Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

with Alicia Liu

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Impostor Syndrome folks are very good at coming up with excuses as to why they are successful.

Alicia Liu

Software Engineer, Entrepreneur, Writer

Lessons Learned

Women are not taught to take a compliment, always down playing.

If you externalize the reasons for your success onto something else, you may have Impostor Syndrome.

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Lesson: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome with Alicia Liu

Step #6 Interactions: Impostor Syndrome folks are very good at coming up with excuses as to why they are successful

So I think part of it is definitely in the upbringing. Girls are told to be nice, and nice girls are not braggers, you don't go out and beat on your chest whereas boys are expected to do that. They're told to you have to take charge; you have to tell people what's up. So I think that just colors what girls do when they go through school, when they grow up.

I actually saw this comedy skit recently where a bunch of women meet each other in a park and they give each other compliments, but they're all very self differential, they're like " Oh, this old thing." like " No, that was really ugly. " It's so over the top when finally a woman comes in she just takes a compliment, and all the other women are like "Wait, what? You can't do that." That really resonated with me, because women do do that, you're not really tied to just take a compliment. You always have to be like "Oh, well, actually, this gorgeous, 12-piece table setting that was no big deal."

You're always trying to down play it, and I find myself doing that too, not just at work, but all over the place. And I don't know why, I think it's a societal cultural thing, and I don't think guys have that. So they can just take a compliment and just own it. We're very good at coming up with excuses of why we're successful, and I think that's totally related to Impostor Syndrome where we're always externalizing the reasons for success onto something else like "Oh, well they need women for this conference. And hey I'm a woman, so that's the only reason they picked me." It's very, very easy to do that

I don't like to be very self promotional. I'm not sure if that's related, probably it is, but I'm always very wary of being self promotional or being seen as self promotional. Like even if I write something and it gets shared a lot, like I only share once on Twitter.

I think it's this internal belief I have about just doing the work as opposed to talking about stuff you're doing that you may or may not actually be doing. I think maybe it's just my own view of having substance versus having an exterior of substance.

I'd probably tell my former self that the things that you think are right, but you don't have the courage to actually stand up for, are things that you should stand up for. So the things that didn't seem quite right or didn't quite sit well, those are the things that you should actually listen more to rather than being concerned with a lot of externalities.

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