Sound familiar? Imposter syndrome alert!
A whopping 70 per cent of people feel insecure and unworthy of their accomplishments, according to Dr Valerie Young, an international expert on the psychological phenomenon called ‘impostor syndrome’. And she says it is more common among women in STEM for a few reasons.
‘In STEM – and other fields like medicine and creative arts – imposter syndrome is more common because the rate of change and advancement is so rapid, no human could ever keep up – but we feel we should.’
‘For women and racial minorities, it’s also about numbers,’ she adds. ‘A sense of belonging fosters confidence. Plus negative gender or racial stereotypes also make you susceptible to impostor syndrome.’
Valerie says imposter syndrome can strike in the early years, with girls often taking constructive feedback more personally than boys.
‘Girls are generally more likely to internalise mistakes and criticism whereas boys and men are more likely to look for reasons outside of themselves. For example, they’ll think, “The teacher didn’t give us enough time to study” or “The other team cheated”,’ says Valerie.
Jacinta Sporton, a biomedical researcher and sonographer with Imaging Queensland, says she started experiencing imposter syndrome soon after she was promoted.
‘I was suddenly in a leadership role and I thought I was too junior,’ she says. ‘I almost quit multiple times when people questioned my decisions. I felt constantly judged and it made me think I wasn’t worthy.’
Jacinta has worked hard and stayed upbeat despite these feelings, and she has excelled in her role now for three years.
‘I don’t think I can claim to have overcome imposter syndrome but I have certainly chipped away to a point where I feel I am worthy and doing a good job,’ she says.
‘I have the support of some wonderful colleagues. When I’m really struggling, I always talk myself into “sleeping on it” and things always seem brighter in the morning.’
Valerie also has one clear final message:
‘There are people out there who want and deserve to benefit from your knowledge, abilities, and skills. You owe it to yourself, and to all of us, to start acting as bright, capable and powerful as you really are.’