This blog post by Female Computer Scientist talks about how the syndrome is just as common among men as it is among women, even though there seems to be some kind of notion that it's more common among females. If you just do a web search for 'impostor syndrome' you will also find thousands of results on the topic.
Talking to others (both men and women), I started realizing just how many people feel this to some extent. Even people who seem so confident on the outside, like they always know exactly what they're doing, experience some internal levels of self-doubt. I think it boils down to the idea that "the more you learn, the less you realize you know." (I'm not sure who said it; I've read Socrates, Plato, Einstein...) In essence, people who know a lot start to realize that they really don't know much, and they feel like an impostor. That's just my take on it, but I do think there is some correlation.
So, I thought I would share a quick list of tips I picked up from the panel, for any of us college kids who feel less confident than we should in our abilities! These are their tips on overcoming 'impostoritis,' for being better than you expected, as well as any other professional tips to give yourself confidence.
- Practice, practice, practice and you will gain more self-confidence
- Surround yourself with supportive friends and family
- Just accept self-doubt as part of you
- Do things that scare you
- Look back as well as ahead (if you're unhappy with your current situation, know that good things will come out of it. There is always a silver lining)
- Be open and aware of new opportunities (serendipity)
- Network with other professionals
- Get involved to increase your visibility. Make others know who you are!
- Act confident and eventually you won't need to pretend anymore
- Follow the path, but question it occasionally
- Listen and be an active learner
One of the women defined an impostor as being wishy-washy and over-accommodating to others' opinions. That is, you need to find a happy medium between being wishy-washy and being rigid; being over-accommodating and being closed-minded. The idea is to hold your own opinion, but still maintain flexibility. To avoid wishy-washiness, you need to look at the higher goal and make a decision based on what you know. If you try to accommodate everybody and make everyone 100% satisfied, nothing will ever get accomplished. A final point that she made was regarding failure: if you have failed at something, who has defined this as a failure? You may think you have failed, but in the overall picture it was not a failure and something good came out of it.
In closing, a quote from the wonderful Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”