In my first heavy quantitative methods course, my inadequacy felt like it was always on display. I’ve had substantially more qualitative training than I have had quantitative, so when I decided to take my first quantitative course, I was nervous AF.
For the first 3-4 weeks, each night before this class was a restless one. I was nervous about being called out for being a fraud. I was anxious that people would question how I even became a PhD student when I know so little and am so incompetent. Oh, and did I mention that my advisor is the one teaching this course? Yep. Nervous sweating and the fear of public humiliation was REAL (it still is).
This course runs in a series throughout three quarters. Fall quarter was the first, I am in finals week finishing up the second, and spring quarter will be the last in the series. I am still terrified. I made it through two quarters with great scores and comments from my instructors. Feedback from my advisor has been positive and encouraging, yet I have so much trouble internalizing the positive feedback. And this struggle isn’t limited to just the classroom, but extends to projects, posters, presentations, etc.
I’ve had some people tell me that they find me inspiring. Some have told me that I’m so smart and hardworking. Others tell me that they even look up to me and hope to pursue higher levels of education someday like I did. Honestly, even as I type these words, I can’t help but feel…confused? disbelief? awkward? Because, to be honest, I don’t feel like I really deserve to be where I am. I mean, once you SEE some of the people in just my program you’ll realize how little I know. Imagine the level of intelligence and experience that people all throughout the world can bring- and I am just a tiny little person who got here probably because I was lucky. Even in my MA program, I can’t help but think that maybe I got in because the school needed to fill their minority student population quota. Or, maybe I’m good at faking it on paper and I fear that they’ll eventually find out that I’m not as great of a student as they may have perceived me to be.
I struggled to write this blog post so much because I can’t bring myself to tell you that I’m not an imposter. I so wholeheartedly believe that I don’t 100% deserve to be where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to be given this opportunity– but I’m scared that people will find out that I don’t truly deserve this.
But, after two weeks of wrestling with this topic, I need to slap myself in the face.
Imposter syndrome is common, especially among those who are high achievers (in whatever field or stage of life). I have to remember that my worth isn’t in my success. Further, as an academic, the worth of my achievements so far isn’t based on being perfect. And let’s be real, I do have A LOT to learn but that doesn’t mean I don’t belong here. Being an academic means recognizing you always have more to learn.
So, I’m challenging myself and am committing to actively practice three things for the next 7 days by journaling under each of these goals:
Praising myself for my own achievements
- You know what? I DID work REALLY hard to get into a PhD program. A lot of tears and time went into the application process. I do have a lot to offer! I am learning so much and I AM a great student! I work hard and am willing to learn. I deserved all the great achievements and praises I’ve received so far. Yes, I am a strong woman. Yes, I am ambitious and on my way to becoming more successful. I’M A QUEEN.
Giving myself grace and understanding in areas that I lack
- When I do come out of a meeting or class feeling incredibly stupid or inadequate, I need to tell myself that progress is what’s important. Looking at how much I’ve learned and not resorting to criticizing my lack of skill. Reframing the situation and seeing how exciting it is to be given this time to mold myself into a better researcher. Ultimately, focusing on how far I’ve come and eagerly looking to what more I can learn.
Recognizing that feeling this way is okay, but not letting it get in the way
- APPLY FOR THAT CONFERENCE! SUBMIT THAT ABSTRACT! DO THE POSTER! DO THE RESEARCH YOUR ADVISOR ASKED YOU TO DO! RESPOND WITH YOUR OWN THOUGHTS, NO MATTER HOW INARTICULATE YOU THINK IT SOUNDS. Just do it anyway. You’re here for a reason. Your advisor picked you for a reason. Your school wanted you for a reason. Even if you think you can’t do it, do it anyway.
Own it and love it.
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