Impostor Syndrome sighting

The most popular posts on this blog have been the ones I did on impostor syndrome. When I wrote them, I never thought they would be so popular, would be linked to by so many different sources or that they would lead to an interview. I wrote them because impostor syndrome was something that I was dealing with at that time and I thought I might not be alone in that.

Impostor syndrome, for those who might not know, is the feeling that you are a fraud, that, despite any evidence to the contrary, you feel as though you have somehow fooled everyone into thinking that you are smart and competent when in fact you are anything but. I bring it up today because I recently had a meeting with a tenured professor here at my school and she said something that reminded me of those posts.

When I first came to grad school, I was funded on a training grant. The meeting I mentioned above was with the co-director of the training grant (something they do in an effort to keep track of all former trainees). At the meeting, Professor X asked me if I had any ideas on improving the training grant program. I suggested that the students could benefit from more peer-to-peer mentoring because most students (at least in my program) don’t believe that the faculty remember what it was like to be a student and therefore don’t take advice from them about how to be a good student as seriously as they take advice from other students. Professor X’s response was that faculty remember that it was miserable (!) and then she said that it doesn’t necessarily get better as faculty. It really sucks when a grant is rejected, she said, and then, “you start thinking ‘Am I phony? Have I been fooling everyone into thinking I’m a good scientist when I’m not?'” It was classic impostor syndrome-speak.

And as I sat there across from this obviously intelligent, successful woman, I was reminded that everyone has self-doubt. That it is possible to be successful and still doubt whether you are good enough. It made me feel a little bit better about where I am in dealing with my own impostor syndrome issues.