This Week: If you’ve ever found yourself making excuses for achievements or shrugging off compliments given to you by your peers, get ready for a life-changing discussion about the Imposter Syndrome with Dr. Valerie Young.
The latest episode of the 7 Days to Amazing podcast is about finding, understanding and eliminating the psychological barriers preventing women from embracing their full potential. My guest, Dr. Valerie Young, is a leading expert and keynote speaker on the Imposter Syndrome, the phenomenon of self-sabotage.
Dr. Young discusses The Imposter Syndrome, why successful women can see themselves as failures, and the importance of re-framing your mindset when it comes to “playing small”. The Imposter Syndrome is the idea that we often times undermine or ignore our own excellence… minimizing the impact or value that we produce.
It is a very real psychological phenomenon – and suffering from the Imposter Syndrome can limit the amazing life and feelings of confidence that you deserve. What you need to understand is that you can acknowledge these self-doubts, re-frame your mindset, and own your own brilliance! The world needs greatness… but you are the one that has to let it out into the universe.
Want to learn more about the Imposter Syndrome? Head over to Dr. Valerie Young’s website, www.ImposterSyndrome.com to get all the info you need.
You can also visit Amazon to purchase her book, “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women”.
Make sure you also head over to Dr. Young’s other website www.Changingcourse.com to learn how to make a living doing what you love!
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Welcome to the Seven Days to Amazing Podcast where you learn how to make your life, business, and style even more amazing in the next week! Now your host, Sharon Haver, of FocusOnStyle.com.
Sharon Haver: Hello chic-sters, I am Sharon haver and you are about to be ah-mazed!
I have a very special guest on today’s episode of 7 days to Amazing. Dr. Valerie Young of impostersyndrome.com is an internationally known expert on… impostor syndrome. She is the author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.
Valerie is also a thought leader in the field of outside the job box career advising and believes that if you want to stop feeling like an impostor you have to stop thinking like an impostor.
As a former manager at a Fortune 200 company herself, Valerie has shared her highly relatable and practical advice to executives, managers, and professionals in the US, Canada, and Europe at dozens of major corporations, law firms and
over 80 higher learning institutions including repeat engagements at Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Valerie’s sharp wit, humor and insight has made her a popular speaker to over 80,000 people for such highly diverse organizations ranging from the Society of Women Engineers to Romance Writers of America. Her work has been cited around the world in dozens of popular and business magazines such as The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, Inc, Glamour, More magazine, and O magazine.
Valerie earned her doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where her research focused on understanding and eliminating the psychological barriers preventing women from embracing their full potential in school and in the workplace.
Additionally, Valerie is the founder of ChangingCourse.com where she shows career change seekers how they can create a living doing what they love. Now in its 21sth year, her Changing Course newsletter is read by over 23,000 people worldwide.
I know so many otherwise smart, savvy, and successful people who secretly think that they are not as amazing as other folks think they are and…. feel like a fraud at times. So if you ever second-guessed your assets or suffer from self doubt, today, Valerie will share how to start to kick feeling like an imposter to the curb …
WELCOME DR VALERIE YOUNG, THRILLED TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US TODAY.
Dr. Valerie Young: I am honored that you asked me, Sharon.
Sharon Haver: Thank you. So in full disclosure, Valerie and I met at a… what do you want to call it, Valerie? Speaking organization? Speaker training?
Dr. Valerie Young: Boot camp.
Sharon Haver: It is a high-level boot camp. A yearlong boot camp!
First of all she’s a very well-known keynote speaker across the country. I just always have been impressed with the way you have this very light wit while teaching people and talking to people who live in secret. That’s what ‘impostor syndrome’ is. If you want to just explain what impostor syndrome is to people, and maybe some people never thought about it, you realize that they secretly have their own self-doubt within themselves.
Dr. Valerie Young: Yes, absolutely. And thank you for that great introduction, Sharon.
