This is the last time I am writing about Imposter Syndrome. Seriously, you muffins need to knock it the fuck off.
It’s not that I don’t love you, and it’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t want to help. But, I’ve decided in my many years of blogging, and with all of the wisdom that has given me, that Imposter Syndrome is a scam. A big fucking scam.
Figure 1: I know that Imposter Syndrome sure is.
What sparked my ire? This email from a probably lovely, young reader who I am sure is perfectly wonderful.
I humbly bow at your altar of wisdom and hotness and offer these lovelies [I could not post the pic because it was embedded in the email in a way I couldn't get to save, but I assure this reader I have not resorted to full-time flats yet. Me and my heels are still bff] as a tribute to your glorious, pregnant feet (because if they’re anything like any pregnant ladies’ feet that I know, stilettos are out of the question).
I am set to start a PhD program in the fall and in the process of applying and interviewing, I’ve done a lot of talking to professors and networking at conferences and such. Everyone, (including some of the biggest names in my sub-discipline) was very impressed with the fact that I was at these conferences as an undergrad, not to mention the fact that I was presenting a poster on my honors thesis. They were impressed that I had read a lot of papers and that I could talk about them in the context of the research we were discussing at the time. They were impressed that I had research ideas prepared. Objectively, I’m fairly qualified to be starting a program in the fall, since I’ve received an offer of admission and I’m on the wait list at 3 other programs, but my question is this: when/how do I start feeling like I’m not a giant fraud? I’ve talked to enough people to know that impostor syndrome is basically universal, and I’m a psych student, so I’m aware of it generally (although it’s a different line of research than what I’m in), but no one has really told me how to make it go away other than realizing that you’re not really a fraud and that you do deserve to be there. And no one has really said when exactly that happens (when I defend my master’s thesis? my dissertation? when I get a job? tenure? full professorship? some sort of lifetime achievement award?).
Thank you, lovely Goddess,
Here’s the problem with Imposter Syndrome. Having Imposter Syndrome means that others believe that you are super great, but that you believe you are fooling everyone – that you will not be succesful. But, this implies that if you fail, then you truly are an imposter.
Thing is, as a scientist it seems as though I fail all the damned time. In the last year I have written several grant applications. I heard last week that one of them will not be funded. Does it make me an imposter? No, it means that sometimes I am going to fail at things. I don’t know if any of the others will be funded. I hope that they will. But, if they’re not, I’ll learn what I can and try again.
My dear blog friend Pascale Lane has recently written a great post on failure.
I’ve had experiments go bad and I’ve said my share of stupid things in meetings and seminars. I am convinced, and I know from their recent posts that my colleagues Drugmonkey and Physioprof would agree, that you just have to be bold and persistent. Try to submit to higher impact journals. Submit several grants a year. Apply for awards. I recently applied for an award that I technically wasn’t eligible for. I wasn’t not eligible, but the guidelines for eligibility didn’t specifically include people like me. I was surprised, but pleased, when I received it.
Being a scientist is like being Sisyphus. You push the rock up the hill. Frequently the rock rolls back down the hill. You push it up again. Then it rolls again. Sometimes you get lucky and the rock stays on the hill a while, and then it rolls back down. The thing is, everyone’s pushing the same rock up the same hill. Just learn from other the best ways to push the rock, and enjoy pushing the rock, but don’t get frustrated when the rock rolls down the hill.
Figure 2: PUSH TEH ROKZ!!!