Impostor syndrome...(9 Posts)
I know that impostor syndrome is rife in academia, but how do people manage it? I mean, beyond "fake it til you make it"!
My career has developed well over the past couple of years. I am starting to work on things at an institutional level and I already have a good profile within my discipline at national level, but I'm now struggling more than ever with feeling that I am just a fraud. It almost feels like the higher I climb, the worse it gets.
I am planning to go for promotion soon, but I keep changing my mind as I worry that going for it will lead to me being "caught out". I also need to get a grip when going to university level meetings. I think I come across fine in the meetings, but the anxiety beforehand is horrid, and then I spend ages worrying and dissecting it all after.
Any hints and tips to be more confident and kick the impostor syndrome, without going over to arrogance?!
I think you shouldn't listen to your inner critic too much- just be yourself, at the level you are at, so don't overclaim for your work and don't undersell yourself either.
If it spurs you on, then a sense of natural justice does it for me- why should others get promoted, and get more money, and have better job security when you are just as good as them. Let the panel decide, not you. This time around it may not happen, but it might. Give them a chance to see if you are good enough (not brilliant, note, just good enough) to be promoted, and if you aren't you will learn what you need to do to get promoted. Others will be going forward without you, they won't wait for you to get your confidence up/feel brilliant, they will just step over you . They will often be men. This should spur you on to do this not as an ego exercise, but because it's justice that women should be promoted in a timely manner, just like men.
The book 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway' is a classic in the field and great for countering imposter syndrome.
Think of someone else who does the same and more than you but is also shit and think "I can definitely do better than him\her" there are a lot of inept people in academia hiding behind blustering arrogance. It's also worth thinking about what you think success is. We have some 'successful' profs in our department but they've got there by being completely awful to work with, not collegiate at all, do they are minimum on teaching and let everyone pick up their slack, I don't consider that being successful! So it all depends on your perspective.
I find when I suffer from this that opening my CV and reading through it really helps. I then mostly think 'shit, I've actually done quite a lot'.
Think of someone else who does the same and more than you but is also shit and think "I can definitely do better than him\her" there are a lot of inept people in academia hiding behind blustering arrogance.
Yes - it sounds (and maybe is!) completely horrible but I find one of the most helpful things about conferences is there are always multiple papers where I think 'well, my stuff's better than that!'. I find it really easy to compare myself to the absolute topfliers of my academic 'generation' and feel very depressed about it, but reminding myself that actually the range is much broader than that is helpful.
Thoughts are slippery little things, difficult to catch hold of. Turn them into concrete things - easier to manage.
Right down all your worries on one side of the page. On the other side right down your strengths, your positive attributes and your achievements. You will find evidence to contradict your worries. When you do, take a second colour of pen, circle the evidence, and draw a line from it to the worry. Then firmly cross out that worry with the second colour.
Did you know that you have a parrot? His name is Poisonous Parrot. "I worry..", "I think...", "I dissect...", "I'm a fraud...", all those thoughts are Poisonous Parrot's words. He sits on your shoulder, listening to any self-doubt, any criticism, and repeats it ad nauseam.
Externalise those thoughts by consciously assigning them to Poisonous Parrot. They're not yours, you don't need to pay any attention to them. Look at the sheet of evidence that you have drawn up,
It sounds woo, but practical my this has really helped me.
Hope it goes well for you. If it doesn't, then stick Poisonous Parrot in his cage and cover it with a tea towel when he says something negative about it (because he will). You will see the process for what it really was: an opportunity to present your strengths and to learn for the next opportunity.
Another thing I have found helpful:
In retrospective thought, replace BUT with AND, and SHOULD with COULD.
"That was a good presentation, but my notes were scruffy." (Self-critical)
"That was a good presentation, and my notes were scruffy." (Self-accepting)
Or even "That was a good presentation, and next time I'll ring-bind my notes." (Self-accepting and constructive)
"I should have mentioned XYZ study." (Self-critical)
"I could have mentioned XYZ study." (Self-accepting)
"Next time I could mention XYZ study." (Self-accepting and constructive)
Your example sentences are very helpful, Step!
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