It is very common. Actually the first time I heard about the imposter phenomenon, as it’s more accurately known in the world of psychology, I was about 22 years old. I was in a doctoral program at Umass Amherst. The same school where my mom was working as a night janitor! Somebody brought in a paper by Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, the two psychologists who first coined the term ‘the imposter phenomenon’. They started describing how these bright, capable, and competent people felt like. The thinking here for the imposter, Sharon, is, ‘’sure, I’m successful, but I can explain all that’’.
We dismiss, diminish or just flat-out ignore evidence of our abilities by saying, ‘well, I was just lucky.’ Or right time right place or if they thought your presentation was great. And, you say, ‘well, it’s just because they like me and they were just being nice or somebody helps me get the job or somebody help me with the project. So, we come up with these external reasons for success and we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop that we’re going to be found out.
Sharon Haver: Yeah, I know and it’s so funny because when I was a stylist particularly, I know that in modeling and fashion and entertainment, there is always this element of being the right person at the right place at the right time. But in business in life and all so sorts of other things are working for your accomplishments, just making good on yourself and just doing the differences to make yourself stand out in a crowd. That’s where I find so many people really just feel like a fraud because of what they’ve done: “ do you think she’s going to find out like I didn’t read that paper last night, do you think you’re going to find out that I like I ran into that meeting five minutes late and I did this.” It’s just like I know for myself too. It’s like I grew up in a way where I was always self-doubting my accomplishments as a kid and I don’t know why I don’t know where it came from. But I know when I look back at it I look at my resume and I’m like, wow! I did that? That’s pretty cool!
I’ve been in so many different kinds of media and I’ve done so many different things and people ask how did you do it? Well, I don’t know! And I realized that I suffer from it sometimes and then somehow you have to put yourself forward and be able to stand strong and have the confidence in yourself that you can live up to what other people think you are. How does someone break that habit and be able to get to this point where they can stop pinching themselves that it’s real and not feeling like there is a fraud. And being able to stand proud and tall and confident.
Dr. Valerie Young: Sure. It was such a lots of things that we can do. But in terms of talking our success up to things like luck or timing or personality or connections, I think it’s really important to recognize Sharon, that all of these things could play a legitimate role…
Sharon Haver: Absolutely!
Dr. Valerie Young: …after all of our success. Instead of seeing them as an excuse you might want to step back and say, okay, yeah boy that was a lucky break that I ran into that person at this networking event on the day that they happen to be looking for someone with my expertise. That’s pretty darn lucky. But it’s what you did with that really matters. Because we all know people – and we’ve also probably have done – who have made some amazing connections and then not follow through or followed up. Maybe somebody did help you get your foot in the door maybe you had a family member or friend who helped put in a good word or got you the job. That’s great. Lucky you. But once you were there it was you. Plus, nobody would recommend or refer someone if they didn’t think they could do it because it would be a poor reflection on them. I have a section in my book called ‘what’s luck got to do with it. it’s just that you can look at any high school yearbook from an affluent community and see all kinds of people who had amazing connections and we’re very privileged in many ways and who very much fail to live up to their potential. Who didn’t take advantage of those things? I think it’s important to recognize that those things are a legitimate factor.
Sharon Haver: Absolutely. Also, once that door is open for you and you’re on the other side of the door. You got to make sure it doesn’t shut behind you. you really have to prove yourself just like I think we all have to do every day in the life is just do your best. The other thing I find so interesting is I know when I had one of my first job it was in college. I was an intern and I was quickly promoted to marketing manager. It was a plastics trade magazines. But when I went into that first job I remember on the other side of the cubicle was this woman whose name is Lenore – we’ll leave her last name open – I remember her. I walked in – I was in college and I must’ve been 18-19 years old and it was supposedly an [inaudible] job but I heard, ‘Aww, she’s never going to work. She’s too pretty, she’s never going to work. It really stuck with me. I worked my butt off nine million times to prove that I was not that little cute privileged Twinkie that she thought I was. I realized that little moment stayed with me so long in my life of constantly trying to prove especially when I wasn’t on the fashion side and on the business side that I can do it. That was how I dealt with impostor syndrome in a way of feeling like they’re going to find me out, they’re going to think because I’m in fashion or I’m in a style that I’m not little Twinkie who can’t do anything. I thought I worked 90 times harder than anyone else to prove that I have a well-rounded business brain. I have a different background, I look at it differently or we’re all our own unique special little snowflakes and this is just part of me. how does someone get to that point where they can have to stop proving themselves because they feel like someone’s going to think they’re just sort of [inaudible].
