Impostor Syndrome- What is it Really?

The term Impostor Syndrome gets tossed around a lot these days.  I thought I’d share with you the origins of this concept, what it really means and how to gauge if you exhibit any Impostor Syndrome characteristics.

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The Origins of IP

IP (Impostor Phenomenon) was coined by Pauline Rose Clance, Ph. D in the late 70’s after she strangely experienced feeling like a fraud amongst her peer group in grad school, but couldn’t explain why.  She thought that she would fail exams even though she was well prepared, she felt other students around her were smarter than her and that she was passing her classes based on luck and was really just a “fraud” in school.

Later in life when she was teaching at a University, she realized that a lot of her female students had similar thoughts and feelings that she had when she was in grad school. Here she began her research on this topic and the originals of Impostor Phenomenon began.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.[2]

Psychologists hypothesis that Impostor Syndrome is most common among high achieving women.  Interestingly, many women experience it for the first time while in graduate school.  (A very intense and high stress experience.)

It’s not surprising that we see Impostor Syndrome among women at coding bootcamps since bootcamps are (in many ways) similar to graduate school.

  • The expectations are higher
  • The lessons move very quickly
  • There is a lot of work outside the classroom
  • You need deep focus & discipline to succeed
  • You get very little sleep
  • It’s a highly competitive environment.

Further research also shows that IP can be even more pervasive among women of color from marginalized populations. The research regarding Impostor Syndrome has traditionally highlighted groups who are “excelling in areas that were not always readily accessible to them”.[2]

This would certainly be applicable to women in tech.  (A culture dominated my males where female credibility can be tested on a constant basis.)  We hear stories of female software engines being the only female on their team, sometimes second guessed by their bosses, and even asked if a project was in fact “their own work”.   This is a high stakes environment where women are not always expected to necessarily succeed. Knowing more about IP and how it works can be helpful in understanding your own thoughts and views regarding your own success.

Here are a few sample questions from Dr. Clance’s  Impostor Phenomenon scale. 

  1. I have often succeeded on a test or task even though I was afraid that I would not do well before I undertook the task.

(not at all true)    (rarely)    (sometimes)   (often)   (very true)

  1. I can give the impression that I’m more competent than I really am.

(not at all true)    (rarely)    (sometimes)   (often)   (very true)

  1. I avoid evaluations if possible and have a dread of others evaluating me.

(not at all true)    (rarely)    (sometimes)   (often)   (very true)

*Sample questions may not be representative of the entire 20-item scale. To access FULL scale permission, please contact Dr. Clance (drpaulinerose@comcast.net).  

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When do I Introduce my Daughter to Code?

Introducing Girls to Code

As a VP at Hackbright Academy, (the leading coding school for women) people always ask, “What is the best age to introduce my daughter to code?”  My answer.… “As soon as possible!”  The same goes for all the STEM sciences (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math.)   It’s never to early to introduce a child to something new. The next question they ask is always– How?

Every child is different, but why not expose them to “all things science” early on in a fun way.  There are: science museums, science based board games and video games, science based TV shows, experiments you can watch on Youtube, great tutorials by Khan academy, coding camps for kids, and the list goes on.  The earlier any child is exposed to something new, the more it opens their eyes to possibility. It makes them curious about the world.  First hand exposure is always a great tool and it provides a safe environment for children to ask questions if they are a bit shy.Unknown

The other day I passed a dad and daughter on the street.  They were crouched down on the sidewalk looking at something. (I’d say the daughter was about 7 years old.) Once I got closer, I could see that they were inspecting an acorn.  A very large and lonely acorn that seemed out of place on such a busy city street.  Where did it come from? The dad was talking about what an acorn is, what it does, the shell, how it will spout, etc. He was also taking the time to answer all his daughter’s questions. It was a wonderful exchange and teachable moment that they were both clearly enjoying. He didn’t rush by the acorn on the sidewalk, he stopped and took notice of his daughter’s curiosity.  He used the opportunity to teach her about nature.  This type of time and patience helps ignite curiously in kids. So, introduce your child to code (or any science) when you are ready to dive in and be part of the conversation with them. If they see that you are engaged and curious then they will be too.

If you need help identifying some great reseources for your child, just reach out! 

Great Self-Esteem Exercise for Teens: The Mirror Exercise.

Girl-Looking-MirrorGuest Blog by Christina Verzijl 

Some days looking in the mirror can be more upsetting than anything else. On those days, thoughts tend to flood my mind that are centered on the parts I don’t like about myself like, “I hate my thighs” or “I wish my stomach was flatter.” In today’s society, the mirror represents a way for girls and women to pick apart their flaws and find all the parts of themselves that need “fixing.”

But, have no fear because I have discovered a new way to use and love the mirror! In a sense, we are taking back the mirror and using it to show our strengths rather than concentrating on the aspects society tells us are flaws. In the Body Project Program, we call this exercise the Mirror Exercise. The Mirror Exercise consists of standing in front of the mirror, with as little clothing as possible and writing a list of 10-15 positive characteristics or qualities you are satisfied with. These characteristics include both emotional and physical qualities. And most importantly, we can like certain body parts for how they look, but also for what they can do for us. For instance, I love my muscular legs for how they look, but I also like them for how they help me run and do yoga.

I do this exercise once a week, and it has allowed me to completely transform the way I use the mirror. Before discovering the Mirror Exercise, I used the mirror to concentrate on all the parts of myself that I wanted to change. Now, I feel empowered when I make a point to stand in front of the mirror and compliment myself. It’s an amazing thing to transform the use of an object from causing self-hate to producing self-love. Because, in the end, my body allows me to do so many amazing things and those amazing things are what I need to be concentrating on and appreciating every time I look at my reflection.

Christina Verzijl has implemented Body Project 4 High Schools in Texas. She hopes that this positive body image program will help girls to learn to love themselves and their bodies one group at a time!