Musings on Imposter Syndrome

Ah, the big ‘I’ word. A PhD seems to be synonymous with Imposter Syndrome. Everytime I do a Q&A on Instagram or ask what kind of content people want to see on my blog, Imposter Syndrome is always mentioned. I have not posted much about it to date, mainly because I don’t really have any tips for overcoming it. However, I wanted to put some pen to paper (actually fingers to keyboard) and share my experience with Imposter Syndrome.

As I mentioned in my first PhD journey reflection post, Imposter Syndrome was rife for me in first year. I didn’t really understand why I was accepted into my PhD program, and had no idea of how I was going to get through it. A PhD is a weird bridge between student and professional, which I believe is one contributing factor to Imposter Syndrome. It was also very evident that I was not an anomaly, every PhD student I spoke to felt like a fraud. As if they had snuck their way to where they were. 

I don’t think I ever got over my Imposter Syndrome. In fact, I was reading a CV of a person I am hiring to tutor one of my courses the other day. They are a first year PhD student and I am their manager, however their CV was extremely impressive and I felt like a fraud once again. How could I possibly be their manager? I am really enjoying my role and feel as though I am succeeding, however when I see other people in the office with more publications or citations, I again feel like a fraud. Does imposter syndrome ever go away? My suspicion is that it doesn’t. I suspect that perhaps the Vice Challencor even feels like a fraud from time to time.

I do however feel like it is important to acknowledge that Imposter Syndrome is not special to academia, although the competitive nature of academia can fuel it. When I worked in the industry I still felt like an imposter. Perhaps it is human nature?

As I said, I don’t have any tips currently but I am learning to manage my own Imposter Syndrome and embrace the idea that “if you are the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room”.

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