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Be a Part of Valerie’s New Book

Do you secretly worry that others will find out you’re not as intelligent and competent as they seem to think you are? Do you often dismiss your accomplishments as a “fluke” or “no big deal?” Do you sometimes shy away from or obsess about taking on greater challenges because of nagging self-doubt? Are you crushed by even constructive criticism, taking it as evidence of your ineptness? Are you waiting to be exposed as an impostor, fake, or fraud?

If so, join the club!

It’s estimated that 70 percent of people have experienced these feelings of intellectual fraudulence which are especially common among first generation professionals, creative types (Mike Myers says he’s always waiting for the “no talent police” to show up at his door), students, and others. Fearing that we have somehow managed to fool others “impostors” live in fear that sooner or later we are going to be “found out.”

In March I signed a *big* book deal with Crown Publishing Group to write a self-help book on the so-called Impostor Syndrome. And I am committed to including as many voices and experiences as I can. Simply said, I need your help.

For the next few months I’ll be posing a different question designed to help me better understand how impostor feelings manifest in the lives of my readers. I hope you will take a moment to share your thoughts, stories, fears, and solutions with me so that I may in turn, help more people to feel as smart and competent as they truly are.

Question of the Week

The theme this week is “success.” What does success mean to you… or in other words, how do you define success? Do you see success as being the same or different from “achievement” or “ambition” and if so, why and how?

Please include as much information as you feel comfortable sharing – first name, current occupation, age, race, state/province/country. Share as much or as little as you like. No matter what you share, I think just reading other people’s stories will be enlightening to all.

Thank you in advance for your input and support. I couldn’t do this without you!

Valerie Young
Recovering Impostor

There are 11 comments. Add yours.

  1. Randall Jackson

    For me success is not a place but rather an outlook. There is this little voice that whispers when we are not distracted by the noise of the day that says “you could be more.” Success is silencing that voice. I don’t mean ending the drive to achieve or to create and attain new goals constantly, but rather putting an end to awaiting the time when you do these things. So for me success means placing yourself mentally in a place where you are open and ready to reach new achievements. So that is the difference between success and achievement. Success means freeing yourself up from distractions so that you can focus on a never ending chain of achievements. Ambition is more tricky for me. Because at times ambition can get in the way of success. That is because ambition can make a person focus too much on a specific achievement (and what it will supposedly bring) at the expense of success as an point of view. That is to say, the specific goal becomes more important than the mindset that makes you able to reach the goal (or any goal). To summarize, for me success is reaching a state of peace with yourself where you know that you are doing all you can to capture the many opportunities around you and thereby fully experience your life through an ever expanding and developing list of achievements, big and small. If a person feels that he or she is no longer “waiting for their ship to come in,” and instead doing all they can to experience their lives now, that person is a success regardless of achievements. The saddest thing is when someone awaits their moment instead of looking for it. Often their moment (or better, moments) are sitting right next to the person, waiting to be acknowledged. Pizza delivery people don’t just walk up to your house, you have to find their number and call them first.

  2. Cheryl Meyer

    Success, to me, means achieving a goal, living a lifestyle that makes you happy and/or providing positive benefit to a community. Success is the same as achievement, the accomplishment of a goal. On the other hand, ambition is different from success. A person can have ambition, but not be successful. Ambition is a desire, a wanting to be or do something. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will achieve or will actually work to achieve the goal and be successful.

    I liked Randy’s comment of “if a person feels that he or she is no longer ‘waiting for their ship to come in,’ . . . that person is a success regardless of achievements.” I’ll have to think about that one regarding how I view success and achievement.

