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The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women

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Learn to take ownership of your success, overcome self-doubt, and banish the thought patterns that undermine your ability to feel--and act--as bright and capable as others already know you are with this award-winning book by Valerie Young.

It's only because they like me. I was in the right place at the right time. I just work harder than the others. I don't deserve this. It's just a matter of time before I am found out. Someone must have made a terrible mistake.

If you are a working woman, chances are this inter­nal monologue sounds all too familiar. And you're not alone. From the high-achieving Ph.D. candidate convinced she's only been admitted to the program because of a clerical error to the senior executive who worries others will find out she's in way over her head, a shocking number of accomplished women in all ca­reer paths and at every level feel as though they are faking it--impostors in their own lives and careers.

While the impostor syndrome is not unique to women, women are more apt to agonize over tiny mistakes, see even constructive criticism as evi­dence of their shortcomings, and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. They often unconsciously overcompensate with crippling perfec­tionism, overpreparation, maintaining a lower pro­file, withholding their talents and opinions, or never finishing important projects. When they do succeed, they think, Phew, I fooled 'em again.

An internationally known speaker, Valerie Young has devoted her career to understanding women's most deeply held beliefs about themselves and their success. In her decades of in-the-trenches research, she has uncovered the often surprising reasons why so many accomplished women experience this crushing self-doubt.

In The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Young gives these women the solution they have been seek­ing. Combining insightful analysis with effective ad­vice and anecdotes, she explains what the impostor syndrome is, why fraud fears are more common in women, and how you can recognize the way it mani­fests in your life.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published October 11, 2011

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About the author

Valerie Young

8 books18 followers
VALERIE YOUNG is an internationally known workshop leader and public speaker and the former marketing manager at a Fortune 200 company. Her work has been cited in such publications as Women’s Day, Redbook, Fitness, Self, Cosmopolitan, Inc., and the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and Globe and Mail. She lives in Montague, Massachusetts. Visit the au¬thor online at www.impostorsyndrome.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 190 reviews
Profile Image for Kimberly Smith.
150 reviews47 followers
April 10, 2013
I would rate this book a 4.5 and not because it's the most riveting book I've ever read, but because it was life changing information for me.

One thing that shocked me are the sum total of all the little remarks that permeate our society that are subtle put-downs to women. I thought we had come so far as women, and yet women are demeaned every day in subtle ways that affect how we perceive ourselves. I was shocked at the blind studies that show that women have to work harder to be taken as seriously, out-perform men in orchestras, defend their grants and dissertations harder, are chosen for jobs less with the same credentials, etc... It was horrifying to me! It's funny, because I honestly hadn't noticed these put-downs, and a few hours after I finished the book, I turned on the TV while we were preparing dinner and I heard SEVERAL negative references toward women on a cooking show, including one man yelling at another man in an attempt to put him down said something like "Go get your tampons, and go with the girls, you little B!*ch!" Why is it that when men want to put other men down, they will make references to being or acting like a girl as if that's the ultimate insult? Other things are more subtle, such as diminishing the efforts or work of a female, such as "How is your *little* project coming?"

Another thing that shocked me is that how much men as a whole will BS their way through things, even with limited knowlege to make others feel like they know all kinds of things they don't. An account of a woman at Harvard, feeling like she didn't measure up to everyone else there intellectually, came into class talking about a labratory experiment on rats she had just witnessed, and the professor misunderstood what she said, and went off saying "Oh I've heard of Smurf's work. 5 other people chimed in, acting like they'd read Smurf's work, were following his career, when all along she just said that the lab experiment was conducted in a kiddie pool with a Smurf motif (ya know the blue cartoon characters!!!) And yet all these highly intellectual people acted like they knew Smurt and were following his work!!! It changed the way she looked at people including her professors at Harvard, and she no longer felt like a fraud.

This book doesn't just illuminate problems, but it offers real solutions for implementing the material, and changing ones' thinking and actions. I actually took the time to work through the activities at the end of each chapter, and I found it tremendously helpful.

I want all my sisters to read this book, my daughters to read it, and really every woman who wants to realize their full potential in school, at work, or in life! Even though the title can be off-putting for men, I truly think that any man who is a minority could benefit. Also any person, man or woman, who is trying to go from blue collar to white collar, or raise above poverty, or elevate their status or position. Any student could benefit... We ALL deserve a place at the table!

I'm going to go back through and read it again and underline my book. This is one of the best, most practical self help books I've ever read.

