Dr. Denise Martinez
“So many people feel the imposter syndrome and we just don’t talk about it enough, particularly in these kinds of environments...”
Denise A. Martinez, MD

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome: We believe that imposter syndrome is “what I think I know” vs. “what I think others know”. However, imposter syndrome is more like “what what I know” and “what others know”, and all of this information intersects.  Imposter syndrome is belief that we are not who we say we are, or who people think we are, and that one day we will be “figured out” or exposed by someone. Dr. Martinez highlights that imposter syndrome is an ugly beast that needs to be stomped down in our lives, on a regular basis.

Explaining Away: When we have imposter syndrome, we explain away all of the good things that happen to us. For example, we say that it was just our luck or timing, that “…the program had low expectations” or there was a computer error. We might say that it was because we are just “likeable” or come up with other creative excuses.

Diagnosing the Imposter Syndrome

  • Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as smart or capable as they think you are?
  • Do you sometimes shy away from challenges because of nagging-self doubt?
  • Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke”, “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
  • Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
  • Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness”?
  • Do you believe that other people (students, colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable than you are?
  • Do you live in fear of being found out, discovered, unmasked?

If you answer “yes” to a number of these questions, then the diagnosis is imposter syndrome.

(Taken from Dr. Valerie Young, www.impostersyndrome.com)

Crushing Imposter Syndrome

According to Dr. Denise Martinez, there are 7 ways to crush the imposter syndrome:

  1. First try to recognize imposter syndrome in yourself (70% women professionals do)

  1. Second, recognize we all have imposter syndrome. Everyone feels like an imposter sometimes, and that’s okay.

  1. Third, fake it till you make it. Behave like you are supposed to be at that table and contribute to the conversation at the table.

  1. Look objectively at the things that you have accomplished. Journal it, or write it in a list. Not everything that you have been able to do is a because of a fluke.

  1. Get external validation. When someone is willing to say good things to you, allow it to sink in.

  1. Just talk about it. If you are feeling imposter-y go to friends or mentors because this is amazing what it can do. The more that we are able to talk about it. We are able to normalize it and realize that it is actually not the truth.

  1. Be yourself. Celebrate your success and internalize it when it happens.

Additional Questions for Discussion

Consider when you felt like an Imposter? What was the message you told yourself? What are the ways that you can silence those messages through your own work and support from this community of Womxn at Iowa? What are some success of yours that you are not taking ownership of?

Other Resources

Impostor Syndrome Expert Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://impostersyndrome.com/

Obama, M. (2018). Becoming. Diversified Publishing.