The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women Readers Share Their Success Stories

Written by Dr. Valerie Young

When you hear of others who’ve overcome long-held, self-limiting beliefs and behaviors it can inspire hope that you can do the same.

In the six years since The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women has been out, I’ve received dozens of emails from people who said the book made a difference in their lives.

One found the confidence to run for Lieutenant Governor.

Several others asked for — and got — long overdue promotions or raises.

Others found the courage to take the leap to self-employment or otherwise make a major career change.

Still others finally began to write their book or do their art or otherwise take their dreams seriously.

Naturally hearing these stories has been tremendously rewarding for me. As Katharine Graham said, “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything else be more fun?

I couldn’t help wonder how encouraging it would be for others to see that it really IS possible to beat the impostor syndrome so you to finally see yourself as the bright and capable man or woman you truly are.

Share Your Story

I’d love to add your success story to the list!

Even small successes count — in fact, meaningful progress is all about small wins.

In the meantime, I hope you’re as inspired by these readers’ stories as I am.

You are welcome to reprint this post with the bio below.

VALERIE YOUNG is co-founder of Impostor Syndrome Institute. An internationally recognized thought leader for four decades, she has delivered her Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™ program to over half a million people at such diverse organizations as Pfizer, Google, NASA, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford. Valerie earned her doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she was helped found the Social Justice Education program, a forerunner to today’s DE&I training. Although her early research focused on professional women—over half of whom were women of color—much of the original findings have proven applicable to anyone with impostor feelings. Her book has been reprinted in five languages.

Click here now to learn how you can bring Valerie in to speak at your organization.



  1. Pooneh

    Dear Valerie,

    I am in engineering field, with a PhD degree that I managed to finish 4 years ago while working full time and with kids, pregnancy, etc. It is close to 20 years that i am in the field, studied and worked always mostly with men. I have been through almost all the experiences you have mentioned in your book. Coming from culture that (at the time) would consider primary school education enough for a girl. from job to job, finally 5 months ago landed a job that i thought i deserved (even below my capacity), the only woman in a group, and leading a cuting edge high tech research project with 40 male, i was fully in control of every single detail after 2 weeks, and even had to present and defend the result of the first year of the project (that i had not been involved in) in front of a jury after a month of starting with the project. I was not familiar with the topic to begin with but i made it.
    What was draining was the comments that i would recieve from much junior people/boys with 2 or 3 years experience that, ” the women have advantage in these fields, they just need to show up, they don’t need to know much and they will get the job for the sake of diversity” or “can you help us with this, it is not technical at all, you can manage it”.
    When i got the appreciation from my manager, i thought it was because he doesn’t think i can handle it, or the bar is so low that they even think what i am doing is great, or when he told me that he would recommend me for a higher management position ( only after 4 months) i broke down, thinkning “oh,god, he has realized i will never be good at technical stuff”.
    And of course i will recommend your book, the only thing is that i believe strongly the male group around me being all high-achievers, they all suffer from the same problem as well.
    I will let you know how it goes for me from now on. i already feel different but i have to observe myself in the environment.

    Kind regards

  2. Nancy Knettell

    Valerie, when I saw the announcement for your book, Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, I was so excited, I placed an order for it before it was even published. Boy, was I not disappointed. I felt as if you were speaking to me personally. The book was amazing in its insight and in fact has now made my company’s success possible.

    In my previous “day job” I was a an accomplished senior manager and technologist in the engineering field for over 30 years. You would think that track record alone would clue me in to the fact that I had a right to be in this field. But, engineering has always been a man’s world. I was sure someday ‘they” were finally going to find me out as the “impostor” I was and ship me out on a rail.

    In addition for years I had been dreaming about work for myself. Unfortunately, all of my prior attempts to be a self-bosser were less than satisfying. Yes, I could teach sewing or walk dogs, but for some reason, I wasn’t passionate enough about those endeavors to keep my interest long enough to see success. I liked engineering. But, opening up my own successful engineering company seemed so out of reach to me. I had started the framework for one anyway, but kept dragging my feet. In fact I had even walked away from it.

    In my second attempt, I was even getting a few small contracts, but nothing that would look like it would sustain my being able to work for myself for any length of time. I still had the nagging feeling that women don’t build engineering companies. Men do.

    The funny thing is, I have a Masters in Leadership and Organizational Behavior sciences. I am a human behavior junky. I had never heard about any thing called the “Impostor syndrome.” Boy had I wish I had issue known about this sooner.

    After reading the book “Secret Thoughts of Successful Women” and seeing that all of my fears were really the Impostor Syndrome at work, I realized that I had been saying “NO” to my own success all along, and didn’t need to.

    In fact, just after I finished reading the book, I was able to go to the next hairy scary big time conference, rolling with the “Big Guys” and land a huge contract and exclusive alliance with a very lucrative client company. This relationship will definitely go a long way to ensure the continued success of my company for years to come. I can now finally realize my dream and become become a self-bosser.

    How was this relationship different from all the other business relationships I have entered into in the past? Not only was the scope of the project much larger than any I could have possibly imagine handling in the past, the company I entered into the alliance with is located in Europe.

    Before reading your book I would have come with all sorts of excuses why I could not help this company. I don’t know how to work with someone in Europe. I don’t how to how to set up foreign money exchanges. I can’t possibly handle such a big project, etc. etc. etc. I would have been shaking in my shoes and may have turned the project down even.

    Your book made me realize I had the core expertise they were looking for and I don’t have to know all the information I need to work with these people right now. I just have to learn it. And in fact, now that I have opened myself up to the possibilities thanks to you, the resources to teach me what I need to know are coming forward just in time. Now, I realize all I have to do is just say “YES” to the opportunities as they come to me.

    I highly recommend anyone with fears of “playing big” holding them back, read this book. The book is easy to read and effective in its suggestions on clearing out any fears or unhelpful notions you might have.

    Thank you Valerie for writing this book!

    Nancy Knettell
    CEO Signet Medical Systems

  3. Valerie Young

    Pooneh and Nancy,

    I’m thrilled and humbled to know that my words have helped shift your thinking and to play BIG!

    Confidence is powerful stuff.

    Looking forward to hearing about all the great things that are sure to come.



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