Profile Image for Milena.
150 reviews59 followers
September 21, 2022
Prroblem dobrog dela self-help knjiga je uvek isti: autor/ka uvali neku priču vezanu za određenu kognitivnu ili emotivnu distorziju, prosečno ljudsko biće se najnormalnije prepozna u opisu, onda ide besomučna lista manje-više poznatih ljudi koji su se isto zlopatili sa time i kako su to rešili, to se proteže tokom cele knjige, čitalac se zapita okej brate blago njima a šta ja da radim, autor/ka trtne par mlakušnih rešenja, čitalac kaže e fala lepo, primeni to dva dana, ima utisak da bi trebalo da bude bolje, ali da se kosi sa njegovim / njenim vrednostima i ne bude bolje.

Sam koncept self-helpa me ubija u pojam i podseća na ono "ako nemate šta da radite, radite na sebi, tu uvek ima posla *pasivno-agresivni* hehehe"

Mislim, provodimo van kuće bar dvanaest sati dnevno vezano za posao, pored spavanja i ostalih fizioloških potreba, naravno da NEĆU raditi apsolutno ništa. Na puš-pauzama, među kolegama koji pored ubitačnih satnica kukaju kako nisu objavili dovoljno radova, kako još nisu naučili strani jezik, kako bi mogli biti empatičniji, strpljiviji, propovedam dve mantre "say no to self-improvement!" i "dobri smo i dovoljni kakvi smo već sad". Sledbenika za sada nema, ja ostajem lujka sa sedmog sprata, ali korak po korak.
Da li moj profil sada deluje atraktivnije nekom sledećem poslodavcu (jer naravno da ni ja nisam naučila dodatni strani jezik / objavila više radova), ne, ali sam srećnija i radim svoj posao isto onoliko posvećeno i precizno kao i ranije. Možda čak i više u odsustvu ruminacija.

Većini self-help knjiiga nije cilj da čovek prosto bude srećniji, da mu bude lepo sa samim sobom, sa bližnjima, ne, cilj je biti što bolji, što... uspešniji. Po kojim kriterijumima? Evo, naslov ove knjige govori o uspešnim ženama. Uspeh je u knjizi redukovan na poslovni uspeh, i to ne svaku vrstu, već isključivo kvantitativni (zarađen novac, broj objavljenih radova, broj osvojenih nagrada). A kvalitet rada? Zadovoljstvo zaposlenih? Odnos sa kolegama?
Van posla, može čovek imati i impostor syndrome u porodičnim, prijateljskim i partnerskim odnosima (što se uopšte ne pominje u knjizi). Šta, biti dobar prijatelj se ne smatra za uspeh?

I za kraj, rečenica iz knjige koja rezimira i opravdava keca više nego išta: "Ako je Medlin Olbrajt postala uspešna, zašto ne bi i ti? Samo treba da..."

Boktemazo. Odoh da budem ispodprosečna i neuspešna na sedmom spratu.
Profile Image for Anna.
266 reviews
January 23, 2015
I remember attending a talk by Young on Imposter Syndrome when I was a bewildered first-year graduate student at MIT. She was a great speaker and her words were timely, giving me a huge sense of relief. I may not have let "imposter thoughts" go immediately, but she got me thinking about it seriously.

Fast forward a few years - I'm a Ph.D. candidate now and in a much more peaceful place for various reasons. Young's book was still an interesting read, but not really in the same way. Her work is definitely worthwhile and good, but after thinking about it for a few years and coming back to it, I felt it was missing a deeper discussion. For example, she makes a good case for why imposter syndrome isn't helpful, but could it also be harmful in a bigger way? Misplaced pride?

Also, if I were to recommend a book to someone on this sort of topic, I would probably put Brené Brown's work in their hands first. Not quite the same thing as Young's work, but Brown cuts to the heart of topics like shame/vulnerability using [what sounds like to a non-psychologist] fairly rigorous research. After that, read Young's work - it makes an excellent case study.
Profile Image for Lisa (Remarkablylisa).
2,241 reviews1,800 followers
August 19, 2020
this book is great but it's way too long. it goes on and on about what I'm currently doing but the tips don't start until a good chunk of a way in. I would prefer the physical more than the audiobook.
892 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2012
This book is all about the imposter syndrome in women--thinking that you're a fake and you don't deserve the success or the happiness that you have. I was quite certain I had this, but as I read this book and learned about the causes and symptoms and signs and coping mechanisms of the "syndrome" I kept thinking "NONE of these apply to me!" So . . . I guess this book helped me to figure out that I'm an arrogant little thing who thinks she deserves great things in this world.
Profile Image for Marlene.
371 reviews24 followers
December 17, 2016
I had thought this would be a book of "secret thoughts of successful women." But this is something of a misnomer. The book is not filled with interviews and discussions from successful women. The first chapter or two has lots of quotes, which is great. But then the author launches into a psychological analysis of her theories on the imposter syndrome, especially for women, and then how to combat feeling like an imposter. This is useful stuff, so I adapted to my disappointment and kept reading.