Dr. Valerie Young: Depending on the situation as we probably all need to continue to prove ourselves. That’s especially true. when you gave an example know she thinking you’re too attractive how could she you be competent at the same time, but there’s also what is truth to the fact that a sense of belonging foster’s confidence. When we go into a field or workplace or show up at a conference the more people who look like us the more confident we feel. Conversely, if there’s not a lot of folks who look like us that it can affect our confidence. I say that because whatever you belong, Sharon, to a group for whom there are stereotypes about competence that can be based on gender, based on race, based on disability or, in part, your example age. We all probably know what it’s like to be the youngest person in a group and have people make assumptions about our competence. For you, she was also probably responding to your being young. We all know what’s it like to be young and people assume. Many of us in our experience feel the opposite.
Sharon Haver: But that’s what’s there in a group of millennials.
Dr. Valerie Young: when I was at Facebook I said how many of you have ever felt like you’re the oldest person in the group and people are judging you. The thirty-year-olds raise their hand. Which cracked me up. But there is the reality that sometimes whether you like that role or chose that role, sadly you have to represent your entire group and prove that you deserve to be there. Or you can reject that and say, ‘you know what I’m just going to do the best job I can knowing people might make assumptions about my confidence.
Think about it, if Mitt Romney had won the presidency eight years back, every Mormon on the planet would have been holding their breath and say, oh god don’t screw up because you represent our entire group. Same thing if Clinton had won all the women would’ve said, ‘please don’t screw up. I say that because I think it is important to put imposture feelings into a social context. We know people who were living or working in another country or immigrants or first generation to go to college or first-generation to become a professional, there are lots of groups who are more susceptible. One thing highly specific to the whole style industry is whenever you’re in a creative field you’re more susceptible. Because you’re only as good as your last performance. Whether that was as an actor, an artist, a musician or a designer. You’re being judged by people whose job title is professional critic.
Dr. Valerie Young: That’s what happens when you have the creative block. Ta ta, see you next time.
Sharon Haver: Exactly. It’s all very subjective. I mean one person could love your performance and another person hates it.
Dr. Valerie Young: Well that’s actually very interesting. Let’s talk about things being subjective because. I know so many times, especially when I started and when I was a stylist on a photo shoot like, there would be people who would be so mean. I remember working with this one photographer and he had this psychotic saying about black sneakers if anybody wore black sneakers he would just go completely off the rails because he had an ex-wife who wore black sneakers. and everyone would be sitting there saying I don’t know if I could do this, I don’t know if he likes me, but he was just a jerk with an obsession with black sneakers. When it is something like this in a situation where it is so subjective how could somebody realize that my opinion is no different than your opinion they’re just opinions you know. how do you get past that to be able to stand up for yourself and just have the confidence to say, hey it’s just an opinion it doesn’t matter I’m still great I still know what I’m doing.
Dr. Valerie Young: I think you should say exactly those words to yourself – it’s just an opinion. I have a right, I’m entitled to my opinion as much as the next person is. The thing about people who don’t feel like an imposture is there no more intelligent or capable or talented or creative than the rest of us. The only difference between them and us is they think different thoughts which is actually a really good news because it means we can learn how to think like a non-imposter.
Sharon Haver: How would you do that?
Dr. Valerie Young: I’ll give an example. There was a woman who she said I feel like an imposter because everyone else on the executive team is brilliantly articulate and I’m not. I knew what I was supposed to say. I was supposed to say, ‘oh I’m sure you’re brilliantly articulate’. But that’s not what I said. I said well maybe you’re not. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not brilliantly articulate and I’m good at two things and I’m okay with a bunch of other stuff and then I suck at most things. But when you feel like an imposter you assume you’re supposed to be brilliant at everything. Instead of giving yourself credit for the things she was brilliant at. She was actually a great leader.
