Saturday, April 17, 2010

Don't forget to be awesome: Self confidence tricks for those in geeky fields

I write for the Geek Feminism blog, and for the past little while we've been answering reader questions. My latest post there was on a question that might be of interest to CU-WISE folk:

"How do you keep up your inner reserves of self-confidence?"

The poster suggested that this was particularly difficult as a women in science, engineering and technology, because a lot of what you have to do involves trying things and failing a bunch before you figure it out.

I've put together 5 of the tips I usually give to students. Here's the short version:

  1. Remember that you're not alone
  2. Cultivate your shield of arrogance
  3. Find your cheerleading squad
  4. Celebrate your accomplishments
  5. Don’t forget to be awesome

To read more about what I mean by these, check out Self Confidence Tricks @ Here's the first one:

Remember that you're not alone

Lots and lots of very smart people have trouble with self-confidence. In fact, there are so many people who have this problem, that they have a couple of terms regarding the phenomenon:

  • Imposter syndrome refers to the fact that many people feel like they're not good enough to be doing what they're doing. They feel like they're impostors who don't belong and eventually someone will notice and kick them out of the field.
  • Dunning-Kruger effect refers to a very strange cognitive bias: People who are vaguely incompetent will over-rate their abilities, and those who are highly competent will under-rate theirs.

So remember that your insecurity may actually be a sign of intellectual maturity: you've learned enough to understand what you don't know. And remember that some of those people who say they're awesome may not be. Especially in first year computer science, where I teach, there's a lot of blow-hard teenaged boys, and I remind people of that regularly.

[Read the rest on]