However, this book is dated - it's really entirely oriented toward Baby Boomers. For example, she's talking about girls growing up unable to play sports until Title IX passed in 1972 and how that created an imposter syndrome in all women. That's her target audience - those women. So the material really falls short in some areas where she's speaking about women, because what she's saying is pretty remote from the experience of Generation X-and-later women. And the material thus becomes inaccessible at times, for whole sections, because she's basing her work on the experiences of Boomers. This got very tiring.

I would say - read the first half. That will give you a good eye-opener to the nature of the imposter feelings you might be having.

Profile Image for Helena.
68 reviews
December 26, 2012
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women gave me the pep talk I needed.

I never knew the Impostor Syndrome existed, because I always believed in what I am doing. It is rare for me to experience doubts in the things I do. Whenever I accomplish something, I own it and I truly believe that I deserve it.

Occasionally, I would cry for unknown reasons I do not understand. Probably it is because of the self-conflict when it comes to the success I foresee after I accomplish things. Maybe it is because I am the perfectionist who overprepares and have a low tolerance for my own shortcomings, which then defines the whole scenario to failure.

I grew up in an environment where I am usually in the top of my class, and during high school, boys would often tease me about being a nerd. One bully prophesied that the only job I could get someday would be a calculator. Math is my forte, but after several years, I took that comment as a compliment. In those days, I felt left out. I was too smart for any of them. Also, when I have a lengthy opinion in class, it would be too intellectual for them to comprehend that they just clap their hands halfway through. The stench of sarcasm traveled faster in the air as they continued their applause.

This booked perked me up a little and gave me some guidelines on the way women think and explained the behavior of men. I believe the application of the advice is crucial in my case since I will be in a workplace dominated by men. This could help me assert my girl power and stop me from having inadequate feelings.

I like how it presented the kind of mental scenarios women face, especially the one about lower self-esteem, which is a common problem. Even I with high self-esteem still face the lowest of lows, which proves this does not make me invincible against the issue that most girls are facing.

This would be a helpful book, especially to those women who aspire for success in a man-driven world. I do not think this is a matter of feminism, I believe that the psychology about the differences between the way men and women think should be expounded on. Valerie Young did a thorough job in understanding the mindset of both genders and introduced ways on how to conquer the Impostor Syndrome. The common quote: "Fake it until you make it." is the general theme of the book.

All people have their ups and downs, but women are generally more vulnerable. Self-doubt could activate the flight or fight mechanism. Men are known to not really care about what other people think, while women are more sensitive to criticism. This sounds stereotypical, but it is a general truth that men earn more than women, because women usually just settle for an easier working environment. The book explains at a deeper depth about this crucial difference.

I still find it amazing how I do know some of the tips from self-learning. Reading the lines gave me important realizations and concrete verification.

Overall, it all comes down to positive thinking and dealing with a problem when it actually exists, not when it is theoretical.
Profile Image for Sharon.
Author 38 books375 followers
October 22, 2018
I had a crisis of confidence during a recent author's conference. I debated about saying anything on social media, but finally did ... and the outpouring of "me too" was both gratifying and disturbing.

In the course of the ensuing discussion, this book was recommended to me ... and I cannot say how glad I was. Author Valerie Young goes not into just what impostor syndrome looks and feels like, but also where it comes from (she postulates seven different origins). The one that resonated with me was the expectation that anything less than perfection was evidence of incompetence. I was the kid who got in trouble for the one B amongst all of the A grades. I was the kid who, upon folding towels to help with household chores, was told I did it wrong because the design had to go on the outside and the folds in a particular order. You get the picture.

So, suffice it to say I've had many years with a little niggling voice telling me that I wasn't good enough. It didn't matter how many awards or honors I earned.

