Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women

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The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of ItThe Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It by Valerie Young
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first heard about the Impostor Syndrome through some random article or post. Sadly, I don't remember if it was NPR or something more obscure. Anyway, as soon as I saw the "symptoms," I instantly recognized it. In a way, it was liberating to put a name to what has been dogging me for as long as I can remember. Also, since I'm naturally a little grouchy and bitter about these things, I got kind of annoyed that none of the mental health professionals I've seen over the past decade caught onto this. Granted, the Impostor Syndrome is not a clinical psychiatric problem in the DSM. It's more of a social phenomenon, but it was such a relief to know that I'm not the only one out there who feels like I need to prove something, and if I make a tiny mistake on a project, it means I'm completely incompetent and can never get it right. The worst part of being plagued by this problem is most of us know it's irrational and it's not a helpful way to go around living your life and running your career. It does light a fire under your butt to succeed though, and that can be very motivating. The cost is nothing ever seems like an accomplishment. Everything that goes well is just a "lucky break."

Valerie Young started her work on the Impostor Syndrome as a doctoral student, and began running workshops for women to help them recognize this problem and develop strategies for overcoming it. The workshops became a big hit with men and women. So, even though gender norms and sexism in the workplace exacerbate the Impostor Syndrome, apparently women are not the only ones affected.

Young balances the book between snippets from studies, sociological and psychological underpinnings, and personal experience as a woman with Impostor Syndrome and a trainer. This was a great read and I definitely plan to refer back to it for myself and my clients.

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