Please use the comment function and tell us your story.

Valerie Young

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young, Ed.D. is an internationally-recognized expert on impostor syndrome and author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (Crown Publishing) now available in five languages. Valerie has delivered her highly solution-oriented and surprisingly upbeat message in the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe to such diverse organizations as IBM, Merck, Boeing, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Intel, Chrysler, Facebook, BP, Ernst & Young, McDonald's, The Space Science Telescope Institute, Society of Women Engineers, Women in Commercial Real Estate, Cornell University's Men of Color in STEM Symposium, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and over 85 other colleges and universities. Her career-related advice has been featured in business and popular media outlets on five continents including The BBC, Yahoo Finance, Newsweek, Time, O magazine, Fast Company, Science, Inc. and many more. Valerie was one of 11 people chosen to deliver a six-minute talk at TED HQ as part of TED/NYC Idea Search 2017. Valerie was the founding coordinator of the Social Justice Education program at the University of Massachusetts where she earned her doctorate.

10 Responses to “Share Your Story”

  1. Terri Forehand

    I so relate to this. I always feel like I am not enough of an expert, there are smarter people than me. I dream of writing a series of books for kids on first aid, and another one on sharing your state, and a series for kids on childhood diseases that their peers may have and that might frighten them. But where to start while you are earning your paycheck. I want to design fabric too for the projects I use in the books for kids…. too far fetched. Not sure. I think I may have to call for a consult.

    • Valerie Young

      Hi Terri,

      You start where everyone does… pick an idea, write an outline — which will change as you go along — then carve out 45 minutes a day to chip away at it realizing that you’ll toss out half of what you write because its all in the editing.

      More importanly I encourage you to think about the good you could be doing for others — good that no one will get to benefit from because you’re too afraid or tired to try.

      Will there always be others who are “smarter” (hate that word) or know more than you? Yup. Same for all of us. Who cares? No one is going to write your book the way you do.

      On the fabric…. check out This is the annual event in NYC where artists and manufacturers come together to forge licensing agreements. Some of these artists are fabric designers. Where do you think all those designs on wall paper, fabric, upholstery, etc. comes from. Often the artist gets 20 percent. But you can learn more about art licensing at

      Also at that same link is a review I did of a children’s book writing program where you work 1-1 with an instructor. Having accountability is another great way to get yourself to follow through when you’re working full time.

      Hope this helps Terri!


  2. Alaina

    Hi Valerie,

    I just heard your archived interview with Kellie Gardner on her Blog Talk Radio show, I’m 40 years old and I feel like I just exhaled for the first time. To know there’s a “‘name” for this feeling and beliefs I’ve been harboring for years is, well, comforting.

    I have two degrees but I’ve never allowed myself to do the work I’ve long felt called to do because I didn’t want to be exploited as the fake I’ve always thought of myself as.

    When I was younger I was a violinist and was a natural at it. I kept hearing that and as I got older, my talent slipped further and further until I quit playing altogether. But what happened is I allowed myself to be seduced by the term “natural talent”. Naturals didn’t have to practice… but I was, and I did… because I didn’t, it turned out to prove the self fulfilling prophecy where I believed I wasn’t all that to begin with.

    I see how I let that seep into to so many other aspects of my life. I was naturally smart too. What ended up happening is I turned into a relative inactive. Being a natural at so much left me with very little “to do”.

    I’ve been feeling a pull to take back MY personal interests without the need for the peanut gallery’s support. I want to support other Christian women in their efforts to do so as well.

    Your work is powerful and so necessary. Thank you for sharing and helping to shape my understanding around what in the world happened to the me I might have been. There’s still time… there’s still a me for me to work with.

    • Valerie Young

      First thanks for your kind and insightful post Alaina. Yes this notion of the Natural Genius does indeed hamper many people. We come to see true competence as all about ease and speed. So if something becomes difficult or takes concerted effort or practice, then we deem ourselves inept.

      We all have gifts. But even the most talented people on the planet continue to work at their craft. I’m not sure if you have had a chance to read the book yet, but if not I strongly recommend Chapter 6: The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals. It offers concrete advice for not only the Natural Genius, but the Perfectionist, The Expert, The Rugged Individualist/Soloist, and the Super Woman/Man/Student as well.

      Thanks again for sharing your story here. In doing so, you too are helping to change lives!


