imposter? who, me??

Apr 05 2012 Published by under academia

Although things have been crazy the past week or so, but I have been reading with interest the posts about the Imposter Syndrome. The first I ran across was from Scicurious, and then Dr. Isis (and many others by now, but I don't have time to link to everyone--SORRY! I think there is a Carnival going on, so hopefully all the posts will be collected there.)

I have found that starting my own lab is both awesome and terrifying. Is this IS? I don't know. There is nothing more exciting than getting the keys to your own lab. But shit gets real very quickly when you are standing, alone, in an empty lab. Just a big room with empty shelves. So quiet. And empty. You can maybe hear the clock ticking. It's lonely. It is still hard for me to believe that I am not going to crash and burn in this job. My lab is still in the process of getting going. The room isn't empty anymore...but we haven't put out a paper from my group yet. I'm still learning how to be a good mentor. This is especially terrifying, because I have some really good students. If they fail it will be largely on me. My stomach churns thinking about this.

When I start freaking out too much, I try to take a deep breath. Maybe have a drink. And realize that, in the end, all I can do is try. Do the best I can. Write grants, interact with students, try to get experiments done so we can write papers. To carry on Sci's sports analogy (because I like to run, so it works for me): this job is like a marathon. You have to just keep going, even if it feels like you are running into a wall. In the end, it doesn't really matter if you finish first or last. As long as you finish. I don't look at it like a race against my competitors. When I race, I'm trying to beat myself. What is the absolute best I can do? If I end the race feeling like I really did give it my best shot, then I won. I am trying to have a similar attitude for my race down the tenure track. It can sometimes be very hard sometimes to NOT feel like a failure. Or that I am letting someone down. But then I remind myself that I am leaving it all on the track. If I don't make it to the finish line, it won't be because I held something back.

5 responses so far

  • Neurostyle says:

    Hi Gert-z,
    I really understand your feeling. I'm in my first year of post-doc and I decided to join a newly born lab. When I arrived there was just my desk and a pc. With my boss we had really difficult period to start collecting all the equipments and then having data. Fortunately the motivation was so high that we were working like crazy and after 1 year we got a nice paper accepted. For sure it is difficult...and sometimes I feel guilty for the new people coming in (master and Ph.D students) because in a way I feel responsible for them. I can't imagine the pressure my boss (and other) is feeling...Science is hard especially for young leaders who need to be known and recognized.
    In the same time this atmosphere helped building up a nice team spirit and having a really dynamic way of thinking . All of us we know that team success will depend on each other. To me it's surprising how once you become team leader you are still in a traning phase: management, organization, politic, marketing, production and harmonization of competencies.
    The only advise I could give (if I can although I'm far from being a successful scientist) is to take care about people working for/with you motivating them every single day, making them thinking to be part of a team and not just machines of production (data-paper-data-paper-data-paper).
    I wish you all the best and good luck!!!!!

  • [...] French-speaking readers now stop reading in disgust.) Also, check out other excellent blog posts by Gerty Z. and InterplanetSara; I’m sure there will be many more voices in this conversation, and since [...]

  • And realize that, in the end, all I can do is try. Do the best I can. Write grants, interact with students, try to get experiments done so we can write papers.

    And don't forget to HAVE FUCKEN FUN doing all that stuff.

  • [...] got to acknowledge that your imposter syndrome is wrong. You got this job. You deserve to be here. As Gerty-Z says, you can only keep trying and doing the best that you can. Isis agrees, and compares life in science as a Sisyphean task. Roll the rock up, it goes back down [...]

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