You are not an “Imposter”

    Posted on Wednesday, Jun 21, 2017
    Graduate school - a place where you train yourself to get the advanced degree in your field. So that when you graduate with the degree in your hand, you will be working as a part of the elite group of scholars. But graduate school is also a journey with its highs and lows. You often start off with a killer energy, a special spark in your eyes to get that degree, the zeal in your actions to get that experience which is going to set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

    But somewhere down the road, when everything comes rushing at you when you have the feeling that as if you are drowning, there is often one feeling which starts to creep in - “Am I capable of doing it at all?” Now, this fear is like a termite, if you don’t get rid of it at the very beginning, chances are that it is going to eat you up and all of your dreams are going to end up in the dust. In psychological terms, this is known as the “Imposter Syndrome”.

    According to the Wikipedia page on this subject, “Impostor syndrome”(also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. As a result it might sound like a serious thing, but trust me we all have the courage within ourselves to get past this syndrome and graduate with flying colors.

    The first thing which I found to be very useful and still find useful is that in dealing with the imposter syndrome, is that you must have a headstrong attitude mixed with an optimistic outlook. Let me give you a small example. I will be starting my fourth year in grad school and over this course of time; I have made a lot of mistakes. Many a time, those mistakes have embarrassed me of my knowledge and skills. At that time, I would feel sad and the thought that I made a mistake would keep coming back to my head as a question “Am I worthy of being in this place?” But eventually I realized that I would not gain anything by worrying about the mistake. Instead, I started focusing on the details of why I made that mistake in the first place. With the knowledge from my mistake and a positive attitude in mind, I started again and it would work out, and eventually after an infinite number of times, but it would definitely work out. So trust me, making a mistake doesn’t make you an imposter.

    The other best thing, which you can do, is self criticize yourself. Now the moment when we hear the word critic, in the background all we can hear is something negative. But remember, along with the negative criticism, from time to time if you give yourself some credit, it would be good for your work and also your mental health. I have been very fortunate to be blessed with an amazing supervisor and she often says that sometimes in order for things to work out, you just need to walk away from what you are doing instead of banging your head against the wall and come back with a fresh mind. Chances are your things are going to work out better after that short break. So take a break, give your mind some rest, and come back with a positive attitude and the conviction to become successful.

    Hey, you have made it to a university like Texas A&M University, so in no way are you an imposter. Just keep a positive outlook and keep working hard. I wish all of you a great deal of success in your graduate career.

    Sreyashree Bose | Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
    Sreyashree is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the department of Biophysics and Biochemistry.

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