Laurian’s Living the Impostor Syndrome
One of the many awesome women I met at Grace Hopper posted this experience she had with a student:
So far in the grading it seems like everyone did their fair share of the work. Then I get to the last group I was going to grade for the night. It is two men and a woman. I read the men’s reports first where one of the men was a superstar, but they rated the other man and woman as doing great work; both men agree, the female student in the group did fantastic work.
Then, I get to her report. She gives herself the worst grade I’ve seen assigned to anyone else thus far. So I read through her explanation where she says that she doesn’t feel that she contributed as much, that she doesn’t have the same skill set, and so forth. I just about wanted to cry. Here was a young, energetic, stellar female programmer who when comparing herself against her male colleagues felt that she didn’t equate. I put my computer down, and decided to call it quits for the night while I ruminated on what I was going to do.
Laurian ended up sending the young woman an email about impostor syndrome and urging her to learn more, as well as letting her know that despite her bad self-evaluation, her peers actually thought she was doing a great job. You can read the letter here. I’m betting a lot of folk would love to have a teacher like Laurian who was willing to go out of her way to make sure you knew you were doing just fine, and that feeling insecure about it is something that happens to many competent people.
I’ve most definitely seen impostor syndrome among my students, and while I’ve never had to send an email like Laurian’s, I’ve often spent a lot of time congratulating students (loudly) during tutorials and encouraging them to show off their awesome work to others. Sometimes it’s amazing that the students who were too afraid to share at the beginning of the term are making all kinds of fun variations on their tutorials and bragging to their friends (and me!) by the end of the term. I’m lucky to teach such talented students.
So my question to you is two-fold:
(a) How have you combatted impostor syndrome in others?
(b) How have people helped you out with your own feelings of insecurity?