Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Imposter WISE women (Part 1 of 2)

“It seems that you have the imposter syndrome” told me a good friend of mine when I was talking about my new job, which I didn’t think I would get. I had never heard about it before, and it was until Grace Hopper 2008 that I heard about it again.

I was very surprised to see the room full, even with people standing for the Imposter Panel. My initial thought was: Do all of these women share my feelings? And it was confirmed when the moderator started the panel with the question: “Who has felt as an impostor in her life?” And everyone raised their hands. I was even more surprised to hear that these feelings were very common in WISE women.

The panellist were successful, recognized women in industry and academia. One by one, the panellists completed the sentence: “I feel an imposter when...”

These are some of their answers:

  • I am in new situations (new school, new job, etc.).
  • I don’t understand what people are talking about.
  • I get asked to do things I don’t feel qualified for.
  • I do something that successful people do.
  • I do something that women don’t often do.

One of the panellists shared that she used to feel an impostor attending a math conference (1975), giving a talk (1980) or meeting Nobel laureates (2000) but she does not feel like that anymore in those circumstances. However, has attended lots of conferences and given many talks without that feeling. However, she still feels and impostor meeting philanthropists and asking for large amounts of funding for her University.

If you have ever felt as an imposter, you know by now that you’re not the only one. Is there a “cure” for this syndrome? In the next post I will tell you what the panellists have done to deal with it.

Keep tuned and share your “imposter” stories!


Rikki said...

I first heard about imposter syndrome when I was in grad school and had just accepted the position of Managing Editor of Linux Pro Magazine. I spoke about it at SCALE7x and then wrote about it here:

I think a lot of women (and men) haven't heard of imposter syndrome, but relate to it when you tell them about it.

Natalia Villanueva-Rosales said...

Thanks for your comment Rikki. I agree with you, most of us don't know about it until someone else tell us about it. Hopefully we'll be able to reach many WISE women when the symptoms start. :-)

Barbora Dej said...

I also first heard about the imposter syndrome at the Grace Hopper Conference in 2008 and found that I related to it. I have always felt like an imposter at school, at my coop jobs, and at technical conferences. But I didn't realize that many people feel this way and that it's okay not to feel 100% comfortable in every environment. It takes courage to go into environments you aren't completely comfortable it. And challenging yourself is always a good thing because if you're not failing enough, you're not trying enough.