Impostor Syndrome

“So…are you excited to start your PhD?”

I must get this question at least once a week from family, friends, and, in one instance, a very chatty woman on the train. Usually I’ll respond with an enthusiastic “of course!” or, depending on with whom I’m speaking, I may admit to being “a little nervous.” However, that’s not the truth…or at least not the whole truth.

While I am very excited about starting my PhD, I am also slightly terrified. I fear that my university has made a huge mistake by accepting me into their program and offering me funding. I fear that I have accidentally misled the university into thinking I’m someone better than I am. I fear that once I start my PhD, my supervisor and everyone else will see that I’m not what they thought I was and be disappointed. In short, I fear that I am not good enough and that soon everyone will find that out.

My friend Lucy calls it “impostor syndrome” and apparently it’s a thing (just ask Google). While not considered a psychological disorder, impostor syndrome seems to describe an experience many people have. But whatever it’s called, the key is to realise that those fears are not based in reality and to change the narrative. I’m sure that’s much easier said than done, but I’ll give it a go. 

About Ashley

Soon-to-be PhD student at the University of Manchester studying how the brain processes emotion. Originally from (northern) California, I earned my BA in Psychology at the University of California, Davis before moving to York for my MSc degree.
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2 Responses to Impostor Syndrome

  1. Jack Saunsea says:

    The word “person” which literally means “mask” would suggest that the way most of us identify ourselves – “I am this person” – is itself the impostor.

    Could it be that “impostor syndrome” is the fear that the real impostor, the ego, is going to be found out?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ashley says:

      Oh that is fascinating…so in that case impostor syndrome may be the fear that the one behind the mask will be discovered, which is something I think we all experience to a certain degree

      Liked by 1 person

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