About the Book

For the millions of professional women (and men!) who experience the confidence-zapping “Impostor Syndrome,” Valerie Young offers an empowering plan to overcome the needless self-doubt that keeps them from feeling as intelligent and competent as everyone else knows they are.

In her decades of in-the-trenches research on women’s self-limiting feelings and beliefs about themselves and their success, Valerie Young has uncovered the often surprising reasons why so many accomplished women feel as though they are “faking it” – impostors in their own lives and careers.

While impostor syndrome is not unique to women, they are more likely to agonize over tiny mistakes and blame themselves for failure, see even constructive criticism as evidence of their shortcomings and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. When they do succeed, they think “Phew, I fooled ’em again.” Perpetually waiting to be “unmasked” doesn’t just drain a woman’s energy and confidence. It can make her more risk-averse and less self-promoting than her male peers, which can hurt her future success.

In The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, these women finally have a solution: Important insight into why fraud fears are more common in women combined with practical ways to banish the thought patterns that undermine their ability to feel — and act — as bright and capable as they truly are.

Can Men Benefit From This Book?

When psychologists first studied impostor phenomenon, they suspected it was experienced primarily by women.

However, it was quickly determined that a lot of men feel like impostors too.

In fact, it is one of the few psychological issues initially thought to affect primarily women that later was determined to relate to both genders.

(It’s one of the many reasons why I hate the title of the book — a title I didn’t want and fought against, but clearly lost!)

Over the years, I’ve met countless men who suffer terribly from their fraud fears.

Among them a member of the Canadian mounted police, an attorney who’d argued before the Supreme Court,  a professor who won the McArthur “Genius” Award, and an entire team of aerospace engineers, one who spoke of the “sheer terror” he feels when handed a major assignment.

This of course begs the question, if men identify with the impostor syndrome too, why is my book aimed primarily at women?

It’s a legitimate question and frankly one I struggled with. Despite the horrible title, I did include a number of male voices. 

At the same time, for reasons made clear in the book, women as a group continue to be both more susceptible to impostor feelings and held back by them more as well.

The next obvious question is:

Can men who experience impostor syndrome benefit from a book called The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women?

Absolutely!

All the more so if you are a person of color, sprang from working-class roots, work alone, are in a creative field, medicine or technology, work in a highly competitive field, are a student, are an immigrant or are working or studying in another country, have a disability or identify with any of the other “at-risk” groups I talk about in this book.

In fact, anyone who was raised by humans can gain from this book!

Whether you personally experience these feelings or not, male or female, if you lead, teach, mentor, manage or parent others, you need to understand impostor syndrome.

Early in my speaking career I spoke primarily to female audiences for one simple reason — that’s who invited me to speak.

Fast forward and today men attend my talks in nearly equal numbers, especially at universities.

I’ve addressed audiences of men and women at such diverse organizations as IBM, Microsoft, Boeing, Facebook, Intel, BP, Northwest Mutual Life Insurance, Allianz, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and many more.

Partly the change in audience reflects an increased willingness of men to talk about impostor feelings.

But the main reason so many organizations bring me in has to do with the growing awareness that the behaviors associated with impostor syndrome are costly not only to individuals but to organizations as well

A MAPMAKER

“Valerie is a mapmaker. Providing guidelines for discovering our individual penchants for making unsound judgments about our competence and for dealing with inevitable failures, mistakes, and criticisms. I am recommending this book to all my clients and students who suffer with impostor feelings.”

— Dr. Suzanne Imes, CO-COINER OF THE IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON

IMPORTANT INSIGHTS INTO THE IMPOSTOR EXPERIENCE

“Valerie Young’s book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, provides important insights into the impostor experience of very competent women. She provides important knowledge that can help women begin to truly appreciate and acclaim their success.”

— Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., ABPP, CO-COINER OF THE IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON

AS IMPORTANT AS THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE

“The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women may look like an ordinary self-help book, but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Valerie Young has given us a power tool to enrich and expand our lives in ways we may never dared to imagine. Although I’ve been vaguely aware of the impostor syndrome for years, now I not only understand it, but believe this book could inspire a new crusade to stamp out this insidious disorder that has caused so much unhappiness and wasted so much talent. I think The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women is as important as The Feminine Mystique. Quite simply, if you are a woman—or love one—this book belongs in your library.”

