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June 5, 2018 | by  | in PGSA |
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Postgrad Informer

Ever get the feeling you shouldn’t be a postgraduate? Surely you’re just one meeting away from being found out and asked to leave forever! How come everyone else knows what they’re doing? We all feel like this occasionally, and it’s called the Imposter Syndrome.

Last week I attended a PhD workshop on this very subject, given by Hugh Kearns. I always enjoy Hugh’s sessions, because his accent reminds me of Father Ted, and because he says what we all think (even if we don’t realise it). So I’m going to shamelessly repeat his ideas here, and then feel like an imposter because I didn’t think of them myself.
Whoever you are and whatever your background, you have evidence that you belong here. You applied, you spoke to the right people, and Victoria University let you in. When we engage the logical parts of our minds, it’s clear no one expects perfection from day one. Postgraduate study is a big leap into the unknown, and you may even be the first to investigate an area of research.
Other than the revelation that Milli Vanilli didn’t record any of their own songs (it’s true, I checked), the part of Hugh’s talk that made a big impression was to “turn your ANTs into MAThs”. That’s your Automatic Negative Thoughts into More Accurate Thoughts. Each feeling of anxiety and self-doubt can be countered with the hard, empirical evidence that we researchers love. If your brain is telling you that you’re not on track, dig out your last progress report or an encouraging email and prove that you’re doing fine. You can even write a chart of ANTs vs. MAThs to give you a boost.
Importantly, imposter syndrome can be used to inspire progress. Look at the evidence to motivate yourself to take the next step in your research or career. Hugh wants to replace the “fake it till you make it” idiom with “be brave and take action”, which is something we should remember.
If you want to find out more, have a google, or check out Hugh Kearn’s book, The Imposter Syndrome: Why Successful People Often Feel Like Frauds.
Remember, you deserve to be here.

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