Sharon Haver: how do you get past this? If you have to give people a couple of tips on how you can identify yourself and get past that. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re sucky. When I work with a lot of women entrepreneurs and I know a lot of Facebook groups, the impostor syndrome bites up in a different way. When you’re talking about age and Millennials I find sometimes I’m in a group and find someone really young and she’s starting out in the industry and I’ll be coming in there and say, oh thank you that’s great you ask the question and I’ll answer it. I’m really big on acknowledgment. If somebody goes out of their way to help you whether or not you take the advice or not just say thank you and acknowledge them or hit the like button. I’ll see that they squirm and then it kind of weird. I realize it’s not that they’re being mean don’t appreciate it or not acknowledging it but it’s actually their impostor syndrome. It’s their way of not feeling their self-worth in that group. Do you see a lot of that happening more in interactions on Facebook, in networking and organizations? Especially as a business owner or with women who are changing careers. Who are now stepping forward in their own businesses or being an entrepreneur speaker? Or suddenly being online where the cameras are on you. Everyone sees you online. You nobody can be hiding. I know I’m rambling in a bunch of questions here but if someone’s in that situation, what are the top things they can do to sort of stand up in that group and not feel crazy about themselves and retreat.
Dr. Valerie Young: That’s a great question. I often see that when giving someone feedback that could genuinely help them. I had a similar example. Somebody reached out to me on LinkedIn. It was a template that she sent to a lot of people of which I am not a big fan. She was trying to promote her publicist business and her website. I haven’t seen a worse website in a long time. It was truly horrendous. I wrote and I said, ‘I just hope you take this in the spirit it’s intended and gave her some advice. I couldn’t know how women respond to criticism. I really tried to soften it. But, she was very upset. She’s an award-winning web designer and she designed it herself. But, it was a horrible site.
Sharon Haver: There are a lot of really horrible sites. For me as a stylist, it’s the aesthetic of seeing things or presenting yourself in a way you want to be perceived and feeling confident about yourself. It extends to how you show up in a meeting, how you show up on a stage, how you show up in life, how you show up on Facebook, how your website shows up and there are a lot of crappy websites out there. When you look at these things and you see these people who say,’ well I am the best in my field and I know how to do this fabulous elevator kitchen so come to my site. Oh my god. 1989 HTML code in these horrible colors and you look like you’re still wearing your 1989 yearbook photo outfit. How can you have the bravado to say you’re so great when it’s very bad?
Dr. Valerie Young: at least fix the typos. I asked her to fix the typos. The example really is about people who don’t feel like imposters and they seek out feedback. I said to her that I pay tens of thousands of dollars to get good feedback. I don’t want to pay somebody to mentor or coach me who’s going to say, you’re great Valerie, good job. I want somebody who’s going to point out the pros and cons. I don’t take that personally. If someone says to you that report was inadequate, what we hear is ‘I’m an adequate’. We let it mean more about who we are as a person. I refer to it as reframing
You’re looking for very concrete tips people can do. Start by becoming aware of what’s the conversation in your head. In other words, if you’re going to fill in the blank or if I was really competent, capable, intelligent, and talented I’d never write always which I should. Because we have these crazy expectations. I’d always know the answer I’d never get it wrong. I’d never have an off day. I’d do everything perfectly. I wouldn’t need any help. All these nutty things that we think we should do. When you have a situation and you become aware of what’s that thought running through your head to consciously stop and say, ‘okay how an imposter would reframe that exact same thing.
Let me give you an example. This woman was asked to make a presentation at the last minute by her company. She knocked it out of the park. Everyone said it was fabulous but she didn’t believe that because she feels like an imposter. Her response was, ’oh man that was just a bunch of BS that I threw together at the last minute. I said no. The reframe here is ‘wow’ how good am I? I can pull together information at the eleventh hour that other people genuinely find useful.