What I found out from this book is that a whole *slew* of people, almost all of them women, have this same experience on a daily basis. The good news is there are ways to combat impostor syndrome. The tricky bit is that, just like strengthening muscles, it takes work. However, there are practical tools in this book that give the reader ways to make it through to the other side.

Am I ready to take on the world? Perhaps. I know that there is work yet to do. However, I also know that I have a tool kit that I didn't previously possess and that it will make a great deal of difference in the long run.
Profile Image for Imaan.
40 reviews8 followers
August 27, 2020
'The title is jarring' was my first thought when I was looking for books on Imposter Syndrome, but the book kept cropping up again and again in different articles about it. And eventually I thought 'Why not give this a go', so I did and I'm glad that I did (I still find the title jarring though).

I didn't know, until about last month, that Imposter Syndrome was the underlying thread in my mind for almost a decade. That's the cool thing about putting a name to something, it gives you target to go after. Instead of dealing with an intangible feeling, you can grasp it in the hands of your mind and you realise that there are many more people who have experienced it and dealt with it too.

I like this book, I really do. I'll be coming back to it again and again.
Profile Image for Caissa Palomino.
63 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2021
Ok, este libro lo necesitaba sin duda alguna. Recomiendo que todas las mujeres ya sea estudiantes, madres o trabajadoras lo lean. El síndrome del impostor es algo con lo que todos lidiamos, independiente de nuestro nivel de éxito, capacidades o estudios 😁
Profile Image for Carissa.
Author 39 books679 followers
May 26, 2018
What a fantastic book for those of us who are interested in this phenomenon. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jerzy.
469 reviews105 followers
November 12, 2015
I was lucky enough to see Dr Young give a seminar at my university. The talk was really helpful---not just great lecture content, but also interactive segments of discussion with fellow students at our tables, showing us firsthand just how many other people across campus deal with similar worries.

This book is just fine, but I don't think I got anything extra out of it beyond what was in the seminar. So: try to hear her speak instead if you can, though the book is a fine alternative if you can't.

The book talks a lot about broad differences between men and women, but I found much of it applies to me too (maybe I didn't get the typical guy experience of playing on team sports? but many women play team sports too...). So take that with a grain of salt.

* p.28: She gives "you were raised by humans" as a core reason for impostor syndrome: your parents did their best but still couldn't shield you from this phenomenon. Your parents might have praised too much, or not enough, or in the wrong ways, etc... That's helpful in a way, but terrifying to me as a parent! How *should* I raise my son to *prevent* him having impostor feelings (or other issues)? No help here.

* p.40, Martha Graham: "No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
Sounds like academia too :)

* p.51-2, funny quotes in discussion about how non-competent men manage to power through anyway, while non-competent women hold themselves back:
"I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government." --Sissy Farenthold
"Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel." --Bella Abzug

* p.59: story about Sheryl Sandberg giving a talk about needing more women leaders, then saying it's the last question, and all the women in audience dutifully put their hands down---but men didn't, so she kept answering men's questions.
***I need to watch out for this myself when I teach a class! Be especially careful not to let certain folks dominate the discussion!

* p.76: she categorizes impostor syndrome defense mechanisms into a few categories: overworking, never finishing, procrastination, etc. The one I probably relate to the most is the "ever-changing profile": change majors, careers, interests, etc. I enjoy being legitimately new to things and learning, but I worry that I don't stick around long enough to get really deep mastery.

* p.83: What is your "crusher", the "core negative belief we hold about ourselves"? Mine might be something about not being an independent thinker/actor.
A few times in the past, I've made bad choices just because a good choice was suggested by someone else, and I didn't want to feel like I was following their lead instead of doing it my own way.
Plus, I'm not afraid of admitting I don't know something, or that my work isn't perfect; but before meeting with advisors or supervisors to discuss a question about where to go next, part of me is always worried that they'll think, "Why didn't you know to do this next thing? Obviously you should have tried that before bothering me with your questions."
They've (almost) never said or implied this---but a deep part of me worries about it all the time anyway.

* p.108: she also categorizes impostor syndrome "competence types": in what (unhealthy) way do you define competence for yourself? I relate to each of them a little bit. Here, about the Perfectionist, she mentions people who see a right and wrong way to do everything, and can't delegate because they don't trust others to do it right. "When you do delegate, you are often frustrated and disappointed at the results." I can certainly relate! Usually it's fine, but sometimes I really need to be better about letting go.

* p.110: "Half-ass is better than no ass."

