How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

April 18, 2013

I guess pretty much all researchers must suffer from Imposter Syndrome every now and then — the sense of not really belonging, not knowing enough, not getting enough done to justify our position. I particularly remember feeling this after being awarded my Ph.D: the sense that I couldn’t possibly know enough about enough to be worthy of it. Even now, several years down the line, I sometimes look at my papers and think, pfft, there’s nothing to them, anyone could have done that.

I thought of this tonight because of a a tweet I just saw from M. J. Suhonos, Digital Technologies Development Librarian at Ryerson University:

And the advice I gave in response:

The reason I say this is because a few days ago I did a phone interview for a news piece, and was sort of surprised to find myself talking confidently and fluently, just like someone who knows what he’s talking about. Until I realised that’s what always happens when I do an interview. And that’s because, well, heck, I do know my subject (otherwise why would they even be talking to me?)

And I bet you know your subject, too. You just need to see your own knowledge against the backdrop of what a normal person knows.

Meanwhile, as a contribution to John Conway’s superb “grumpy Hypsilophodon” meme, I give you: this.


5 Responses to “How to overcome Imposter Syndrome”

  1. Bill Says:

    I bet nothing in the history of this planet ever smelled as bad as wet dinosaur.

  2. Mark Robinson Says:

    I much prefer the Dunning-Kruger effect I get from having read this blog for a few years. C’mon, most people prob can’t even spell ‘postzygapophysis’!

    @Bill – I see that you haven’t met my dog.

    I could give him a bath but that would involve getting him wet before he was clean and he just goes and rolls in the dirt afterwards anyway.

  3. Heteromeles Says:

    This is also of a piece with the observation that “the students just get dumber every year.” Thing is, the students are pretty much the same. You’ve been getting better educated, is all.

    It’s amazing, but we apparently have no internal sense of how much we actually know relative to those around us. We do, however, have an acute sense of how often we’ve failed.

    As for wet dinosaur, thanks, you just made my morning. Personally, I think nothing would smell as bad as singed dinosaur, but that’s only because I’ve smelled burning feathers, but not burning hair.

  4. […] With less than four weeks to go, she’s starting to get nervous — to feel that she doesn’t know enough about wildlife to talk to the famously knowledgeable and attractive TetZooCon audience. In other words, it’s a classic case of our old friend imposter syndrome. […]

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