Imposter Syndrome: The Internal Battle and How to Attack it

Imposter Syndrome: The Internal Battle and How to Attack it

If you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome around career growth, come join us for our Early Career Summit to learn how to combat it, network with empowering leaders, and take advantage of job opportunities.

In high school, I was eager to challenge myself and take high-level computer science courses. As a Latina, I didn’t know many other people of color taking computer science courses and I was very much attuned to it. The students of color that I did know had struggled with those classes in prior years and had dropped down to a lower level or simply dropped computer science for good. These were hardworking, persistent, and thoughtful kids, so before I experienced the high school environment myself I couldn’t understand why they were quitting. I was determined to break the vicious cycle of historically marginalized students falling back to lower levels. I felt responsible for showing my school that underrepresented students can thrive in advanced courses.

But the prevailing force in my computer science class was too strong. I felt out of place. I stopped raising my hand to ask questions, and the hours I spent studying felt squandered when I became paralyzed by self-doubt during exams. These behaviors began to spread beyond computer science into other classes where I began to feel completely incompetent. I constantly wondered what would happen if people found out I was not as smart as the rest of my classmates.

My internal battles continued throughout high school until the pandemic hit partway through my third year and my school switched to online classes. Classes were often canceled, and when they weren’t, the work was not as demanding, which meant I finally had time to reflect and explore. I read books on psychology and self-help. Doing research on the mind and hearing others’ stories, I came to understand that I was struggling with Imposter Syndrome — a syndrome most common among women, minorities, and high achievers that causes people to doubt their abilities. It was time to address it.

I spent all summer practicing two key techniques that I learned from this research that would allow me to preserve confidence in my ability.

My first technique was meditation. I set aside ten minutes each morning to slow down and practice focusing. Months later, I would realize that this focus muscle I had strengthened actually helped me block out negative thoughts during class. It also helped me keep my cool when, in college, I was struck with snarky comments like, “Computer science? You don’t look like a computer scientist.”

The second technique was surrounding myself with a supportive crowd. I worked with a teacher to create a club for girls who have a passion for tech. Working with these other girls transformed my initial ideas about computer science. In the evenings when the club met, the classroom turned into a breeding ground for creativity, where girls felt like their ideas could make a difference. Here, empathy played as big a role as algorithms — producing more varied approaches and more meaningful outcomes.

The “bumpiness” of my first three years of high school transformed me; looking back, it was critical for my growth. Though I still struggle with Imposter Syndrome at times, I have found ways to manage it so it doesn’t take over my life. If you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome around career growth, come join us for our Early Career Summit to learn how to combat it, network with empowering leaders, and take advantage of job opportunities.

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