* p.120: "Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects." --Will Rogers
Also, discussion of the Expert, who won't jump into anything until they feel sure they're ready to do it 100% right. "And you certainly don't want to promise something unless you're absolutely certain you can deliver." I relate here too; the problem is when you spend years and years preparing but never act, like folks who keep collecting more and more credentials and degrees, but never use those skills to make contributions to the world.

* p.126, about the Rugged Individualist type, who thinks competence means going it alone (perhaps the one I relate to most, in some situations anyway):
"The truth is that Diane couldn't handle the job. But under the same circumstances neither could John or anyone else. The critical difference is that he knew it, which is why he felt perfectly entitled to ask for what he needed in order to do it. ... Competence doesn't mean knowing how to do everything yourself. Instead, competence means knowing how to identify the resources needed to get the job done."
That really strikes home. If I can't get certain software to work or find a certain step in a proof by myself, that's OK---I *am* entitled to ask for help. I just need to remember it's OK :)

* p.128: "Truly competent people not only ask for advice, but they delegate wherever and whenever they can. ... The rule of thumb is to assign a task to the lowest level in the organization at which it can be performed competently---not perfectly, competently."

* p.130, about the Superman/Superwoman/Superstudent type, who thinks they need to do well in *all* areas of life at the same time:
"I was approached by two doctoral students who were managing to meet rigorous academic demands while simultaneously holding down full-time jobs. That would be impressive enough, but they were also raising young children who had their own overly full roster of extracurricular activities. I was exhausted just hearing about their overextended lives. I assumed that they approached me for advice on how they could offload some responsibilities. Instead these women wanted to talk about how guilty they felt about not having time to do volunteer work in their community."
Yeah... I feel really bad when I turn down requests to volunteer. But it wouldn't help to commit to something I can't do well on top of my school+work+family duties already.

* p.134: "Just stop expecting yourself to remain in a constant state of extreme brilliance. Instead strive to feel comfortable with being fabulously adequate."
What a great phrase: fabulously adequate!

* p.142: good to keep in mind as a parent: after a failure, sometimes girls hear "Don't you worry your pretty little head ... If it's too hard, you don't have to try." Instead, it's better to say, "That was a really tough break, honey. But if you really want to make the team, then you have to try again. And when you do we'll support you one hundred percent."

* p.144: different ways that (stereotypically) men and women use communication as a tool: guys try to fix problems, gals try to express feelings. A guy saying "Stop worrying about it" is sincerely trying to help, but it can come across as "Stop talking about it," which isn't helpful when what you need to hear instead is support, like "I feel that way too sometimes."

* p.148: psychologist Peter Gray "found the most constructive and amiable interactions were those in which an individual reached out to an older mentor or peer for advice."
Apparently from "How to Take Feedback" by Karen Wright.

* p.174: "But if ... Dave doesn't understand the game, he might respond to what was a purely ritualized apology on your part with Well, obviously you weren't very clear, because I sent you exactly what you asked for. Okay, now you're pissed because you weren't really sorry! You were just trying to help him save face and preserve the relationship."
Happens to me too---not just to women!

* p.210: bullshitting is "closer to bluffing than to telling a lie" ... The whole fake-it-till-you-make-it thing isn't necessarily lying about your competence. It can just be thought of "impression management," giving yourself the chance to learn on the fly instead of self-selecting yourself out before you get that chance.

* p.219: wonderful story about the Smurf pool, from Martha Beck's Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic. Whenever I feel intimidated by the people around me, I need to tell myself, "He's a good man, Smurf is."
Full quote, from Beck's book (she's pregnant, hence the nausea):
It was mid-November and the few remaining leaves rattled on the trees. I welcomed the winter chill, since ice air helped keep my mind off the nausea. I breathed it carefully one day as I waddled over to William James Hall (known to the intelligentsia as Billy Jim) to attend a class. I arrived a few minutes early and decided to use the extra time to visit a friend in the Psychology Department, one floor above the Sociology Department, where my class was held. My friend was in her lab, conducting an experiment that consisted of implanting wires into the brains of live rats, then making the rats swim around in a tub of reconstituted dry milk. She told me why she was doing this, but I have no memory of what she said. Maybe she was making soup. Whatever the reason, she had put the rats and the milk in a children’s wading pool, the kind you fill up with a hose so that toddlers can splash around on a hot summer day. The tub was decorated with pictures of Smurfs. Smurfs, for those of you who are not culturally aware, are little blue people whose antics you may have observed on Saturday morning cartoons during the 1980s. I personally feel that the Smurfs were cloying, saccharine little monsters, but Katie adored them.

