Almost anyone would say that Valerie Sheares Ashby is in the midst of a successful academic career. After more than a decade on the chemistry faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and three years as chair, she became dean of Duke University’s college of arts and sciences in 2015. She’s won many accolades, including awards from the National Science Foundation and the companies 3M and DuPont, as well as several teaching prizes from UNC.
But for most of her professional life, Ms. Ashby experienced impostor syndrome, a phenomenon first described by psychologists in the 1970s. It’s not an official diagnosis but “a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt,” according to the American Psychological Association. It’s common among high achievers who may consider their accomplishments flukes, or attribute them to luck rather than to their own merit.Over time, by practicing 10 strategies, Ms. Ashby learned to overcome her impostor syndrome. She now gives talks at colleges to help students and professors identify and resist the strong tendency to discount their own skills and talent. She spoke with The Chronicle about her experience with academic and professional self-doubt and what hope there is for others who may feel like frauds about to be found out. [HT: JS]
Impostor syndrome expresses an inability to grasp one’s own earned successes.