      Valerie Young

  3. Ric

    10 years ago I graduated from nursing school. I changed careers at 38, and went into nursing because it was a relatively short time spent in school, still giving me the time to make good money and catch up on my retirement. Don’t get me wrong, Loved nursing because of the positive effect I could have in people’s lives. But, ever since my first day of work, I started to feel that I wasn’t smart enough to be a nurse, and sooner or later, I would be found out and fired. My annual evaluations were excellent, and my patients truly appreciated my gifts. I have switched jobs in nursing every 2 years and the feelings just grew and became more intense. Being a man, opening up to mentor, I feel I would be considered weak. So here I am 1 1/2 years in to a new job, and I am going through the same self defeating cycle. I am constantly afraid that tomorrow when I arrive for work, I will be fired for being inept. I don’t know what to do.

  4. Cassey

    I attended your SWE webinar on “Why Smart People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It” and found it very enlightening. Many of your words were quotes from my own conversations with my best friend, the only person I have openly admitted my fraud to. For as long as I can remember, going back even to grade school, I have felt like an impostor and I fear that it has been going on so long that it cant be reversed. All through school I was placed in the advanced classes, I got my degree in Chemical Engineering and I now have a career in consulting. But I am overwhelmed by the fear that I didn’t gain the skills and knowledge I needed along the way, and am about to hit a roadblock. From the beginning I felt like I didn’t belong, that I was not actually smart enough to do the work. Because of this my coping mechanism was to procrastinate (because I knew I was not capable of doing it on my own) then to rush through it with someone else. I labeled myself as the stupid kid in the smart classes. I went all the way through college like this, never trusting myself to figure it out on my own because I knew I would fail. And now here I am, I have a million goals and I’m not sure I can accomplish them. I’m not sure I ever gave myself the chance to learn. I’m not sure what to do next? I decided I want to pursue my PE license (to prove to myself I deserve my degree), but it will require me to be tested on my engineering knowledge. I feel like the only way to pass is to relearn (or learn for the first time) all of engineering. At this point I’m not sure if this is the impostor syndrome talking or if I have really turned myself into a fraud?

  5. Mchaela

    Hi There,
    My name is Nora and my nickname is “Mchaela”. I am right now in a very exciting transition. Here in my apartment with my friend’s laptop, I am on employment insurance, my car just required $400 of repairs, no retirement money, no money in the bank and I am 61. I sang professionally for 13 years as well as all my life in various venues. I also did office work for 30 years and temped during the singing. Every ounce of my being is rebelling against going back to an office job and yet, unless I do something quick, the loans will be necessary. Yikes. Plus ….. I haven’t had a vacation in 12 years for more than a one or two day trip. As well, I have a 35 hour ESL teaching certificate and have taught english as a second language for 7 years part time and once at a learning centre full time. So, my question is: where do I begin? Gratefully I have several very close friends, a nice apartment and a car and health. No complaints. Not just sure though, how I can stand to wait 6 months for a vacation and my mind seems to be going around in circles with all the many options. Plus …. there are no stings whatsoever. I am completely free. What would be your first 5 “next right things to find some clear direction in this scenario??. Thanks sooooooooo much. Mchaela

  6. Valerie Young

    Hi Cassey,

    I missed your post before – glad to catch it this time.

    To answer your question is this the impostor syndrome talking or have you turned yourself into one — the answer is YES on both counts. Meaning…

    No one likes to fail. But people with the impostor syndrome experience shame. There’s also a tremendous amount of energy put into being “smart.” Here is where your impostor feelings are talking.

    And because you’ve felt this way I think you have turned yourself into a sort of impostor. By this I don’t mean a fake — but rather that you’ve convinced yourself that you’re an impostor to the extent that you’ve lost your way.

    Should you take the test? Only if you think it would benefit yourself and your career. But don’t take it just to prove you deserve something. You know more than you think you do. Which, for the record does not mean you’re supposed to have retained everything you ever learned — not possible.

    Naturally I think you could benefit from reading The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women – especially the chapter called The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals and the ones on failure and playing big.

    I also recommend Carol Dweck’s book Mindset to help you move past the single-minded focus on being “smart.”

    Also FYI I’ve offered to do a follow up Q&A for Society of Women Engineer members on Jan 9th at 4pm. Hope you can join us.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Do you dismiss your accomplishments as “no big deal”? | Impostor Syndrome

    […] so I’d love you to share your own impostor story here. Filed Under: […]

  2. Do you dismiss your accomplishments as “no big deal”? – Impostor Syndrome

    […] If so I’d love you to share your own impostor story here. […]