your work environment
• You represent your entire social or racial group
I ALWAYS DID SOMETHING I WAS A LITTLE NOT READY
TO DO. I THINK THAT’S HOW YOU GROW. WHEN THERE’S
THAT MOMENT OF ‘WOW, I’M NOT REALLY SURE I CAN DO
THIS,’ AND YOU PUSH THROUGH THOSE MOMENTS,
THAT’S WHEN YOU HAVE A BREAKTHROUGH.
— MARISSA MAYER
Embrace Moments of Doubt
• Moments of doubt are inevitable, but you can’t let it deﬁne
• Fake it till you make it
• Be true to yourself, but think about the person you want to
• “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be
criticized anyway.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
You may encounter many defeats, but you must
not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to
encounter the defeats, so you can know who you
are, what you can rise from, how you can still come
out of it.
– Maya Angelou
Do a Reality Check
• When you have a setback, you have to use it as an opportunity to learn
• Do a weekly retrospective
• Failure is just a curve in the road, it’s how you handle it that makes all
• Q-TIP = quit taking it personally!
• Shift your thinking from being scared, ”I can't do this”, to being
enthusiastic, ”I can ﬁgure this out.”
Build Your Support System
• Someone you can learn from
• Alliances and friends
• Lean In Circles, women's groups, coding groups, conferences,
• Ask for feedback and advice
We must not, in trying to think about how we can
make a big difference, ignore the small daily
differences we can make which, over time, add up to
big differences that we often cannot foresee.
- Marian Wright Edelman
Define Your Own Success
• Deﬁne what success means to YOU
• Celebrate both large and small victories
• No one is perfect
• What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
• Think about if you’re holding yourself back from success
because of the fear that you will fail
I’VE COME TO BELIEVE THAT EACH OF US HAS A PERSONAL CALLING
THAT’S AS UNIQUE AS A FINGERPRINT – AND THAT THE BEST WAY TO
SUCCEED IS TO DISCOVER WHAT YOU LOVE AND THEN FIND A WAY TO
OFFER IT TO OTHERS IN THE FORM OF SERVICE, WORKING HARD, AND
ALSO ALLOWING THE ENERGY OF THE UNIVERSE TO LEAD YOU.
— OPRAH WINFREY
Think about how you feel now
• Think about when you most often encounter the impostor
syndrome and how you feel.
• What situation makes you feel most like an impostor?
• What negative feelings do you experience?
• What do you typically do to handle this?
How would you rather feel?
• Now think about how you would rather feel
• What self-aﬃrming things would I rather feel in that
• What do I want the new positive voices in my head to say?
• What is one thing I can do to make the situation better?
Make Your Directional Statement
• Set a positive foundation that packs emotional power to
override the negative beliefs of your impostor ways
• Example: I am a beautiful and extremely competent
individual, who deserves to be where I am in my career