Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shut up, Impostor Syndrome!

I'm working on a postdoc application and getting terribly hung up on my research interests and cover letter. This is my first real postdoc application, so it's my first crack at a statement of research interests and an academic cover letter.

This job sounds great. It's a natural extension of my dissertation research, doesn't require traveling, is near some friends, and happens to be at the same institution as my sister-in-law and her family. Not only that, I just found out that she knows the person.

Recipe for awesome, right? But I'm worried that I am not qualified enough and so I'm having a hard time writing about my relevant experiences. I feel totally overwhelmed when I try to write about it, and wanting this application to be great is just making the writer's block worse.*

A few years ago I went to a talk where they used an analogy of passengers on the bus to talk about finishing your dissertation. It's kind of cheesy (and the link gets way more into it), but basically I'm the bus driver trying to drive to a postdoc, and I have to figure out how to deal with some obnoxious passengers like Impostor Syndrome who get on my bus. I could ignore them, or if they're really dangerous or disruptive, I can confront them.

So I'm driving along listening to Impostor Syndrome, who is saying things like:
What if you aren't good enough at math?
What if you aren't good enough at programming?
What if you don't publish anything?
What if you let them down and they regret hiring you?

Now that I've actually written these down, one thing becomes strikingly apparent. These are all fears about the job itself, not the application. I might be more afraid of being hired and doing a bad job than not being hired at all. I'm having trouble writing a convincing application because I am actually afraid I might not be good enough, in spite of many strengths I know I have. I need to refocus on the short-term and not get ahead of myself. I need to explain my qualifications and interests without succumbing to the nagging voices. Let's try this again.

Impostor Syndrome, you can shut up or get off the bus. You can't tell me how to get to this job.

*That and pregnancy. Oh my gosh, I am so emotional. This makes me feel like crying but I can't even explain why!

1 comment:

susannah said...

I definitely sympathize with fear based writer's block, but I have developed a strategy to overcome it! I open gmail, put the name of a warm and fuzzy undergrad mentor in the To: field, and then write my research ideas or whatever as if I'm writing to him. At the end, I've got a solid rough draft of whatever I'm working on. I usually don't actually even send the email, but it's important to believe I'm going to send it to trick myself out of being too scared to write!

Good luck!