An open letter to the ultimate imposter

Belinda Cash - smallBelinda Cash is a social worker with a background in disability services and clinical mental health. She completed a Master of Mental Health in 2009, which began the adventure into research as a tool for social change.

Belinda is in the final stages of her PhD researching the experience of choice for older spousal caregivers. Her research and teaching interests include mental health, ageing, social policy, service provision in rural areas, and informal caregiving.

She works full-time at Charles Sturt University, teaching in the social work and gerontology programs. Belinda tweets from @pinkbellee.


Image by Bernard Laguerre | www.flickr.com/photos/aldor

Image by Bernard Laguerre | http://www.flickr.com/photos/aldor

Dear You,

I had the good fortune recently to work with you in an academic training workshop. Just for the record, I thought you were great.

I guess that’s why I was so surprised on Day Two to hear you hadn’t slept well.

You said to me, “Whenever I present in person, my head likes to spend all night chewing over every little thing I stuffed up”.

Wait… WHAT?!

Were you even THERE while I watched your smooth crowd control (academics are a seriously hard-to-wrangle bunch)? Did you not hear your seamless presentation of interesting and engaging material? Did you miss the artful way you navigated relentless and tricky questions?

As all of this was about to spill forth in a vain attempt to allay your doubts, I stopped. Suddenly, I recognised something all too familiar.

Of course, you don’t see any of that. You felt every tiny moment of hesitation acutely. You noticed every less than perfect word choice as it slipped out. You felt your mind whirring ahead of itself, desperate not to stuff up whatever was coming next, unable to enjoy the moments of success as they passed. Read more of this post

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‘I’m not worthy!’ – Imposter Syndrome in Academia

jaythompson-croppedJay Daniel Thompson is a researcher and editor who teaches at the University of Melbourne.

He can be found on the web at Jay’s Academic Proofreading, which is on Twitter as @JaysProofs.

Jay has a background in research administration, and maintains strong interest in issues facing academic researchers. He can be contacted via email at jaydthompson80@gmail.com


The scene is a conference dinner. I’m seated at a table with a number of senior academics, all of whom have high profiles in my research field. The mood is convivial and the conversation, like the wine, is flowing merrily.

Photo by Tseen Khoo

Photo by Tseen Khoo

Yet, I find myself channelling Wayne’s World: “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!

Fast-forward two months: I’m in my home office, writing a journal article. My research has been extensive, and I think that my argument is promising. Even so, I can picture my peer reviewers just waiting to expose my intellectual unsophistication. Again, it’s a case of “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!“.

Yes, I’m suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome has been described as ‘that feeling that, regardless of your accomplishments, you’ll still be unmasked as a fraud.’

This ‘syndrome’ is not exclusive to academia, though it has maintained a powerful presence in the ivory tower.

From personal observation, Imposter Syndrome is especially prevalent among graduate students and early career researchers. It has, however, been known to affect even the most distinguished professors. Read more of this post