My Impostor Story

The year was 1982. I was 28 years old and four years into a doctoral program in education at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The same school where my mother worked as a second shift custodian.

One day I was sitting in class when another student began reading aloud from a paper by two psychologists from Georgia State University, Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. It was titled, The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women.

That’s when I learned that in their sampling of 162 high-achieving women, Clance and Imes uncovered a pervasive pattern of dismissing accomplishments and believing that their success would disappear once others discovered the awful secret that they were, in fact, “impostors.”

About Valerie Young

Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally-known speaker, a leading expert on the impostor syndrome, and author of award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (Crown Business, a division of Random House) now available in five languages.

Her career-related tips have been cited in these and other publications around the world. In addition Valerie has been interviewed on countless national and local radio programs in the US and Canada and on WPIX Channel 11 in New York.


Finding a Name for the Feelings

I’ll never forget the day I first learned about the Impostor Syndrome. It was 1983. A chronic procrastinator, I was in my fourth year of a doctoral program. Like a lot of graduate students, my status was what was commonly referred to as “A-B-D,” meaning I’d completed “all but the dissertation.”

I was sitting in class one day when another student rose to present the findings of a study conducted by psychology professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes called The Impostor Phenomenon Among High Achieving Women (1978).


“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