The new impostorism.

I co-moderated a Twitter discussion for the #DiversityJC yesterday about mental health and academia. As readers might know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart (and brain). It was a really good discussion and the re-cap of it will appear soon. Stay tuned to their blog for that.

It brings up something I feel like I’m facing a lot lately: am I delusional? Have I built an isolation tank of my world where I exist and it is nowhere close to reality? (the good idealistic side of this is I see a world how it could be different from what is…it’s how new ventures get started/founded).

I know about mental health, specifically because it’s affected me and I’ve read other people’s accounts of their experiences with mental health in a STEM/creative field. They resonate and make me feel like I’m at least not alone. but am I an expert in this field? Probably not. I am vaguely aware of some of the issues surrounding seeking help and navigating the often hard gauntlet of explaining what is wrong (b/c outwardly  things appear “fine”) and to who, and when (to your employer? Around work? When it really affects your work negatively?). it’s not my field of expertise though; no one pays me to dive into it even though I think there’s enough out there to say it’s a real problem (and depression, at least, really does not care who you are or what station in life…it can drag you down).

I try to strike a tone of realistic optimism here and in life, and hopefully with some humor. And I’ve been struggling lately. Falling on the more pessimistic side lately. i’ve been trying for years to do better and in many ways I have and am. I started a new blog dedicated to plant science (& the quieter/more esoteric world of basic research and just how we barely notice how plants are present plants are in our lives every day), I’ve made some strides in research and networking. I am still learning statistics/data analysis, but maybe I’m seeing progress there too, and I’ve gotten a little better at networking as I embark on figuring out what’s next (still likely not to be straight academia). I adopted a cat. And I’m working on some projects I care about with the ASPB. Which is cool too.

And I still feel a bit empty. Still isolated. And I don’t have a ready cure for that.

One of the things that I really struggle with now is feeling like an impostor before I even apply to anything. It’s still the “Who am I to…..” phrase. I try not to let it get to me, and do things anyway, but it is still there…still very effective at stopping me short. Right now it says “you’re too old too____ and anything you do now will be through that lens….”

I’m a thinker. And probably always will be. And that’s OK, I just hope I can incorporate acting on that thinking more often than I do in a world that seems to move faster every year.

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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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