— Barbara J. Winter author of Making a Living Without a Job

BANISH THE IMPOSTOR FOR GOOD

“The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women examines a common affliction and offers tools, insight, scientific evidence, and numerous examples that aim to banish the impostor for good. Valerie Young’s diligence, passion for the subject, and belief that anyone can overcome feelings of inadequacy, duplicity, and unworthiness rings loudly throughout The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.”

— NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

CRITICAL RESOURCE FULL OF PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS

“I wish I could have read Dr. Young’s book twenty-five years ago when I was convinced that my acceptance into a prestigious college was a mistake; or 18 years ago when, as a new lawyer, I was naively under the impression that I could compete effectively within a department dominated by men simply by waiting to be noticed for my hard work without self-promoting; or even 12 years ago when I felt like an incompetent fraud after being promoted into my dream job. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women is a critical resource full of practical solutions for the impostor feelings that plague successful women.”

— Ellen J. Duffy, VP and Deputy General Counsel, GENWORTH FINANCIAL

EXTREMELY PERCEPTIVE AND ACTION-ORIENTED SOLUTIONS

“Young explores the “imposter syndrome”—why accomplished women are consumed with insecurity and the fear that they don’t deserve their success and that it’s just a matter of time before they’re found out. She cites Dr. Sheila Widnall, an MIT professor of aeronautics, who observes, “Treat a male student badly and he will think you’re a jerk. Treat a female student badly and she will think you have finally discovered that she doesn’t belong in engineering.”

Though this is primarily female behavior, frequent quotes from celebrities of both genders provide a comforting counterpoint. It’s not, as the author wryly points out, all in our heads; men are able to go further by doing significantly less, and “striving while female” is still held to be a crime and female ambition frequently punished. How to triumph? Young presents the reasons why many women feel like imposters and how to get past these reasons; she also describes self-sabotaging behaviors and how to stop them in their tracks.

Though there’s been much written on this difficult topic, Young’s extremely perceptive and action-oriented solutions shine; she urges women to focus on their actual, measurable achievements without editorializing (“just the facts, ma’am!”) and to take their cue from men and to fake it till they make it. A can’t-miss primer for business women everywhere.”

— PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY (starred review)

[YOU] NEED TO HEAR VALERIE YOUNG’S MESSAGE

“A calm, measured book that quells that nagging inner voice that says you’re not good enough, smart enough, or prepared enough to succeed. Women who second guess themselves need to hear Valerie Young’s message.”

Susan Pinker Psychologist, Author of The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap

EMBRACE THE RICHNESS OF THE PERSON YOU TRULY ARE

“Valerie Young introduces us to the “Impostor Syndrome,” a fascinating pattern of thinking that many successful women feel today. If you, in any way, feel you don’t deserve your success, this is the book that will help you embrace the richness of the person you truly are.”

Susan Jeffers, Ph. D., author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway® and Embracing Uncertainty

MOVE BEYOND FEELING LIKE AN IMPOSTOR

“Self-doubt is common, but when it impedes you from attaining your goals, it’s time to take action. This book shows you how to move beyond feeling like an imposter so that you can achieve your full personal and professional potential.”

— Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D., author of Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office

VALUABLE TOOLS

“Valerie Young guides women with depth and awareness of this impostor syndrome, coaching them with valuable tools on how to let go of these self-limiting beliefs and embrace their own success with authenticity.”

Iris J. Newalu, [now former] Director, SMITH COLLEGE EXECUTIVE EDUCATION FOR WOMEN

PROFOUND AND PRACTICAL

“Valerie Young’s The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women is going to help a lot of talented women break free of self-doubt. The book is profound and practical, full of insights that will show you who you really are. You’ll like what you see.”

Barbara Sher, NY Times bestselling author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals

There are many sources of impostor syndrome: Situational, societal, familial, occupational, and organizational. The one source common to everyone with impostor feelings is our unrealistic, unsustainable notions about what it takes to be “competent.”

Enjoy this free chapter from The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women (Crown Business, 2011) to learn about Valerie Young’s 5 Types of Impostors:

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The Perfectionist

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The Expert
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The Natural Genius
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The Soloist
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The Superhuman

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*The 5 Types of Impostors is the most cited aspect of Dr. Valerie Young’s work. It is also the most misrepresented and most plagiarized. We welcome the chance to share this free chapter so you can hear directly from the source.

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