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You’re Not Alone: Here’s How to Cope With Impostor Syndrome

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PhD Imposter Syndrome

Many students in the postgraduate world, particularly at the PhD level, suffer from impostor syndrome, or the feeling of being incompetent. Despite its prevalence, this psychological condition is frequently misunderstood. So, exactly what is impostor syndrome? Is it a constraint? Or is it just a normal part of life that everyone goes through? And how do you deal with this feeling if it affects you?

What is Imposter Syndrome, and what triggers it?

If you’re a PhD student, you’re probably aware of the dangers of impostor syndrome. It can cause you to withdraw from social circles, avoid tasks, or frequently change your point of focus. It can even slow your progress.

Impostor Syndrome is a psychological condition that occurs when a person believes he or she is not good enough and must prove their worth to others. This syndrome is common among people who have accomplished something significant, especially if they do so early in life.

It is common to feel as if you have failed if you do not succeed on the first try. If you’ve ever experienced this syndrome, you know how difficult it is to overcome.

Techniques to deal with PhD Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a psychological reaction to high-pressure situations. PhDs are often characterised by intellectual complexity, lofty expectations, and little separation between professional and personal life. While it can be difficult to deal with at times, it is worthwhile to investigate techniques to deal with imposter syndrome in order to keep it from limiting your progress. If you’re stressed out about not being able to meet the standards you’ve set for yourself, try incorporating the following.

First, recognise that you are not alone in your feelings. Rather than denying the sensation, try to separate it from reality by learning to identify the sources of your imposter feelings. Being objective about your own achievements and accomplishments is the most effective way to address imposter feelings. To achieve this, ask for feedback from others, whether it be your supervisor or your fellow researchers.

Second, try to manage your expectations of yourself as well as any negative self-talk. If you believe you are incapable of completing your PhD, you will be less confident in your ability to tackle it. Remember that you were chosen for this PhD based on your academic achievements. Identify your specific accomplishments and write them down or post them somewhere visible. When you have doubts or lack confidence, look at them. The more you remind yourself of your accomplishments, the better you will be able to combat impostor syndrome symptoms.

Third, try to focus on the tasks that you need to complete and set short-term goals. Don’t worry about what others think of you and what you’ve done. Instead, concentrate on what you need to do and what you want to accomplish. Learn how to manage your time and energy effectively so that you can work efficiently. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts and feelings. If you’re feeling anxious or having a hard time focusing, you may need to take a break or switch things up by concentrating on the next task at hand.

Fourth, discuss your feelings with your peers and PhD supervisor. It can be beneficial to speak with someone who has gone through a similar experience as you. They can give you advice, help you understand what you’re going through, and show you that you’re not alone.

Realise no one is perfect

Regardless of whether you’re just starting your PhD programme or are already a few years into one, it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of worthlessness. But keep in mind that no one is perfect, and research is littered with dead ends and failed experiments. Knowing your limits is critical for your mental health and self-esteem. Most challenges can be overcome by perseverance, seeking support from others, and learning from their experiences.

The future depends on your work, and nothing is ever perfect.




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Dr Kirell Benzi

Dr Benzi gained his PhD in Data Science from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in 2016. He is now a professional data artist and head of research at a tech company in Paris, as well as a trained public speaker.

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Danny Ward Profile
Danny Ward

Danny is a third year PhD student at the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia, working with Pseudomonas bacteria to understand how they infect their hosts.

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