After chatting with my rat-molesting friend for a moment, I excused
myself and headed downstairs for the seminar. There were seven or eight other graduate students in attendance, along with a couple of extra professors who had come to hear the latest twist on established theories. I felt the way I always did when I walked into a classroom at Harvard, that I had just entered a den of lions---not starving lions, perhaps, but lions who were feeling a little peckish. The people in the room were fearsomely brilliant, and I was always terrified that I would say just one completely idiotic thing, make one breathtakingly asinine comment that would expose me as a boorish, politically incorrect half-wit.

“Ah, Martha,” said the course instructor, “we’ve been waiting for you.”

I blushed. I had stopped at the rest room to blow a few chunks, and had been hoping that the class would start a bit late. I did not want to be the focus of attention.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was upstairs in the Psych lab, watching rats swim around in a Smurf pool.”

“I see,” said the instructor, “Yes, I believe I’ve read about that.”

A professor, one of the visiting dignitaries, chimed in. “How is Smurf’s work going?” he inquired. “I understand he’s had some remarkable findings.”

“Yes,” said a graduate student. “I read his last article.”

There was a general murmur of agreement. It seems that everyone in the room was familiar with Dr. Smurf, and his groundbreaking work with swimming rats.

It took me a few discombobulated seconds to figure out that everyone at the seminar assumed a Smurf pool was named for some famous psychological theorist. I guess they thought it was like a Skinner box, the reinforcement chamber used by B. F. Skinner to develop the branch of psychological theory known as behaviorism. Comprehension blossomed in my brain like a lovely flower.

“I think,” I said solemnly, “that Smurf is going to change the whole
direction of linguistic epistemology.”

They all agreed, nodding, saying things like “Oh, yes,“ and “I wouldn’t doubt it.”

I beamed at them, struggling desperately not to laugh. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to mock these people. I was giddy with exhilaration, because after seven years at Harvard, I was just beginning to realize that I wasn’t the only one faking it. I had bluffed my way through many a cocktail party, pretending to know all about whichever scholar or theory was the current topic of conversation. I had always wondered how I survived among the staggeringly intelligent people lurking all around me. Now I was beginning to understand.

“He’s a good man, Smurf is,” said the instructor solemnly.

And thus I learned that at Harvard, while knowing a great deal is the norm and knowing everything is the goal, appearing to know everything is considered an acceptable substitute.
Profile Image for Gina Fae.
94 reviews4 followers
November 13, 2022
I love this book. First of all, this is not just for women. Yes, it focuses on women mostly but this is beneficial for anyone suffering from imposter syndrome.

Honestly, this book helped me out immediately after reading it; which is all I can ask for in a self help book.

Basically, imposter syndrome is when someone does not feel confident in their role and they got it because of luck, connections, humor, etc... and not their actual achievements. It's a lot more prevalent than I even thought.

What I like about this book is that it builds up women while not tearing down men at all. There is some evolutionary psychology mentioned and a lot of science behind this book. The research is there and I might buy this one to have with me when I need a reminder of my skills.

5/5 would recommend to minorities and women especially. Do believe that men would benefit as well but the focus is mostly on women so be aware.

Thanks 😊
Profile Image for JaneAnn Kenney.
17 reviews
February 1, 2021
I found the first several chapters very enlightening/helpful. The end probably also would have been good but I felt that I had a good handle on how to identify my own patterns and how to tweak/reset as needed. I'll definitely pick it up again if I need a refresher.
Profile Image for Laura.
14 reviews
July 27, 2020
I really liked her writing style. Smooth and easy to understand. Lots of useful tips and great examples! I'll read it again.
Profile Image for Laura.
13 reviews
December 13, 2021
You know it’s a good book when you underline more than half of it 😂 You can actually take the ideas it gives you and apply them in real life. To read when you need a boost of confidence.
Profile Image for Nagarajan.
76 reviews10 followers
January 1, 2023
My favourite title for the year in subject books. Anyone suffering from Imposter syndrome, this is your self-help kit.
Profile Image for Samantha York.
290 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2019
Strongly recommend this book for those who think they may be experiencing symptoms of imposter syndrome and want to know a little more and DIY some responses.

