How To Beat ‘Imposter Syndrome’

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How do you know that you have the imposter syndrome?

The imposter syndrome is a state of mind, a sort of psychological phenomenon. It is when you have accomplished something huge but don’t permit yourself to recognise it. Remember you are not alone. The highest achievers often feel it too. Some even say it’s only the real imposters that do not feel this way. We attribute our success to luck and we feel like a fraud, always worrying about being found out. Often we can feel that we have been mistakenly accepted on to the programme. Acknowledge that the feeling is just imposter syndrome and it becomes slightly easier.

Here are 5 ways to beat that feeling…

  1. Change your thinking: “Never give up your right to be wrong” (Dr David. M. Burns)

A lot of the ‘imposter’ phoney fake feelings are in the mind. Train yourself to think differently. Mastery comes from several failed attempts. Embrace life-long learning. A new mind set is key to beat the imposter syndrome. Do not buy into the idea that you are either intelligent or the opposite. Rather, you must see yourself as developing over the course of your PhD and even after. The PhD is just the start of your career.

  1. Don’t let your own expectations let you down ‘Everything is a learning curve’

A common tendency is to expect too much of yourself. This can create unnecessary pressure and bring you down. Concentrate on daily tasks and make long-term goals that you can plan ahead for. Set realistic goals and stay well balanced. Focus on what’s right and not what’s wrong. If you do not know something, enjoy it as it is often the not knowing that takes us to new breakthroughs. Let go of that self-importance so you feel less fake. Try to finish for the day and then relax. Training is essential and you are not expected to know it all in your first few months. So make time for conferences and workshops and learn from them.

  1. Read and write often – ‘Make the most of what is available’

The scholarly culture drives uncertainty, therefore, stay informed, and don’t let yourself feel isolated. Stay updated and keep reading new articles eventually you will understand what is written and feel as though you can write in a similar way. Read blogs, view vlogs, and check out articles on the things that are concerning you. Be open to commenting on other people’s work and let peers read and comment on your work. Keeping in mind that the criticisms are going to be on the work and not on you personally.

  1. Support others ‘Teaching is the best way to learn’

Mentor others in similar situations to you. Even at early stages see what you know that can help others, pass on articles and talk about new researcher. Proof read some undergraduate or master’s theses if you can get a chance. This can help you learn in a way no other technique can. That is new ideas, new perspectives and new styles but it also gives you a sense of confidence and security about your own skills and knowledge.

  1. Stand up for yourself ‘Fake it till you make it’

Understand that you can get rid of imposter syndrome. PhD is not only about training and learning your field but also about taking a stand for your views and ideas. So be brave. You should be mindful of your physical self and stay calm and relaxed but also try the power poses. Applying the ‘fake it til you make it’ to your body language makes a huge difference to how you feel and portray yourself. Grant yourself permission to accept your part in your victory. Take pride in your self and keep a note (a diary, journal or album) of your achievements to remind yourself - but be grateful at the same time remember your struggles and your efforts. This opportunity did not come for free. You worked hard, stayed up at nights, applied endlessly and so recall your hard work. Don’t compare yourself to others; instead build relationships and explore differences.

And just remember…

There is not a straightforward simple solution and different tricks will work for different people at different stages. Enjoy your PhD, it will only come once and you will be so glad you did it at then end. You are exactly where you belong and where you should be. All types of research are important and original in their own way.

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