Impostor syndrome (IS, happen to be my initials)

I was looking at Twitter and saw a post about the Science Online 2013 where they had a session about impostor syndrome. 

This is something I still feel strongly even today. In graduate school and the first few years of my postdoc, I always saw it as a negative thing. It certainly can be devastating if it gets to the point of ‘I am an impostor, I am a mistake’ (which is something that I thought for years; still do sometimes). This form of the impostor syndrome prevents people from trying new things and even tinkering around to find things that might work. It prevents action. 

The healthier form of IS

However, there is a healthier form of impostor syndrome that I’m trying to keep in mind more. It’s the ‘I’m new at this and don’t feel like I belong, but that’s OK. I’m learning. I’m trying something new. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Stepping out from the cave. Feeling awkward doing it.  But you’re Daring greatly. Like with this blog. It’s not as if I’m setting the blogoshpere on fire with my amazing posts. I do this because it’s fun for me. And maybe I’ll learn a thing or two through doing it. 

The challenge

One of my challenges I set for myself this month is to be more extroverted. Which means talking to more people I just see when i’m out and about (just saying an audible ‘hi’, with eye contact counts). I feel very awkward about this. And I’ve done OK with it so far (no Earth shattering moments of having a long conversation yet). I am pushing myself to do things in the lab that are new to me and I don’t know if they will work or not. While these are all good things, it is hard to implement. It goes against my nature. 

Tomorrow’s another day to work on being, not simply trying. And another day to practice getting to a healthier mindset with the impostor syndrome.


Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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