  3. Sheryl Ann Wilson

    I am a 46 coming 47 Aug 19th, Canadian woman who found out I am Metis in my adult years – 20 years ago. I am currently on Provincial Disability and I also am very entrepreneurially minded and thus I work from home at using what I call my natural Creator given skills in Singing/Songwriting, Writing, Acting, Modeling & Makeup Artistry, Filmaking (Scriptwriting, Acting, Director, 1st Assistant Director). I recently after studying into for 2 years got involved with 3 online businesses which I am working at.
    Success is a very interesting and frustrating thing, I find. I find that in my mind I view success as actually making the dollars I need to live properly and have a better life that what I have right now, which is poverty and because I have not accomplished that yet, I view myself as a failure.
    However, if I then chastise myself and tell myself to look at the fact that many people would have given up even after one of the things I’ve attempted to do in my life, then I am successful.
    Have been successful in one way, in that I do have one book published. That is not traditional publishing, it is a form of self-publishing. I have one book self-published with They are the type of company whom, if they like your manuscript, which is easy to send, because they accept it via email (unique, because most won’t accept that way) they then actually put the entire book together with a great cover and everything. They then make that book’s availability informed to thousands of bookstores all over Canada/USA and also available off of their website. The rest of the marketing has to be done by the author, thus I haven’t sold very many books; only 25 books sold in 2 years. Then recently they gave extra assistance in the marketing area via making all their books available at Chapters bookstores and then also available from the Canadian Amazon website at I don’t know the results of that yet, because I’m still trying to find out how I can be known of how many books get purchased from there. Then I doubled up the anty by contacting a gal pal of mine who has a health website at and I made a deal with her based on actions I had done for her in the past that became of a financial value to her and I’ll be doing some proofreading for her to pay for my marketing spot for my book that she created in the booksales area of her website.
    Now, again, many would look at that and say, “hey, she’s one successful gal, why look at all the actions she has taken to make something happen.”
    Again, because I haven’t made the money from my actions to attain my goal, I sit and look at myself as a failure.
    I recently, with one of my online businesses went through another experience which has to do with my feelings of success or failure.
    I am selling AVON. When one signs up as an AVON Rep, one is given 10 catalogs for the first two campaigns and also give a high percentage off of all product orders only if one reaches a certain dollar sales amount.
    I did not reach that sales amount and so I didn’t get my percentage off and I viewed myself as a failure, as my manager told me to stop thinking like that.
    Thus, I think that I need to re-learn what true success is.
    Part of what drives me, is that I raised my daughter alone, whilst being forced into a situation of welfare/disability, after previously always having had a job since I was 13 years old. I have always felt that I needed to be an example to her and that I haven’t been one of success yet.
    I hope that this helps you with your book and I’d love to speak with you about how you attained your publishing agreement etc.

  4. Cheryl

    Achievement and ambition are necessary but not sufficient components of success. To be truely successful you need to find the right balance between work, relationships, and community, make a reasonable income, and do something you genuinely love. Interestingly, I have called myself successful in the past only to discover that what I loved yesterday is not so meaningful today, and what I love today is only a glimmer of the vision I have for tomorrow. Success for me, means making that glimmer a vision, and the vision a reality.

  5. Pam S.

    Achievement and success can usually be measured by some standard or another while ambition is more a quality of one’s personality.

    Each field of endeavor has it’s own qualifications; achievement is when we meet or surpass the qualifications; and success is reaching the goal (degree, job, income, status) and enjoying its perks.

    Then there’s life (emotional) success; which I’d describe as being comfortable in my own skin, being productive, experiencing peace of mind, and living my own life,(physically, mentally and spiritually,) according to my own qualifications and standards! If I’m happy most of the time, I’m a success!

  6. Teresa

    I just accepted a job doing grants writing for a non-profit organization that helps women build self-esteem by finding and building upon their skills and talents that can be used in the workplace. Many of these women have gone through struggles and setbacks that most of us would find difficult to overcome. Yet they have found the strength and courage to start again.

    I am about to turn 43. At this time in my life, success means to me never giving up. Always searching for ways to contribute and grow. We each have something that we struggle with that can hold us back from doing things that we would like to do. The key to success is to learn to do the things that you want to do even when you feel inadequate.

    Success is in the doing, attempting, learning and growing stuff of living.