If, like me, you've attended a couple of webinars and read a bunch of articles - note: they're either pulling from or more recent than this book.

It's great, but no longer groundbreaking.
Profile Image for Demi.
57 reviews
December 30, 2021
wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but throwing it a 4! a very rambly reflection as always:

I wish I'd noticed earlier that this was written 10+ years ago, in 2011. I think part of the 3-star vibe was just feeling like the tone of the first few chapters was a bit off, but I now realize it's maybe a good thing: I think I've personally encountered enough discourse about impostor syndrome among women in academia to be familiar with much of the content included in these introductory "aha" chapters on impostor syndrome. And I'm glad! that this conversation has maintained momentum in the past decade. And I'm sure Dr. Young has been a great pioneer in this field

Again, I sometimes didn't love the tone throughout the book, but I did appreciate the nuance that Dr. Young didn't shy away from. For starters, she was very clear at the beginning that there hasn't yet been conclusive evidence that impostor syndrome affects women more than men, but made a convincing case for targeting the discussion towards women since the societal challenges are unique. She also acknowledges the danger and existence of "genderalizations" throughout the book when discussing men and women.

The other nuance I appreciated is that she never strictly concludes that women should co-opt tactics that men use, after pointing out differences. After all, there are many instances when it seems that society could benefit from more men co-opting women's approaches. We don't yearn to succeed in a man's world by playing the man, rather we'd like to make it possible to succeed in the world as a woman! Her approach is much more to point out the differences to us, to make us aware of what might be holding us back, to figure out how to adjust our tendencies and reach for success in a way we might not have before.

Nevertheless, one background frustration for me while reading about these differences is the invisible, all-encroaching hand of the patriarchy. I yearn for system change rather than having to do more psychological work than men to succeed! but I also understand that's not in the scope of this book!! The book is for us as individuals, maybe with the implicit understanding that the more quickly we overcome our own obstacles to success, the more quickly we can enact system change.

A few other random reflections on specific chapters...

I think it was useful for her to tease out the differences between impostor syndrome and some other very common female insecurities

There are also a few moments where I felt "seen", like the urge to continue to rack up credentials to feel like expertise was earned, or the irony of extreme humility becoming a form of arrogance.

Lots of quotes I pulled out throughout the book, see my updates!

btw, I probably only finished this book because I was determined to finish it before the new year. look at that! goal-setting! it works!
94 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2015
I stumbled upon this book while researching Impostor Syndrome in preparation for a talk on the subject.

This book was by far the most in-depth collection of information about the subject. Dr. Valerie Young begins by helping you identify with the various forms of impostor syndrome and recognizing how these coping mechanisms can keep you emotionally safe. After that she helps you view your accomplishments in a realistic way without qualifiers (like ', but...') and to recognize how much hard work you have done to do all those things. She highlights how much society plays a part in the dismissal of our positive traits and accomplishments. I think this is vitally important and tends to be glossed over by many who write about the subject. This is especially important for those who are affected by Impostor Syndrome the most - marginalized groups.

Dr. Valerie Young continues on with thought exercises on how luck plays into your success, but it isn't the be-all and end-all on the subject. You have to be willing and capable of running with the ball when it's passed to you. She follows up in her last 5 chapters with tools on how to train your thoughts going forward and also pointing out how fear of succeeding could be a key contributor to your impostor feelings.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I wish she would have delved a bit into challenging the current systems about what "success" and "leadership" mean. I felt like she just taught you skills for how to act more "like a man" than to challenge whether that was the right answer overall. It might have been too much to include in a book about the topic, but I'd love for us as women to be able to see the value in our "feminine traits" instead of constantly trying to be more like men.

The author did leave me feeling more optimistic about what I have accomplished in my life and I plan on reading it again. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who feels like they're constantly "faking it" and wants a more realistic perspective on the things they've done in their life. It was a very valuable resource for my talk and a pretty easy read - which I always appreciate.
Profile Image for Janet Civitelli.
Author 1 book1 follower
August 13, 2016
This is one of my favorite books because every time a career coaching client tells me that she is constantly worried that she isn't as smart or competent as everyone thinks she is, I think, "Aha! Impostor Syndrome at work!" For many people I know (including myself), it is extremely helpful to name what is happening and to know that you aren't alone in feeling that way.

One of the best parts of the book is Dr. Young's examples of famous people who struggle with the Impostor Syndrome. To me, it really puts things into perspective to read that Meryl Streep is secretly fearful that she can't act and that for years, Vivian Schiller (former CEO of NPR) worried that her career success was a fluke and that she would be discovered as a fraud.