Sharon Haver: That is searching. We’re going to make that excludable. That’s is a great quote. For listeners, that’s a brilliant reference.
Dr. Valerie Young: Here’s the thing. Let’s say she hadn’t done a great job. You can be disappointed. People who don’t feel like impostures they don’t like to fail, they don’t like to make a mistake, they don’t want to get criticisms and they don’t love it. But they don’t feel shame when any of those things happen. People who like imposters, we experience shame. How can you start acting like an imposter? When somebody comes up and says’ ‘you did a great job, our tendency is to explain why we don’t deserve that compliment. Let me do some true confessions and I’ll get you to see the typo or did you notice I lost my train of thoughts, let me explain to you why I don’t deserve that. As opposed to saying, number one, thank you.
Number two, wouldn’t it be great to get to a place where you say thank you so much what one thing I could have done even better is. Because non-imposters seek out opportunities to get better because they don’t expect themselves to ever be finished or done or perfect. They’re work in progress. If you fail you can be deeply disappointed for days. You’ll be crushed four days. It’s okay. But then you got to shake it off after a couple of days ago. What did I learn and what am I going to do differently next time so this doesn’t happen again.
Sharon Haver: But I think what a lot of people like imposters and people who crap out themselves and or even people who just hold themselves in a little too high in esteem, which I guess sometimes is a pretty framing from being an imposter, is we all make mistakes. We all have crazy days. We all don’t do our best all the time. If somebody is to teaching you learn from them, learn how other people are perceiving you, learn what your work is showing up and take that as a stepping stone to be better next time. Maybe won’t be better next time. I think it’s just being able to stand strong and know that not everyone is perfect every day. I know people online, so many women particularly more than men who create this perfect existence of themselves. Isn’t that exhausting? When you see people who put this very fake beautiful world for themselves, is that actual sort of a reverse way of your own imposter syndrome. You’re trying to present yourself as someone who you’re not. Because you’re afraid to be who you are.
Dr. Valerie Young: I don’t know. That’s a complicated question. That’s interesting for a lot of people in business. You’re trying to present a particular image of yourself. Whether it’s a personality or brand. You’re not always going to share nor should you really should. Share all of your trials and tribulations. But at the same time, I think you’re absolutely right Sharon, because of social media it’s so easy to compare ourselves and just assume other people aren’t having financial ups and downs or bad days. Or if they’re always making it sound like everything is incredible. Then something is probably wrong.
Sharon Haver: Everyone doesn’t look so gorgeous every day. Not unless they have a glam squad following them around. Who wants that life? We have a couple of minutes left. We spoke about reframing which I think is a just genius. Do you think is there any other subtle tips that you’d like to share on how the audience can make their life more amazing this weekend. Maybe how can they recognize impostor syndrome in themselves that they never even thought about?
Dr. Valerie Young: I think the big one is that I often say to my audiences how many of you would love to feel confident 24/7. Everyone raised their hand. My response is good luck with that. It’s not how it works. I used to give people ten things they could do. At the end of the talk, now and then somebody would come up to the mic and say this is great but is there anything else we can do. I would always say, of the things I just gave you what have you tried. Well, nothing but is there anything else we can do. I took decades to realize Sharon, what they wanted was to walk in the door feeling like an imposter struggling with confidence and walk out the door not feeling that way. I realized that I have to explain it but I wasn’t being clear. Now I’m very clear in saying that feelings are the last to change. Again if you want to stop feeling like an imposter you have to stop thinking like an imposter. Don’t focus so much how you feel. Focus on your thoughts. let’s say you’ve got an interview coming up, you’ve got an audition coming up, it’s your first client or wherever that imposter moment is going to come up recognize that your body doesn’t know the difference between fear and excitement. Sweaty palms, nervous stomach when you’re walking up to the microphone or into the meeting you have to say to yourself I’m excited. I’m excited! That you don’t believe it. That’s okay as long as you keep doing the thing that you think you can’t do and you’re scared to do. Because the more you do it the more you tell yourself you’re excited and you act like a confident person, over time you will start feeling that way. The feelings will catch up. Its thought, behaviors, then feelings.