  7. Roger Arendse

    To me success is transcending the limiting boundaries of my mind and laying hold of my true human potential. Success is overcoming the blockages and stucked places in my life (whether physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and otherwise) and reaching out for my passion and my dream with gusto, determination and perseverance. Success is staring self-doubt, the fear of failure and failure itself in the face and daring to press on for excellence of being (my being) with courage and resolve that silences all other distracting voices. Success is the confidence, however, feeble at times, to remove the masks of the false-self and to be willing to stand naked in the reality of who I truly am and to embrace the God-created, God-imprinted purpose for my life. Success, in my language and structure of interpretation right now, is shaped less by ‘ambition’.Success happens when I find myself free to enter and embrace my true significance. Success is less linked to my material or measured achievements (whether good grades in a test or project, accolades received in the work place, or personal bests in sporting adventures – all of which I know first hand). Rather success is knowing and experiencing inwardly the feeling of happines, contentment, peace (shalom). The above, ultimately, is what success means to me and what I reach out for. Each day I take steps, steady at times, often stumnbling and faltering, in my journey towards the vision and passion of success that stirs deep inside of me. Each step becomes a defining moment and marker along the way.

  8. John

    “Success” is simply living in accordance with your own beliefs and values, provided that (1) you provide for yourself to the extent possible, and (2) your beliefs and values do not result in unjust* harm to others. The key, of course, is honestly identifying what is important to you.

    The “impostor syndrome” is rooted in insecurity and lack of confidence, as opposed to actually being an impostor, which is the opposite of success: It is living at odds with your beliefs and values. One who suffers from the “impostor syndrome” fears failure; the impostor IS a failure.

    For example, a person may practice law. But if she doesn’t have the same passion for it as some of her peers, true lawyers who eat, sleep, and breathe the law – if her passion lies elsewhere – then she really isn’t a lawyer. Even if she puts forth great effort and is good at it, she’s not really a lawyer – not at heart.

    Now, if her real purpose is to provide for her family, she’s not an impostor. Actually, she is affirming her values. Practicing law is a means to that end.

    If you do what you love – what you value – then you are not an impostor. You are a success.

    * Let’s not kid ourselves. Unfortunately, the world does have some bad people in it, and frankly, they deserve harm.

  9. Ellen

    For me success means being able to do what I want each and every day and enjoying it.

    As I was reading about your upcoming book, your comments verbally slapped me across the face. I have many of those exact feelings. So many people tell me that I’m smart, I’m the “can-do” or “go-to” girl, but inside I feel like the exact opposite.

    Currently, I am working on matching how the outside world sees me with how I feel inside. Intellectually, I know I am how others view me – I just need to boost my confidence level.

    I’m looking foward to reading your book.

  10. Thanks all for the wonderful posts! Food for thought for all. Valerie

  11. Diane

    I am 43. To me success is when I feel fully alive. I have felt that way working in corporate America doing web programming. I have felt that way while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2650 mile trail, sleeping on the ground each night, resting under bridges, going days without bathing. I loved impersonating a homeless person to the outside world while being a member of the trail community.

    Despite defining success that way, I still harbor the ingrained yet false belief that success is external, like when you have an impressive job, lots of money and nice things. The thing is, those things do not make me happy and yet I feel unsuccessful when I do not have them. It’s a conflict I wish I could be rid of because if I could truly have what I wanted and feel fully alive I would hike the Pacific Crest Trail more and concern myself much less with jobs, money and things which only rob me of what makes me feel happy and alive.

    I am currently starting a freelancing business. Success will be when I earn enough doing that to stop worrying how to pay my bills and be able to take summers or just months here and there to hike the trail again. I do feel like an impostor sometimes. I’ve met a lot of successful women in my freelancing and throughout my career. I feel like I haven’t a clue what I am doing, that I muddle through by the seat of my pants. Every now and then I am reminded that I really do have a lot of knowledge. I just wish that belief would stick.


A New Direction

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