Rejection is part of the game. If our students experience a discomfort but do not have the vocabulary to describe it, how are they going to process it or talk about it with someone they trust? They seemed to see native English as either having a distinct advantage due to language or just to be set up to be better prepared by the education system. In my experience of interviewing hundreds of individuals, here are some of the insights I have developed, that may help supervisors to understand and reduce imposter feeling for their postgraduate researchers: Many of those I interviewed openly shared that they did not even know that what they were experiencing is a recognised phenomenon, until very recently. It can be helpful to question the assumptions that you are making about what others expect, and to give yourself more room to express yourself in a way that feels more true to yourself. Trotman, F. K. (2009). The term ‘impostor phenomenon’ was coined in 1974 by two psychotherapists, Drs Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. It puts things into perspective for those who doubt their abilities and feel like impostors and normalizes fears about being judged for one’s failures. Importantly, it’s okay to walk away from a braggart if reaching out to them doesn’t work. Thoughtful insights from the Research Whisperer into the reasons for the high incidence of Imposter Syndrome in […]. Two important stipulations to make before going any further: The good news: You can find ways to feel better about who you are and what you have done, and as a result, maybe even achieve more. See past their idealised projection, if they let you. I don’t deserve my success; I haven’t really earned it. 65 (2): 183-193. This is my story. I recently came across this post on Twitter which […], […] estimate that Imposter Syndrome is found in 70% of people, and it’s even more common in academia with its not-so-subtle all-pervasive need to constantly progress (papers, grants, papers, repeat). If you screw up, it’s there for posterity. This ‘syndrome’ is not exclusive to academia, though it has maintained a powerful presence in the ivory tower. I know of several talented scholars who have walked away from university positions due to the fear that their perceived lack of brainpower would one day be brought to public attention. There are a lot of unknowns in the PhD degree that trigger anxieties. You may even discover that they have or have had the same kind of feelings themselves. Sindhumathi Revuluri is an associate dean of undergraduate education and a former faculty member in the music department at Harvard University. Pathologized for a reason, “impostor syndrome” runs thick in the veins of academics, from newly arrived graduate students to those nearing retirement (yes, really). This phenomenon is symptomatic of “imposter syndrome”, particularly within the postgraduate community. What is “good” anyway? Cambridge’s bragging culture feeds into imposter syndrome. Belittling words are frequently shared about that researcher who won that grant or fellowship. ... especially hard among scholars who are members of minority groups and/or are studying topics that are marginalized in academic culture. There is little wonder why researchers who are not white, male, and middle-class might feel that they are ‘faking it’ and will eventually be caught out by smarter (read: white, male, and middle-class) colleagues. Overcoming imposter syndrome involves changing a person's mindset about their own abilities. Reach out to that person you think is doing so well and get to know them. In other words, you are trespassing on territory that implicitly belonged to others.
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