Dr. Young is strongest at describing the nature of and effects of the Impostor Syndrome and it is up to the reader to identify which strategies to use to most effectively combat it. Neuropsychologists say that people have hundreds of conscious and unconscious thoughts per day that shape their mood and self-image. It doesn't work to just tell yourself, "Stop having those bad thoughts!" The only way to eliminate the effect of a self-sabotaging thought is to intercept it and replace it with a more optimistic and strengthening thought. This takes practice and persistence but it is worth it to suffer less in the long run.

Full review at my blog at Moving Beyond The Impostor Syndrome
Profile Image for Helen Power.
Author 10 books446 followers
July 2, 2017
Reading through the other reviews for this book, I noticed a startling pattern in the comments from various reviewers. If you don't suffer from Imposter Syndrome, then you're much less likely to enjoy and relate to this book (which makes a lot of sense, given that the book is about overcoming Imposter Syndrome). As someone who's struggled with feelings of being an "imposter" all my life, I benefited greatly from hear the not-so-secret thoughts of successful women who have experienced similar feelings of doubt and fraudulence. This book was an eye-opener, and while I haven't had the chance to thoroughly work through the exercises yet, just reading this book has helped me with to recognize the imposter feelings and attempt to overcome them whenever they arise. I recommend this book to anyone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome, (or anyone who thinks that they might), but even those who cannot relate would find Young's discussions about socioeconomic influences on self confidence to be quite insightful. 4.25 stars.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
64 reviews4 followers
December 26, 2021
"Help the book club meeting is in 4 days and I haven't started"

Honestly, so glad I was "forced" to read it for the club - it was so much better than I was expecting (I don't have very high standards for this kind of book). It was enlightening and familiar at the same time. I kept thinking "wait, do men not think like this?". Incredibly well written, never felt like a slog. Lots of examples that I appreciated!

I think everyone should read it, of all genders. Everyone has something to gain, whether that be against their own experience or to understand others'.
Profile Image for Kelli Trei.
478 reviews47 followers
September 23, 2013
It wasn't groundbreaking but it was useful. I especially liked the parts about procrastination as a tool for failure. The quote: "When you leave important things to the last minute there's a greater chance quality will suffer, procrastination is a way to give yourself an out."

I'm glad I read it.
Profile Image for Sam Thammahong.
70 reviews
August 28, 2020
Some good tips here. Offers some good self- reflection for women and how we communicate.
Profile Image for Lee Ann.
777 reviews18 followers
December 6, 2019
I feel like this is the kind of book I can't really rate until I see some results (or lack thereof), so I'm going with 3 stars for now.

There was a lot I liked, and a lot I disagreed with.

I liked how validating the book was. It didn't try to belittle anyone for their impostor syndrome, but rather gave a name to the feeling and gave the reader the tools they need to confront and overcome it. I also liked that the author acknowledged intersectionality, and the ways that impostor syndrome affects people of different genders, races, orientations, religions, etc., in different ways. Considering that that majority of people didn't "become woke" until 2015/2016-ish, I'd say this book was maybe a little ahead of its time.

I also LOVED the section about Rebecca Solnit. I didn't realize Men Explain Things to Me was written so long ago (God, 2011 was "long ago," I feel old). "Male answer syndrome" is real, y'all.

Then there was the section on the "opposite" of impostor syndrome: irrational self-confidence syndrome, or ISC. It was fascinating to read about, and definitely observable in people I know... and a certain someone in the White House. Yikes.

Speaking of, I hated how often the Trumps were cited as a success story in this book. That didn't age well.

There was also a line that implied the author believes women "let" men talk over them. Which kind of annoyed me. A lot.

And the whole section trying to explain the difference between "bullshitting" and "lying" just did not resonate with me. Seemed like the author was bending over backwards to defend liars.

But overall I enjoyed this book, and I learned a lot of infuriating statistics (i.e. that women working in the sciences in Sweden had to try 2.5 times as hard as men to be rewarded for their work). There were also moments where I felt extremely called out. Not only am I a writer who has been working on the same project for, ohh, 5 years now, but I just started a new job. This job is way above the level I was at just a year ago, as far as experience goes, so I feel super under-prepared and question myself every day. I hope what I've read here will pay off in the long run and help me feel more confident in my day job work.

3/5 stars.
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