Monday, September 14, 2009

Imposter syndrome?

I have to admit that for most of my graduate career so far I've felt like I really had my shit together. I've gotten some grants, a fellowship, advanced to candidacy, and generally not been completely overwhelmed by everything (in spite of several good reasons to be). But over the past few months I've been feeling increasingly anxious about the road ahead and emotionally fragile about my work.

I might be coming down with Imposter Syndrome.

Now that I've got some data and two years behind me, I've got to start getting results and really publishing. And with "NSF" all over my cv, I definitely feel a lot of pressure to meet the high expectations that come will all of the "accomplishments."

My Imposter Syndrome fears are specific. I know that I can write proposals and grants. I'm pretty comfortable with my writing. I know that I am self-motivated and organized about deadlines. I'm a pretty good teacher. I think I'm a good mentor. My fear is that I'm actually not good at doing science, you know the whole experiment thing that actually gets to the root of what in the world is going on out there in ecology. There. I said it. That's what I'm afraid of.

I know that I just finished my first field season and that everyone expects me to make mistakes and it's not uncommon at all for people to add several months or a year to their Ph.D. because of mistakes they made in the field. That is how we learn, I know. But I'm worried that I need more guidance on the ground than I'm going to get. I'm also worried that I'm going to disappoint people because they have higher expectations of me than I can actually meet.* I'm worried that I'm not enough of a badass to do what needs to be done.

On Friday I was reduced to tears by my fears and frustrations. I need to get a handle on this. I have a meeting with Herb tomorrow morning. I'm asking my advisor to advise me.

*This isn't an unfounded fear, and I might write about that soon.


EcoGeoFemme said...

Oh boy, hang in there. If it's any consolation, we all feel this way, at least sometimes. I usually feel okay about doing science, but I worry about my reading comprehension, of all things. My point is, you are probably at least as good as people think you are. :)

Mark said...

You're lucky if your advisor advises. Mine may have undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. No hope of empathy whatsoever!
But keep on going, the rewards are awesome, DO NOT GIVE UP.

Karina said...

You know Mark, I wonder if my advisor has Asperger's too. I think he's got some Asperger's-like traits. He's a good advisor for independent people, though, and capable of giving good advice and empathizing. But some things... I wonder.