You are not an imposter…
I am not alone in telling you that for more than 70% of my program (maybe more — I’ll update when I’ve hit the ABD [all but dissertation] stage) I’ve had the feeling that I know nothing. In fact, on the very first day of my very first class, the simple exercise of introducing ourselves around the room made me feel as if there must’ve been some mistake in my admission. That, any minute now, someone was going to point to me and say, “Hey! You don’t belong here!” 70% of the time, I feel that what I write isn’t good enough. What I study and read isn’t good enough. All of me isn’t good enough.
This feeling is called imposter syndrome, and if you are feeling it, it means you’re doing something right. It’s contagious, but like a disease, you hide it, so that no one knows. You fake it, and hope no one finds out! Yet, the sad reality is that most of us grad students are infected (if you could call it that).
I’m writing this to remind you though, that you are an EXPLORER! …and we’re going into places that very, very few people (if any) tread. In fact, I’ve started to learn that this feeling of absolute (sometimes paralyzing) fear and trepidation is a sign that you’re probably on the right path. After all, if we’re going into unexplored territory, it’s only natural to feel lost, isn’t it?
So, let’s get lost! I don’t think that uneasy feeling is something you ever really get used to, but at the same time, there’s a bit of excitement there, too. We’re discovering new things, and pushing the body of knowledge as we know it into new areas of discovery. It’s scary, but, if you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, right?
One of my mentors told me one time, while I was suffering in the middle of comprehensive exams, “If I didn’t think you were good enough to do this, we’d sit down and have THE TALK.” Funny, but that was probably some of the most comforting bit of news I had heard in months!
So… look around where you are. You belong. You’re not alone. You’re doing what you need to do.
Hang in there, okay? Breathe. You’re not an imposter.One key thing about grad school success is that it’s 95% persistence, paid in blood, sweat, and tears. You’re working really hard, and stretching yourself to grow. Eventually, you’ll get to where you want to be.
We all will.
Just. Don’t. Quit.
Now go write something!