Sharon Haver: basically you project yourself in a way as being perceived as the person you want to be perceived as.
Dr. Valerie Young: Yes. But with the thoughts behind it. Say to yourself I’m entitled to make a mistake. I’m entitled to be wrong. I’m entitled to have an off day. I’m entitled to not know all the answers. If you don’t know something that’s fine. I want you to not know with confidence. I want you to be like, ‘excuse me, I’m confused about what you’re saying, could you say that another way. I want you to feel entitled to not know.
Sharon Haver: that’s so hard for people to do because then you’re admitting you’re not perfect and that opens up all that other Pandora’s box of worms or whatever is in the Pandora’s Box.
Dr. Valerie Young: Right. Which is imposter thinking? The imposters think I should know a hundred and fifty percent
Sharon Haver: in reality, you should just be confident in knowing you know what you know.
Dr. Valerie Young: Well, you know what you know and you’re smart enough to figure out the rest. I don’t know all kinds of stuff but with the internet, there’s no excuse. You can always figure it out and the more you do anything the better you’ll get. The more you speak the better speaker will be. The more you write the better writer you’d be. The more you design clothes the better clothing designer you’ll be. Join the mere mortals like the rest of us and just allow yourself to be a learning curve and try to keep getting better
Sharon Haver: there’s another thing you can do on the internet. You can go to impostorsyndrome.com. Hear that folks, impostorsyndrome.com and you will learn more about Valerie. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I wish we could do an hour on this so that we can get a little more science, more shrink, and more into it. but I think this is just a really great way for people to not get afraid, not get scared and realized that sometimes feeling down is just part of the game. It’s learning how to not have that hold you back and to have your head just held high.
Valerie does you want to just give us a couple of little going away points that can sum it up. I think the reframing is just so genius and it’s so easy. But easier said than done. If you want to, just one more time, let everyone know what would be another one takeaway.
Dr. Valerie Young: I would say the goal is to continue not trying to feel like an imposter. Because what everybody wants is the cure. When you recognize that a certain amount of self-doubt is not only normal but healthy. It’s not about never feeling like an imposter. That’s not my goal. It’s about having the tools and the insight and the language and the reframes to be able to talk yourself down faster. When you have that imposter feeling I want you to have an imposter moment or maybe a 24-hour news cycle and not an imposter life.
Sharon Haver: That’s great. I think that’s a wrap-up. I think that’s it. Again, if people want to connect with you want them to go to impostorsyndrome.com.
Valerie, what about your other site? You want to tell them that and the newsletter.
Dr. Valerie Young: Sure. Changingcourse.com. I’ve been doing that for 21 years helping people figure out how to make a living doing what you love without a job.
Sharon Haver: isn’t that great. Who wants a job? I certainly don’t have managed to have an entire career. Since that plastics magazine, I haven’t really had that many jobs. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 30 years and I think doing what you love is the best thing. I think for me it’s like when you do what you love you feel confident and if you’re not doing what you love that’s what I think is second-guessing yourself. That comes from just being old doing it for a long time!
I want to thank you for being here today. For everyone else’s again Valerie can be found at impostersyndrome.com. If you think you’ve got a little self-doubt, every once in awhile I really encourage you to hop over to her site and learn more and to pick up Valerie’s book. You can find all that good stuff on her site. If you’re ever at a speaking event or meeting or some form of higher institutions, there’s probably a good chance you’ll see Dr. Valerie Young on a stage telling you more
Thank you for being here and that’s the wrap-up.
Dr. Valerie Young: Thank you, Sharon.
Sharon Haver: You’re welcome.
Announcer: That’s a wrap. Well not so fast. Don’t forget to hop over to focus on style.com for exclusive content to help you live your most amazing life with style and success. For even more great stuff that Sharon only shares by email, subscribe to her in the know list at www.focusonstyle.com /insiders
See you next time
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