Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Imposter Syndrome

I've written before about imposter syndrome, that feeling that you're not really smart enough to be a professor and everyone is just about to realize what a terrible mistake they made in hiring you, and thought it might be a nice time to revisit the topic.

I just got back from a small symposium in my field at which I was invited to give a talk on my work. The symposium included many of the biggest names in my field and I was very honored to have been selected as a speaker, and of course, a little nervous given that I am only a 3rd year Asst prof, I mean how much data could I really have in comparison to Dr. Important Full Professor. However, my stuff fit in nicely and we had more than enough. My feelings though are a great example of imposter syndrome. Thoughts like "the organizer must be really cracked to pick me" flitted through my mind while in counterpoint I thought "yeah but we ARE just about to submit that paper to Nature so how bad can it really be." I suspect that imposter syndrome will trail us throughout our lives. I know full professors (even an Asst. Dean) who profess to feeling this way, although I wonder if women are more susceptible than men, given our limited role models.

On another note, I was paired with a female graduate student host for the symposium and had a chance to talk to her about work-life balance, academic careers, etc. and am really grateful for the chance to be what I hope is a postive role model. Overall, a nice meeting.


At 6:57 PM , Blogger Balancing Act said...

Good post!

I think one aspect of imposter syndrome is that you are the only person feeling that way, so it really helps to see that others suffer from it, too!

Maybe it is because in my field, even at some of the biggest conferences for it, big-wigs are invited, but grad students may be picked from abstracts to give a talk that I'm not surprised you were chosen. I've seen many levels of academics give talks and all levels give beautiful talks and absolute crap talks. I'm glad you had a good experience.

At 3:23 PM , Blogger FlyHigh said...

Interesting..made me think

I think sometimes it is how you say something over what you say. I speak at conferences frequently and come out thinking I've said very little but people connect and agree. Perhaps it is about the connection?

At 4:28 AM , Blogger Callie Lorenzo said...

I've never really felt like an impostor. As someone who works hard, but doesn't always succeed, I tend to feel quite the opposite, like everyone else is an impostor. Still, as writers who do my project for me are saying, life tends to be frustrating for people on both ends, for those who feel undeserving of their successes and those who feel undeserving of their failures.


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