Combating Imposter Syndrome as a Woman in STEM
“Imposter syndrome is experienced by millions of people around the world cross-culturally and describes difficulty internalizing one’s accomplishments and instead attributing their success to other factors. Factors such as luck, timing, ‘some helped me,’ ‘I had connections’ are common examples,” writes Valerie Young in her award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.
While imposter syndrome can be experienced by anyone, it is a widespread problem for gender minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). It is easy to feel out of place when you are the only female student in a STEM class or the only scientists and engineers written about in your textbooks are male.
So how do we overcome it? Here are some tips:
- Take a step back and re-evaluate the conversations you are having with yourself. Is what you are telling yourself something you would say to a friend in a similar situation?
- Remember the facts. You are qualified. You deserve a seat at the table.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. (We know, it’s hard.)
- Let go of perfectionism.
- Find a support system. Talk to friends, family, or trusted coworkers about how you are feeling.
- Be kind to and patient with yourself. Overcoming imposter syndrome takes time.
- Celebrate your wins.
- Embrace failure. After all, it’s how you learn.
Imposter syndrome will not go away overnight. Show yourself compassion and lean on others for support. Changing the culture of STEM and academia to embrace people from underrepresented backgrounds and diverse viewpoints is a team effort.
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